Bob Knight let a wry smile cross his face.
At first it didn’t look like the former IU men’s basketball coach, who won three national championships with the Hoosiers only to have misconduct lead to his firing and a tarnished legacy, would allow himself to comment on the scandal weighing down college basketball.
Knight played the part of the fool and acted like he hadn’t been paying attention to the news. He paused thoughtfully after recent reports were explained, and deflected by saying it wasn’t something he should get into.
But then, that smile.
“Back when I was coaching, and it’s kind of changed, but there were great coaches I liked and I could respect,” Knight said. “If you can’t do it within the rules, why do it? That’s a problem right now.”
Knight spoke at Bloomington High School South on Wednesday alongside retired Herald-Times sports editor Bob Hammel in front of a loyal crowd of almost 1,000 Hoosier fans. The duo spent the vast majority of the almost two-hour discussion reminiscing about Knight’s coaching career and laughing with the crowd as the stories set them at ease.
The scribe reminded his muse of a conversation Knight shared with an official back when his college head coaching career first started at West Point, and the duo applauded the basketball royalty who graced the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. men’s basketball team the former coach led. Hammel reminded Knight, also, of an anniversary — 58 years before, to the day, Knight lost at IU as a student-athlete with the Ohio State Buckeyes, 99-83.
But the General wasn’t laughing when he chastised those implicated by reports that detailed alleged payments to high school prospects likely to make a splash in college, and later the NBA.
“They’re not dealing with the NBA now. They’re dealing with the FBI," said Knight, clad in his iconic red sweater.
The only coach he mentioned by name was former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, someone Knight said he didn’t have much respect for before scandals derailed the Cardinal basketball program. The crowd couldn’t help but laugh when their favorite coach mocked Pitino’s claims that he didn’t know what his assistants were doing with a frown and slight head tilt.
“I’m all for the FBI,” Knight added.
No one brought up the reasons for Knight’s departure, or how he would win his 900th career game with Texas Tech University instead of IU. The topics weren’t broached by fans or Hammel in two previous talks Knight also gave, one of which took place on Purdue’s campus this past October, and no one asked if he’d ever step foot on IU’s campus again.
But Knight did say Hoosier nation, who he thanked profusely for their support over the years, should be patient with new IU Coach Archie Miller.
“Can you tell us why you thought Archie would do good?” a fan asked.
“He can coach,” Knight responded. “Most of the coaches I’ve known don’t know how to coach.”
For those who have their issues with his own coaching, decisions or actions, Knight has a simple rebuttal.
“When my time on Earth has come and gone, I wish they’d bury me upside down,” he said. “So my critics can kiss my ass.”
That comment, like most of the others he made, drew roars of laughter from everyone in attendance and caused Hammel to rock back and forth and almost fall out his chair. The two sat on a mini-stage at half court in the school’s gym.
They weren’t the only ones who’d get up on the stage, though. As the night ended, Knight called up Pat Ryan, the wife of the late IU President John Ryan, to sit with him and Hammel.
“This is your hometown,” she told him. “We still love you. You are part of us."