Italicized text from “Silver Knight: 25 Remarkable Years of Championship Indiana Basketball” by Bob Hammel. Images from the H-T photo archives at the Monroe County History Center. Blog by Rod Spaw.
Robert Montgomery Knight
(October 25, 1940,- November 1, 2023)
When they met in a hotel room in Houston in March 1971 – 30-year-old Army coach Bob Knight and the Indiana University search committee athletic director Bill Orwig – chances are no one was thinking about history.
Indiana needed a basketball coach. Knight, after six seasons at Army that subsequent results grade as remarkable, felt he wanted to move. Indiana’s 17-7 season had ended in a player rebellion that Orwig felt demanded a disciplinarian.
All those things dovetailed nicely.
But Orwig, who died at 86 in 1995, always remembered one other thing about those early meetings with Bob Knight.
“After he came to Bloomington and we had talked everything over and were sitting in my living room, I asked him, ‘Why do you want to come to Indiana.’”
“He said, ‘I can win here”.’”
“Isn’t that a great answer? I like a guy who says, ‘I can win.’”
True to his word, that is what Bob Knight did at Indiana University for 28 years. He won: 662 games; 11 Big 10 Conference titles; one National Invitational Tournament championship; an Olympic gold medal; a Pan American Games gold medal and three national championships.
He won with relentless defense, a methodical offense, teamwork, and with an absolute refusal to accept anything less than excellence. He was his own worst critic and his own worst enemy at times. His obstinacy and temperament could get him into trouble, and it eventually led IU to part ways with its Hall of Fame coach in 2000.
There was a long estrangement as Knight finished his career at Texas Tech University, retiring in 2008 with an overall record of 902-371. At the time, it was the most wins of any Division 1 college basketball coach in history; Knight still ranks sixth all-time.
It was 20 years before Knight again appeared at a game in Assembly Hall. When he stepped onto the court on Feb. 8, 2020, he was escorted by some of his best players from his best teams, players who had convinced their coach that it was time to come home.
For Knight, it always was about the players.
“That, to me, is the enduring quality of what athletic participation is all about – players who were able to win championships and have been able then to take what they’ve learned in winning those championships to do the same thing with their lives.“
“They’ve all talked about what a privilege it was to play at Indiana, to be on teams like they played on, how much they gained from it and enjoyed about it. Yet the privilege they felt playing at Indiana is absolutely nothing compared to the pleasure and the privilege I feel in having coached them as players.”