Bob Knight did it his way. He still does. Sure, he doesn’t coach anymore, although you’d never know it when he works as an analyst during games, giving his opinions on what coaches should do in key situations.
Talk about pressure. Woe to the coach who chooses a different way.
Knight is a member of the media, although it’s on his terms as part of the ESPN crew. He reports on the news rather than makes it.
Except for now. He is heading into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011.
It’s a no brainer. If ever there was a coach who deserves Hall of Fame recognition, it’s Knight, as much for his charisma and controversy as for his brilliant work. He won three national titles, Olympic gold, 11 Big Ten titles and 902 games, more than any other male coach in history, although that record will be surpassed soon by Duke’s Coach K.
He won at Army during a time when the last thing many athletes wanted to do was commit to military service (it was the heart of the Vietnam War era). He won huge at Indiana and had significant success at Texas Tech. He won four national coach of the year awards.
Knight played collegiately at Ohio State, although he wasn’t much of a player, especially when compared to standouts such as John Havlicek. He has spoken several times to current Buckeyes coach Thad Matta, including recently when Matta sought help in improving his defense. Knight provided suggestions and even a drill.
“We talked about more than defense, just coaching philosophies and different things,” Matta said. “I grew up idolizing him as a coach. He’s a man who is truly passionate about the game and it being played the right way.”
Knight is one of eight members of the Class of 2011. Veteran coach Eddie Sutton, who won 804 games and took four different schools to the NCAA Tournament (Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State), made it.
So did players such as Chris Mullin of St. John’s, who was a member of Knight’s 1984 gold-medal-winning team, plus the 1992 gold-medal-winning Dream Team. He scored more than 2,400 career points in college and led St. John’s to the 1985 Final Four. He was a two-time Big East player of the year.
Virginia’s Ralph Sampson (the three-time national player of the year) made it along with North Carolina’s James Worthy (the 1982 national player of the year) and Michigan’s Cassie Russell (He led the Wolverines to two Final Fours, including a 1965 title game loss to UCLA, and averaged 27 points and nine rebounds for his career).
The induction ceremony is set for Nov. 20 as part of a three-day event that includes the CBE Classic featuring Notre Dame, Georgia, California and Missouri.
Still, no one is likely to demand more attention than Knight. In his prime, he was the most compelling person in sports. In so many ways, he still is.