Feb 09, 2020 7:49 AM

Return of the Hoosier: Knight back at Indiana after 20 years

Posted Feb 09, 2020 7:49 AM

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Bob Knight’s short stroll from the practice gym to Assembly Hall ended a 20-year journey home.

It seemed as if he never left.

When the former Indiana Hoosiers coach walked through the tunnel Saturday and onto his old court for the first time since his firing in September 2000, the crowd went wild — chanting his name, roaring with approval, thanking him for all the success and banners he brought to Bloomington.

“It was one of the greatest and most emotional things for me,” said former player Randy Wittman, who had a key role in the reunion. “I don’t know if we’ll see something like this again in college basketball. When he moved back here, I told him you’re back here because this is where you belong.”

The sellout crowd and dozens of former players lauded Knight after watching a video detailing Knight’s contributions.

He walked in with his son, Pat. He hugged Isiah Thomas. He was assisted into the arena by Quinn Buckner. And the 79-year-old Knight reveled in the moment, pumping his fist, pretending to direct Scott May in a practice drill and even leading fans in a chorus of “de-fense, de-fense.”

No, he didn’t wear his trademark red sweater or throw a chair. But he did appear to get a little misty-eyed as the fans cheered.

“We love you, Bobby,” one shouted.

Knight did not speak to the crowd over the public address system. He didn’t need to.

Everyone in attendance understood what the combustible coach had on his 29-season resume: A school record 662 victories, 11 Big Ten championships, five Final Four appearances and, yes, three national titles.

They knew some of the stories, too — the Olympic gold medal he won in 1984 with Michael Jordan after cutting Charles Barkley; the infamous chair-throwing incident in 1985; and the firing that took place Sept. 10, 2000, causing the rift between Knight and the university.

University officials put Knight on a zero-tolerance policy earlier that year following an investigation into whether he had choked a former player, the late Neil Reed, during a practice. Then, in September, a student accused Knight of grabbing him in a hallway.

Knight responded by calling his own news conference, bringing witnesses to help explain his version. Two days later, the late Myles Brand announced Knight’s firing.

That was his last public appearance in the building — until Saturday.

Despite the tireless efforts of university officials, led by athletic director Fred Glass, Knight refused every chance to come back.

He skipped championship team reunions and even declined to attend his own induction into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 because he said he didn’t want his presence to detract from other class members.

The thaw began in earnest last spring when he made a surprise appearance at an Indiana baseball game. In July, he bought a house three miles from the basketball arena.

“I visited Coach in Montana and Texas,” former player Mike Woodson said. “This is home. I’ve spent the last month back here in Bloomington with him and had dinners a few times with him and we were happy as hell he wanted to come back.”

Knight hadn’t exactly been invisible around Bloomington or the state after the firing.

He took the Texas Tech job, and then retired in 2008 with a then-record 902 career wins. He worked on ESPN as a color analyst. He gave speeches, attended fundraisers, signed autographs and attended basketball games and practices around Indiana.

He just didn’t associate himself with the Hoosiers.

He also spoke at a Donald Trump rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in October 2016 and at another Trump rally on the south side of Indianapolis in November 2018.

And yet everyone associated with Indiana basketball still had one question: Will he ever come back?

“When he moved back here, I knew he was in a good place,” Wittman said. “I knew he was happy here, living, and I told him you belong here.”

It didn’t take long for the rumors to start.

Some expected his return to come against Ohio State, his alma mater, on Jan. 11. Instead, he attended a game that day at Marian University, an NAIA school in Indianapolis, where another former player, Steve Downing, is the athletic director.

But with the Hoosiers playing their biggest rival, Purdue, longtime friend and rival Gene Keady seated in the front row and his 1980 Big Ten championship team being honored Saturday, Knight made it to Assembly Hall and delivered one of his traditional pregame speeches to the current Hoosiers before their 74-62 loss to the Boilermakers.

“I was standing there and he was coach Knight,” Wittman said. “It was like he hadn’t left that locker room. The words he gave to those players before they went out on the floor, it was fabulous.”

The fans thought so, too, sending Knight home with one lasting chant: “Thank you Coach, thank you Coach.”

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Feb 09, 2020 7:49 AM
Sunday Sports Headlines

Here is the latest Mid-America sports news from The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Roope Hintz scored the game-winner at 2:19 of overtime and finished with two goals, leading the Dallas Stars to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Hintz flipped in a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle for the winner and his 17th goal of the season. Jamie Benn also scored for Dallas. Anton Khudobin made 23 saves. Colton Parayko scored two first-period goals for the Blues. 

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Joe Wieskamp scored a career-high 30 points and Luka Garza added 22 to help No. 17 Iowa bounce back from its worst loss of the season with a 96-72 win over Nebraska on Saturday. Garza and Wieskamp came into the game averaging a combined 38 points per game, the sixth-best scoring duo in NCAA Division I play. Wieskamp's previous career high was 26 in the 67-49 win over Maryland on Jan. 10. Iowa (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten) was coming off a 104-68 loss at Purdue on Wednesday, and guard CJ Fredrick said during Friday's media availability that the Hawkeyes were "embarrassed" after that defeat. They took it out on the Huskers (7-16, 2-10).

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — No. 3 Kansas has another 20-win season and coach Bill Self has his 700th career victory. Udoka Azubuike had 20 points and 15 rebounds as the Jayhawks beat TCU 60-46. It is their 31st consecutive 20-win season, matching North Carolina's record. Azubuike had his 10th double-double this season and had five dunks in a 13-3 run early that put Kansas ahead to stay. Devon Dotson added 18 points and 11 assists for the Jayhawks. Desmond Bane had 20 points for TCU, which lost its fifth game in a row. 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Marcus Zegarowski scored 23 points to lead six Creighton players in double figures and the 21st-ranked Bluejays beat St. John's 94-82. Creighton shot a season-best 60% from the field and matched its season high with 13 3-pointers but couldn't separate from the Red Storm until the middle of the second half. Marcellus Earlington scored a career-high 25 points for the Red Storm. The sophomore was 3 for 4 on 3s after coming in 3 for 21 for the season.

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Obi Toppin scored 17 points and Jalen Crutcher led a second-half rally that swept No. 6 Dayton to a 71-65 victory over Saint Louis. Dayton has won 12 straight, vaulting to its highest ranking in 53 years. The Flyers are unbeaten in the Atlantic 10 Conference but the Billikens have given them their two closest calls. Crutcher's last-second 3-pointer in overtime rallied the Flyers to a 78-76 victory on Jan. 17 on the Billikens' court. He scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half as Dayton broke open a tight game Saturday. Jordan Goodwin led Saint Louis with 22 points.

UNDATED (AP) — Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga and San Diego State are the top seeds in the NCAA's preliminary rankings. The Bears are the No. 1 overall seed in rankings released by the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee. The preliminary rankings are based on games through Friday. They are designed to be a sneak peek at the selection process before the official seeds are revealed on Selection Sunday, which is March 15. The Final Four is March 27-29 in Atlanta.

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Solomon Young scored 20 points, Terrence Lewis added 12 points off the bench, and Iowa State held off Kansas State for a 73-63 win. The Cyclones led by as many as 21 points and played the final 13 minutes, 46 seconds without star guard Tyrese Haliburton — who sustained an injury seconds before halftime. Cartier Diarra scored 24 points to lead the Wildcats, who used a 13-3 run to pull within four points with 7:54 remaining but could get no closer.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Xavier Pinson scored a career-high 24 points to lead Missouri to an 83-79 overtime victory over Arkansas on Saturday. Pinson, a sophomore guard, went 12 of 13 from the free throw line in a foul-plagued game in which the teams combined to shoot 83 free throws. Javon Pickett scored 14 points and Reed Nikko finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers (11-12, 3-7 Southeastern Conference). Mason Jones and Jimmy Whitt Jr. scored 17 points each for the Razorbacks (16-7, 4-6). Reggie Chaney added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

AP-Scorecard

Here are the scores from yesterday's sports events:

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NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

Final Milwaukee 111 Orlando 95

Final Dallas 116 Charlotte 100

Final New York 95 Detroit 92

Final Toronto 119 Brooklyn 118

Final New Orleans 124 Indiana 117

Final Minnesota 142 L.A. Clippers 115

Final L.A. Lakers 125 Golden State 120

Final Denver 117 Phoenix 108

Final Sacramento 122 San Antonio 102

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NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

Final Winnipeg 5 Ottawa 2

Final Boston 4 Arizona 2

Final New Jersey 3 Los Angeles 0

Final Colorado 2 Columbus 1

Final Tampa Bay 3 N-Y Islanders 1

Final OT Montreal 2 Toronto 1

Final Philadelphia 7 Washington 2

Final Edmonton 3 Nashville 2

Final Pittsburgh 3 Florida 2

Final OT Dallas 3 St. Louis 2

Final Calgary 6 Vancouver 2

Final SO Carolina 6 Vegas 5

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TOP-25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Final (1)Baylor 78 Oklahoma St. 70

Final (2)Gonzaga 90 Saint Mary's (Cal) 60

Final (3)Kansas 60 TCU 46

Final (4)San Diego St. 89 Air Force 74

Final (5)Louisville 80 Virginia 73

Final (6)Dayton 71 Saint Louis 65

Final OT (7)Duke 98 North Carolina 96

Final (8)Florida St. 99 Miami 81

Final (12)Seton Hall 70 (10)Villanova 64

Final OT (11)Auburn 91 (18)LSU 90

Final Oklahoma 69 (13)West Virginia 59

Final Oregon St. 63 (14)Oregon 53

Final (15)Kentucky 77 Tennessee 64

Final Michigan 77 (16)Michigan St. 68

Final (17)Iowa 96 Nebraska 72

Final (21)Creighton 94 St. John's 82

Final (22)Penn St. 83 Minnesota 77

Final UCLA 65 (23)Arizona 52

Final (24)Colorado 81 Stanford 74

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TODAY'S SPORTS SCHEDULE

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NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

Boston at Oklahoma City 3:30 p.m.

Chicago at Philadelphia 6 p.m.

Memphis at Washington 6 p.m.

New York at Atlanta 6 p.m.

Utah at Houston 7 p.m.

L.A. Clippers at Cleveland 7:30 p.m.

Miami at Portland 9 p.m.

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NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

Boston at Detroit 12:30 p.m.

Anaheim at Buffalo 3 p.m.

Los Angeles at N-Y Rangers 6 p.m.

Chicago at Winnipeg 7 p.m.

Colorado at Minnesota 7:30 p.m.

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TOP-25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL

(19)Butler at Marquette 12 p.m.

Wichita St. at (25)Houston 3 p.m.

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