Bob Knight, whose Hall of Fame career was highlighted by three national titles at Indiana -- one capping an undefeated season not since matched -- and countless on-court outbursts, has died. He was 83.
Knight's family made the announcement Wednesday night. He was hospitalized with an illness in April and had been in poor health for several years.
"It is with heavy hearts that we share that Coach Bob Knight passed away at his home in Bloomington surrounded by his family," the statement said. "We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy as Coach requested a private family gathering, which is being honored."
Knight became the youngest coach at a Division I school in 1965 when he broke in at Army at 24. But he made his mark at Indiana, including winning a school-record 661 games and reaching the NCAA tournament 24 times in 29 seasons. Knight's first NCAA title came in 1976 when Indiana went undefeated, a feat no team has accomplished since.
"One of the things that he said to our 1976 team, which I was fortunate enough to be a part of, was that you may never see another team like this again," Indiana University board of trustees chair Quinn Buckner said in a statement. "Well, I don't know that we will ever see another coach like him again."
Knight won 20 or more games in a season 29 times, compiling a career record of 902-371.
In 1984, he coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in Los Angeles, the last American amateur team to claim Olympic gold. And, to no surprise, it came with controversy. Knight kept Steve Alford, the leader of Knight's last national championship team in 1987, on his squad while cutting the likes of future Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and John Stockton.
"I am so blessed that he saw something in me as a basketball player," Mike Woodson, former Hoosiers player and Indiana's current coach, said in a statement. "He influenced my life in ways I could never repay. As he did with all of his players, he always challenged me to get the most out of myself as a player and more importantly, as a person. His record as a basketball coach speaks for itself. He will be remembered as one of the greatest ever."
Nicknamed "The General," Knight was eventually forced out at Indiana in 2000 for violating a "zero tolerance" behavior policy by grabbing the arm of a freshman student whom he said greeted him by his last name. It was the final transgression on a long list, which included his most infamous incident -- throwing a chair during a Purdue game -- and accusations of numerous physical confrontations. The most notable involved Knight apparently choking player Neil Reed in a practice in 1997.
Knight then left to become the basketball coach at Texas Tech in 2001, six months after being fired by Indiana for what school officials there called a "pattern of unacceptable behavior."
In Knight's six full years at Texas Tech, he led the Red Raiders to five 20-win seasons, a first at the school. Knight passed former North Carolina coach Dean Smith as the then-winningest Division I men's coach Jan. 1, 2007, getting career win No. 880. To celebrate the milestone, Knight chose the song "My Way" by Frank Sinatra, a mantra for how he navigated his personal and professional worlds.
Back then, Knight explained why "My Way" was so fitting.
"I've simply tried to do what I think is best," Knight said. "Regrets? Sure. Just like the song. I have regrets. I wish I could have done things better at times. I wish I would have had a better answer, a better way, at times. But just like he said, I did it my way, and when I look back on it, I don't think my way was all that bad."
Knight resigned as Texas Tech's basketball coach in the middle of the 2008-09 season, his 42nd year as a head coach, and walked away from college basketball. He later worked as a college basketball analyst for ESPN.
"Coach Knight ... will forever be remembered as one of the top coaches in not only Texas Tech history but all of college basketball," Texas Tech Athletics said in a statement. "He truly changed the game with not only his motion offense but his insistence that his teams be defined by their defense.
"His impact was felt off the court, too, as he was a profound supporter of student-athletes receiving a quality education, which was evident by his teams annually producing a near-perfect graduation rate. Coach Knight's impact on our basketball program will forever be cherished as one of the greatest tenures in our history."
What he did and how he did it made Knight a legend. However, the influence and discipline he brought to coaching made him special.
"We lost one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball today. Clearly, he was one of a kind," said former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who played for Knight at Army and surpassed his mentor as the winningest Division I college basketball coach in 2011. "Coach Knight recruited me, mentored me and had a profound impact on my career and in my life. This is a tremendous loss for our sport, and our family is deeply saddened by his passing."
Robert Montgomery Knight was born Oct. 25, 1940, in Orrville, Ohio, and was a prep basketball, baseball and football star at Orrville High School. While a player at Ohio State, his teams compiled an overall record of 78-6. The Buckeyes won the national title in 1960 (Knight was 0-for-1 with one personal foul in a 75-55 win over California in the title game and averaged 3.7 points as a sub that season) and captured Big Ten titles during all three of Knight's seasons.
After his college career ended, he went into coaching; he was an Army assistant when he was elevated to head coach, succeeding Tates Locke.
Knight coached from 1965 to 1971 at Army, going 102-50. He then moved to Indiana, where his Hoosiers went 662-239 from 1971 to 2000; dressed in his trademark red sweater, he won national titles there in 1976, 1981 and 1987.
Knight spent five decades competing against and usually beating some of the game's most revered names -- Adolph Rupp, Smith and John Wooden in the early years; Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino and Roy Williams in later years.
"He was a guy I idolized when I got here [in 1983] because Bobby Knight was the man," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "He treated me great, and he helped me. I wish people knew what a great heart that he had. He was a different dude, but if you needed some help, he would answer the bell.
"The game has lost an icon."
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, speaking to reporters before his team's game Wednesday night, recalled his first encounter with the combustible coaching giant.
"We ran into each other, in 1986, I was playing in the world championship. He was doing television commentary," Kerr explained. "We had lost a game, and he came to our practice and pulled me aside and basically went on a tirade. I had never met him before. ... He said, 'I want you to take those bleeping bleep teammates of yours and bleep bleep and tell them to bleep bleep.' And I said, 'Yes, sir, Coach Knight.' Then I went to the players, and I said, 'Hey, Coach Knight just encouraged us to play well tonight!' And that was it. He was terrifying, I'm not going to lie."
Knight was elected and inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991. Previously, Knight had asked not to be renominated to the Hall of Fame, calling the voters' rejection of him in 1987 a "slap in the face."
He was a complex man and had a lengthy record of outbursts over the years. He was charged and later convicted for hitting a policeman in Puerto Rico, he headbutted Indiana player Sherron Wilkerson while screaming at him on the bench, he was accused of wrapping his hands around a player's neck and he allegedly kicked his own son. (Knight claimed he actually kicked the chair his son sat on.)
He also gave a mock whipping to Calbert Cheaney, a Black Indiana player, during a 1992 practice for the NCAA West Regional, offending several Black leaders. Knight denied any racial connotations and noted the bullwhip was given to him by the players.
But Knight never broke NCAA rules. He always had a high graduation rate. And he gave his Texas Tech salary back a few years after he arrived in Lubbock because he didn't believe he'd earned it.
Knight's firing by then-Indiana president Myles Brand remained an unpopular one in the state of Indiana, where Knight still had a multitude of supporters.
Indiana University officials tried over the years to mend fences with Knight, but he steadfastly refused all attempts by the school, ex-players and fans to make peace, and he would not participate in any IU activities.
He skipped team reunions and even declined to attend his induction into the school's athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, saying he didn't want his presence to detract from other class members.
That, however, all changed in recent years.
The thaw began in earnest in 2019, when he made a surprise appearance at an Indiana baseball game. In July, he bought a house 3 miles from the basketball arena in Bloomington.
And in February 2020, he finally returned to Assembly Hall for an Indiana-Purdue matchup. He was met with roars of approval from the sold-out crowd, including dozens of former players.
Knight walked in with his son Pat. Knight hugged Isiah Thomas. He was assisted into the arena by Buckner. And 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."
"I was standing there, and he was Coach Knight," recalled former player Randy Wittman, who had a key role in the reunion. "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."
Knight is survived by his wife, Karen, and sons, Tim and Pat.