NASHVILLE, Ind. — The walls of Our Sandwich Place in Brown County, Indiana, are filled from top to bottom with Indiana University and Bob Knight memorabilia.
The legendary men’s basketball coach became a regular at the restaurant during his days leading the Hoosiers. He became fast friends with the restaurant’s original owner, Larry Hawkins.
The friendship has led to the walls being filled with more pictures and autographs of Bob Knight than possibly anywhere else in the world.
”Every time coach would come in, and it was a couple times a week, he would bring something as a souvenir from IU,” said Cheryl Ferguson, the woman who bought the restaurant from Hawkins in 2017.
As the Hoosier décor grew, fans took notice and began to bring their own items to add to the collection. Handmade quilts, woodworking, artwork and more hang on the walls.
”People did a lot of special things for this place,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson took FOX59/CBS4 around the eatery to show off some of her favorite pieces along the walls. Everything from newspaper clippings about national championships to personal pictures of Bob Knight with family and friends adorn the restaurant’s walls.
”Here are a bunch of personal pictures of the coach, his wife, his family,” Ferguson said. “And his grandkids are over there. It’s just things that you don’t see anywhere else, and it gives you a more rounded picture of coach.”
“The Coach Knight Library,” as Ferguson calls it, is filled with pictures and mementos Knight left at the restaurant over the years. It also surrounds the table Knight would always sit at when he brought family and friends to the restaurant. Knight even had his own red chair with a cushion. It’s proudly labeled “The Bob Knight Chair of Honor.”
When asked why Knight kept coming back to Our Sandwich Place, Ferguson provided a candid answer.
”If you’re always on the spotlight and there are always people looking at every word you say, sometimes you just want to go sit down with a friend,” she said. “And that’s what he found here.”
Knight came into the restaurant for the last time two years ago. He ate with his wife, Karen, Larry Hawkins and Hawkins’ wife.
”He was cheerful and friendly and told jokes,” Ferguson said. “And he autographed things for us.”
A picture of Knight’s final visit to the restaurant now hangs on the walls at Our Sandwich Place.
Through the years, visits and stories, Ferguson said she got to know the real Bob Knight.
”There was an on-court guy, and then there was a coach Knight for the rest of his life,” she said. “The person who was on-court was very competitive, very on-task, very targeted. The person who was off-court was a man who valued individuals, valued hard work and took the time to get to know people on an individual level.”
Our Sandwich Place was closed when the news broke of Knight’s death Wednesday. When it reopened for the first time since the tragic news, customers were met with a different message on the chalkboard that is usually reserved for specials. It read, “Rest in peace, coach Knight.”
”It was a real shock,” Ferguson said. “The sadness was pretty big.”
The restaurant staff and customers had just signed a birthday card for Knight. He turned 83 a week before his passing.
”I hope it made his family smile, it had candles that went around in a circle which, I thought he would like,” Ferguson said with a chuckle.
Chris Lane and his wife were the first customers in Our Sandwich Place Friday, coming in just before lunch time.
”We always come here when we come down to Brown County,” Lane said, sporting a red IU hoodie.
”I just love it here,” he said. “I miss Bob Knight.”
For lifelong Hoosier fans like Lane and his wife, both IU grads, a place covered in history brings back great memories.
”This is about as close as we can get to Bob Knight,” Lane said. “We never met him, but we always watched him, watched his show.”
Our Sandwich Place will look to honor Knight in the coming days and weeks, but right now, Wendi Ferguson — Cheryl Ferguson’s daughter and the current owner of Our Sandwich Place — has a message for Hoosier fans.
”Our hearts and thoughts are with his family and friends right now,” she said.
Going forward, the Bob Knight Chair of Honor will remain empty. The restaurant used to let customers sit in it but will now ask them to refrain out of respect for the coach and his memory.