BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Legendary former Indiana University men’s basketball coach Bob Knight has died at the age of 83, his family announced Wednesday on his website.
Knight’s family confirmed his passing Wednesday night in a brief post on his official website:
“It is with heavy hearts that we share that Coach Bob Knight passed away at his home in Bloomington surrounded by his family,” the post read. “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. We will continue to celebrate his life and remember him, today and forever as a beloved Husband, Father, Coach, and Friend.”
“Donations to any charity in his name are also appreciated,” the family ended their post.
Knight was hospitalized in April with an illness, his family said at the time. No additional details were shared.
As of late Wednesday night, a growing memorial has begun to form outside of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. A photo of the tribute via reporter Michael van Schoik can be seen below:
For a full list of statements released by Indiana and university officials on Knight’s passing, scroll to the bottom of this article.
Robert Montgomery Knight arrived in Bloomington in 1971 after serving as the head coach at Army from 1965 to 1971. The IU basketball program was already rich in tradition with two national titles, but the Hoosiers had fallen from that prior glory.
It did not take Knight long, though, to bring them back.
1976 saw the Cream and Crimson produce the best team in the history of March Madness, with Indiana finishing the season undefeated with a win over Michigan and giving Knight his first of three national championships.
Knight’s accomplishments on the court were perhaps only matched by his personality off of it. The General with the fire of a drill sergeant, Knight often boiled over without much care of consequences.
Throwing a chair during a game against rival Purdue in 1985 is minor compared to accusations of physical and verbal abuse made by former player Neil Reed, who died of a heart attack in 2012. Reed accused the lauded coach of choking him during a practice.
The accusations, which were later confirmed on video, were enough for IU to suspend Knight, fine him and adopt a zero-tolerance policy. The policy would soon be tested and violated.
Knight was eventually fired in September of 2000 after he allegedly grabbed a student by the arm in a hallway, which violated the zero-tolerance policy.
“An early morning telephone conversation with Coach Knight today, I gave him the option of resigning as head basketball coach,” said former IU President Myles Brand on Sept. 10, 2000. “He declined, and I notified him he was being removed as basketball coach effective immediately.”
Knight’s firing drove a stake between Indiana University and its once beloved coach.
The bitterness, and enmity, would last for decades.
“I have absolutely no respect whatsoever for those people. I have no interest in ever going back to that university,” Knight later said on Dan Patrick’s radio show. “I hope they’re all dead.”
Throughout his tenure at IU, Knight had several controversies in the media. One comment from Knight during a 1988 interview with NBC’s Connie Chung after being asked about handling stress caught national attention.
“I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it,” Knight said.
Several IU women’s groups and national advocacy organizations criticized Knight for his comments. In response, the coach said that his comments were taken out of context and misinterpreted.
At one press conference in 1992, Knight offered up tips on how he kept his players “disciplined,” including pulling out a bullwhip.
“Right here is the key to success in coaching,” Knight said while confidently brandishing the whip. “Probably no motivational device I’ve ever come across is as good as this.”
After his departure from IU, Knight again found work when Texas Tech made him head men’s basketball coach in the spring of 2001 where quickly won over a new fan base.
The coach’s relationship with the media, however, remained testy.
“I try to help you young guys in this profession you’ve chosen, which is one or two steps above prostitution,” Knight once said to a group of reporters.
Yet, he was still quick to join the world of broadcasting after his time at Texas Tech in 2008. Leaving ESPN in 2015, Knight faded from the public eye.
While his best teams and players frequently visited IU’s Assembly Hall over the years, Knight did not.
That is, until February of 2020 when Knight made a reunion 20 years in the making a reality. Knight attended the Hoosiers’ game against Purdue, joined by dozens of his former players and former Purdue coach Gene Keady.
Knight has been in poor health for several years but still attended some Hoosiers practices this season, which were led by current coach and former Knight pupil Mike Woodson.
Knight was added to the Basketball of Fame in 1991 to honor his longstanding coaching career.
In total, Knight won three national championships, 11 Big Ten titles and 662 games at Indiana. His lasting legacy is complex, but not complicated.
Knight departs as one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, one of the most beloved coaches of all time and one of the fiercest coaches of all time.
If there is one quote from Knight that sums up the coach’s legacy, it may be this:
“When my time on Earth is gone and my activities here are past,” Knight said at IU’s Senior Day event in 1994, “I want they bury me upside down and my critics can kiss my a**.”
Officials pay tribute
Indiana University’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics released a long statement on Knight’s passing, which can be read in full here.
“While his teams excelled on the court, Knight’s student-athletes also embodied what it meant to be a student-athlete. During his IU coaching career, 98 percent of his four-year players earned their degrees,” the statement read in part. “Besides being one of the sport’s most successful coaches, Knight was also one of the most innovative.”
Meanwhile, other Indiana leaders and officials issued statements on Knight’s passing Wednesday.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb:
“Coach Robert Montgomery Knight was a towering basketball figure and fighter, second to none. As a National Champion he became synonymous with our state and what Hoosier’s are all about: hard work, practice makes perfect, teamwork and a commitment to excellence. His teams were built around student-athletes and his influence prepared them for life after the ball stopped bouncing. There will never be another Coach Knight and the banners that hang in Assembly Hall will forever remind us of his time, impact and dominance. When Indiana builds our Mount Rushmore of Basketball, The General will surely be on it.“
Current IU men’s basketball coach Mike Woodson:
“It is a profoundly sad day for all of us who loved Coach Knight. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Karen, his family, and to all those who loved him.
I am so blessed that he saw something in me as a basketball player. 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 and his impact on the game of basketball is etched in stone. His teams were always prepared and with him on the sideline, you always believed that he put you in the best position to win.
I will always cherish the time we spent together after I played for him. His fierce loyalty to his former players never wavered. I am grateful that he was able to come to our practices after I came back. His presence meant so much to me, our staff, and our players.”
IU President Pamela Whitten:
“As we collectively mourn the passing of Coach Knight, we also celebrate a man who will always be an integral part of Indiana University’s rich and vibrant story. With unmatched accomplishment, Coach Knight’s brilliance ensures he will forever rest among the giants of college basketball.”
US Senator Mike Braun:
“My deepest condolences for the passing of a legendary Hoosiers Coach, Robert Montgomery Knight. ‘The General’ will be remembered for generations for leading the Hoosiers to the last undefeated season in NCAA history in 1976 and three national titles, and his iconic and lasting impact on the sport of basketball in Indiana and around the nation. Maureen and I send our condolences to the Knight family.”
IU Board of Trustees Chair, former player Quinn Buckner:
“This is a terribly sad day for the IU Basketball family, Indiana University, the state of Indiana, and the world of sports as we say goodbye to Coach Knight. 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. Well, I don’t know that we will ever see another coach like him again. I think it’s important for people to realize that. It was a special opportunity to have been coached by him, and an equally special opportunity to have him as a friend. Because as great a coach as he was, he was an infinitely better friend. He’s a big part of who we are, and we were very fortunate to have had him in our lives.“
US Senator Todd Young:
“Some of my best memories growing up in an IU family were watching games with my Dad, from IU-Purdue nail biters to Big Ten/NCAA title runs. I join with all IU fans in mourning the passing of legendary Coach Bob Knight.”
IU Vice President and Athletic Director Scott Dolson:
“This is a tremendous loss to not only our IU Basketball Family, but the sport. His impact on the game is obvious when looking at his three NCAA and 11 Big Ten Championships and the 902 games that he won throughout a legendary 42-year head coaching career. As great as that record of success is, his impact is even more profound when looking at the enormous successes that his former players, coaches, and managers have enjoyed – both in the sport and outside of it – following their time working alongside Coach Knight and learning from him. His influence will continue to be felt through them for generations to come. I want to extend my deepest condolences to Karen, Tim, Pat, and the entire Knight family. The world of basketball lost a great one today. There won’t be another one like him.”