Robert Montgomery Knight
About Coach Knight
Bob Knight (October 25, 1940 – November 1, 2023) is a legend among coaches. A former American basketball coach who is most known for his time coaching the Indiana Hoosiers between 1971-2000. He also coached at Texas Tech (2001–2008) and at Army (1965–1971). At the time of his retirement in 2008, he won 902 games which was a record at that time. As a head coach he won three NCAA championships, one NIT championship, and 11 Big Ten Conference championships for Indiana including a 32-0 undefeated season in 1975-1976, which was the last team to go undefeated. In 1984, he coached the USA men's Olympic team to a gold medal, becoming one of only three coaches to win the triple crown with an NCAA title, an NIT title, and an Olympic gold medal.
- Name: Robert “Bob” Montgomery Knight
- Nationality: USA
- Born: October 25, 1940, Massillon, Ohio
- Died: November 1, 2023 (aged 83), Bloomington, Indiana
- Hometown: Orrville, Ohio
- High School: Orrville High School (Orrville, Ohio)
- Playing Career: The Ohio State University, 1959-1962
- Coaching Career:
- Texas Tech (head coach, 2001-2008)
- US Men’s Olympic Team (head coach, 1984)
- Indiana (head coach, 1971-2000)
- Army (head coach, 1965-1971)
- Army (assistant, 1963-1965)
- Cuyahoga Falls High School (assistant, 1962-1963)
- Broadcasting Career: ESPN, 2008-2015
- Nickname: “the General”
Awards and Accolades
- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1991)
- College Basketball Hall of Fame (2006)
- 3 x NCAA Champion as coach (1976, 1981, 1987)
- IU Athletic Hall of Fame (2009)
- 5 x Final Four (1973, 1976, 1981, 1987, 1992)
- 11 x Big Ten regular season title (1973-1976, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993)
- NIT Champion (1979)
- Gold Medal Olympic Games (1984)
- Gold Medal Pan American Games (1979)
- Most wins all-time as head coach with 902 wins (at time of retirement)
- NCAA Champion as player (1960)
- Naismith Award for Men’s Outstanding Contribution to Basketball (2007)
- 2 x Henry Iba Award (1975, 1989)
- Naismith College Coach of the Year (1987)
- 3 x AP Coach of the Year (1975, 1976, 1989)
- Clair Bee Coach of the Year Award (2002)
- 3 x Big Ten Coach of the Year (1980, 1981, 1989)
Bob Knight’s Early Life and Playing Career
Knight was born in Massillon, Ohio and grew up in Orrville, Ohio. He started to play and learn the game of basketball in high school when he attended Orrville High School. After being a star player in high school, Knight went on to play basketball for Ohio State.
At OSU Knight played under future Hall of Fame coach Fred Taylor. He was a reserve forward on the 1960 Ohio State team that ended up winning the NCAA Championship. The team also featured basketball legends John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas. The Buckeyes reached the NCAA Championship games each of the following two years and lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats each of those years.
“Where there’s a great painting, there’s a great painter. Where there’s a great and unique building, there’s a great architect. Where there’s a great team, there’s a great coach. No team ever won a national championship with a better coach than Fred Taylor,” proclaimed Knight.
Knight averaged 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds over the course of his three-year career at Ohio State in his reserve role on the team. He likely would have had a better stat breakdown had there was not such a star-studded team during his time at Ohio State. He graduated with a degree in history and government in 1962.
Bob Knight’s Coaching Career
After graduation from Ohio State in 1962, Knight coached for the junior varsity basketball team at Cuyahoga Falls High School in Ohio for a year. After this conclusion of this year, he enlisted in the Army and accepted an assistant coaching position with the Black Knights in 1963 and at the age of 24 he was named the head coach of the program.
In his six years as head coach, he amassed a record of 102-50 (.671). He reached the NIT 4 times and made it to fourth place in the tournament twice. Of note, he was coach for future Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski who later became his assistant and most noteworthy as the future head coach at Duke.
In 1971, Knight was hired as the head coach for Indiana. In his first season, he defeated No. 14 Kansas, No. 7 Kentucky, No. 8 BYU, No. 16 Michigan, and No. 14 Ohio State and reached No.5 at one point during the season. Knight’s team reached the NIT and lost in the first round to Princeton.
Knight’s team improved drastically in his second season, reaching the Final Four and losing to John Wooden’s UCLA team that went 30-0. Knight did secure the third place finish with a victory over Providence in the Third Place Game.
Indiana reached the Elite Eight in 1974-1975 with Indiana’s first loss to Kentucky over the first four seasons Knight was coach over their six meetings (4 in regular season, 2 in post-season). This was a disappointment for the Hoosiers who rarely had any close games throughout the whole season and were No. 1 rank from 1/11/1975 till the end of the season. They swept the entire Big Ten by an average of 22.8 ppg. One of the biggest hurdles faced was losing Scott May to a broken left arm in the 83-82 victory at Purdue. Kentucky lost to eventual national champion UCLA.
In Knight’s fifth season as head coach, he ran the table and reached the perfect 32-0 record and Indiana’s third national championship in school history. They went perfect in Big Ten games this season as well. In the preseason, they defeated the reigning World Champion Soviet National Team by a convincing 94-78 margin. They were No. 1 the entire season and played one of the most dominating performances on 11/29/1975 against No. 2 UCLA where they won 84-64 In Gene Bartow’s first year as head coach of the Bruins.
Knight later recalled telling the team the day before the first practice of the legendary 1975-76 season that the only objective was to go undefeated.
“I told them that winning the Big Ten, winning the NCAA would not be what they were capable of doing. I said, ‘You beat everybody that we play, that would be what you guys are capable of doing.’ I think it will always be their mantra, that they did what they were capable of doing,” said Knight.
The late 70’s were highlighted by another NIT appearance and championship behind Mike Woodson and several Sweet 16 appearances. Indiana had another lofty expectation to excel in 1980-1981 as they started the season at No. 5 but dropped out of the rankings by January. They were invited to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed. Bob Knight led Isiah Thomas and Ray Tolbert, two first round picks in the 1981 draft, to the post season and Coach Knight won his 2nd championship after leading the Hoosiers over No. 6 UNC 63-50.
Isaiah Thomas has openly spoken about his admiration for Knight and once famously said, “Outside of my mother, [Bobby Knight]’s had the greatest impact on my life.”
Between 1981 and 1986, the Hoosiers did make the NCAA Tournament all years except one including advancing to a Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. In the 1982-1983 season, they were No. 1 and favorites to win another championship behind Uwe Blab, Ted Kitchel and Randy Wittman; however with the injury to Ted Kitchel, they were only able to make the Sweet 16.
Indiana entered the 1986-1987 season at No. 3 and in Knight’s 16th year as head coach, won his third NCAA Tournament title, the fifth for Indiana. They reached an overall record of 30-4, won the Big Ten title, reached the tournament as a No. 1 seed. One of the most famous shots in Indiana and college basketball history occurred in the final 0:05 of the title game against Syracuse by Keith Smart. Steve Alford was awarded Big Ten Player of the Year and was drafted in the second round of the Draft. This team is noteworthy for achieving success without much individual NBA talent as noted by Alford being the top pick for the Hoosiers.
From 1990 to 1993, Knight’s Hoosiers won 87 victories in the Big Ten regular season games, the most of any team during a three-year span. The Hoosiers spent all but two weeks in the top 10 and 38 weeks were spent in the top 5. In 1991-1992, they reached another Final Four and 1992-1993 an Elite Eight.
1993 was his last conference championship and 1994 his last Sweet 16 appearance.
In 2000, IU President Myles Brand relieved Knight of his duties.
Knight took a year off from coaching and looked for vacancies. He quickly found a new home at Texas Tech. Knight quickly improved the program who did not see NCAA tournament play since 1996. He averaged 21 wins per season and 126 wins overall over 7 years. His best year was a 22-11 record and Sweet 16 appearance in 2004-2005.
During his time at Texas Tech, Knight had a reality show on ESPN called “Knight School” where players competed to become a walk on with the Red Raiders.
Knight handed over the head coaching duties mid-season to his son Pat Knight and he continued to live in Lubbock after he retired.
Coach Knight was one of college basketball's most successful and innovative coaches, having popularized the "motion offense." Thus, his teams were known for their proficient passing and unselfishness. On defense, Knight was a proponent of tenacious “man-to-man” defense. However, occasionally, he would implement a zone defense to throw opponents off guard.
His schemes were flexible and could adapt to different styles. Knight also evolved his offenses over the years, incorporating new developments in basketball (such as incorporating elements of the Princeton offense when it became popular). He was also known for giving his players option plays that they could run depending on the opponents defense.
Knight was also famous for his pre-game preparation. He often called the will to prepare one of the most important parts of success.
As a personality, He was known as a disciplinarian. He believed in holding players accountable and coaching them with tough love.
Furthermore, Knight was a strong believer in academics. His teams were well-known for performing well in school, as it was a requirement of all of his players. During his entire career, only four of his four-year players did not graduate (meaning 98% did graduate). In fact, while at Indiana, he graduated nearly 80% of all of his players. The national average for D1 at the time was 42%. Knight also tried to lobby the NCAA to adopt a rule where a program would lose a scholarship for every player who doesn't graduate within five years.
Bob Knight’s Career after Coaching
Bob Knight was hired by ESPN from 2008 till 2015 to be a studio analyst and occasional color commentator for the network. He called an Indiana men’s basketball game in 2012.
In 2019 Knight returned to Bloomington to live.