Robert Montgomery Knight (born October 25, 1940) is a retired American basketball coach. Nicknamed The General, Knight won 902 NCAA Division I men's college basketball games, the most all-time at the time of his retirement and currently third all-time, behind his former player and assistant coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. Knight is best known as the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers from 1971 to 2000. He also coached at Texas Tech (2001–2008) and at Army (1965–1971).
While at Indiana, Knight led his teams to three NCAA championships, one National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship, and 11 Big Ten Conference championships. His 1975–76 team went undefeated during the regular season and won the 1976 NCAA tournament. The 1976 Indiana squad is the last men's college basketball team to go undefeated for the entire season. Knight received National Coach of the Year honors four times and Big Ten Coach of the Year honors eight times. In 1984, he coached the USA men's Olympic team to a gold medal, becoming one of only three basketball coaches to win an NCAA title, NIT title, and an Olympic gold medal.
Knight was one of college basketball's most successful and innovative coaches, having perfected and popularized the motion offense. He has also been praised for running clean programs (none of his teams was ever sanctioned by the NCAA for recruiting violations), and most of his players graduated. However, Knight has also sparked controversy: he famously threw a chair across the court during a game, was once arrested for assault, and regularly displayed a combative nature during encounters with members of the press. Knight remains "the object of near fanatical devotion" from many of his former players and Indiana fans. Nevertheless, his combative nature and unacceptable pattern of behavior led to his firing from Indiana University in 2000.
In 2008, Knight joined ESPN as a men's college basketball studio analyst during Championship Week and for coverage of the NCAA Tournament. He continued covering college basketball for ESPN through the 2014–15 season.
Knight watches his team practice in November 2007
|Born|| October 25, 1940
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1962–1963||Cuyahoga Falls HS (assistant)|
|1984||U.S. Men's Olympic Team|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
NCAA champion (1960)
As head coach:
3× NCAA Division I Tournament (1976, 1981, 1987)
5× NCAA Regional – Final Four (1973, 1976, 1981, 1987, 1992)
11× Big Ten regular season (1973–1976, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993)
|2× Henry Iba Award (1975, 1989)
Naismith College Coach of the Year (1987)
Clair Bee Coach of the Year Award (2002)
8× Big Ten Coach of the Year (1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1989, 1992, 1993)
Naismith Award for Men's Outstanding Contribution to Basketball (2007)
|Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1991
|College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006
Knight was born in 1940 Massillon, Ohio, and grew up in Orrville, Ohio. Knight began playing organized basketball at Orrville High School. He continued at Ohio State in 1958 when he played for Basketball Hall of Fame coach Fred Taylor. Despite being a star player in high school, he played a reserve role as a forward on the 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the NCAA Championship and featured future Hall of Fame players John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas. The Buckeyes lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats in each of the next two NCAA Championship games, of which Knight was also a part.
Due in part to the star power of those Ohio State teams, Knight usually received scant playing time, but that did not prevent him from making an impact. In the 1961 NCAA Championship game, Knight came off the bench with 1:41 on the clock and Cincinnati leading Ohio State, 61-59. In the words of then-Ohio State assistant coach Frank Truitt,
Knight got the ball in the left front court and faked a drive into the middle. Then [he] crossed over like he worked on it all his life and drove right in and laid it up. That tied the game for us, and Knight ran clear across the floor like a 100-yard dash sprinter and ran right at me and said, 'See there, coach, I should have been in that game a long time ago!'
To which Truitt replied, "Sit down, you hot dog. You're lucky you're even on the floor."
In addition to lettering in basketball at Ohio State, it has been claimed that Knight also lettered in football and baseball; however, the official list of Ohio State football letter earners does not include Knight. Knight graduated with a degree in history and government in 1962.
After Knight graduated from Ohio State in 1962, he coached junior varsity basketball at Cuyahoga Falls High School in Ohio for one year. Knight then enlisted in the United States Army and accepted an assistant coaching position with the Army Black Knights in 1963, where, two years later, he was named head coach at the relatively young age of 24. In six seasons at West Point, Knight won 102 games, with his first as a head coach coming against Worcester Polytechnic Institute. One of his players was Mike Krzyzewski, who later served as his assistant before becoming a Hall of Fame head coach at Duke. Mike Silliman was another of Knight's players at Army, and Knight was quoted as saying, "Mike Silliman is the best player I have ever coached."
During his tenure at Army, Knight gained a reputation for having an explosive temper. For example, after Army's 66-60 loss to BYU and Hall of Fame coach Stan Watts in the semifinals of the 1966 NIT, Knight completely lost control, kicking lockers and verbally blasting the officials. Embarrassed, he later went to Watts' hotel room and apologized. Watts forgave him, and is quoted as saying, "I want you to know that you're going to be one of the bright young coaches in the country, and it's just a matter of time before you win a national championship."
In 1971, Indiana University hired Knight as head coach. During his 29 years as head coach at Indiana, the Hoosiers won 662 games, including 22 seasons of 20 or more wins, while losing 239, a .735 winning percentage. In 24 NCAA tournament appearances at Indiana, Hoosier teams under Knight won 42 of 63 games (.667), winning titles in 1976, 1981, and 1987, while losing in the semi-finals in 1973 and 1992.
In 1972–73, Knight's second year as coach, Indiana won the Big Ten championship and reached the Final Four, but lost to UCLA. The following season, 1973–74, Indiana once again captured a Big Ten title. In the two following seasons, 1974–75 and 1975–76, the Hoosiers were undefeated in the regular season and won 37-consecutive Big Ten games, including two more Big Ten championships. The 1974–75 Hoosiers swept the entire Big Ten by an average of 22.8 points per game. However, in an 83–82 win against Purdue they lost consensus All-American forward Scott May to a broken left arm. With May's injury keeping him to 7 minutes of play, the No. 1 Hoosiers lost to Kentucky 92–90 in the Mideast Regional. The Hoosiers were so dominant that four starters – Scott May, Steve Green, Kent Benson and Quinn Buckner – would make the five-man All-Big Ten team. The following season, 1975–76, the Hoosiers went the entire season and 1976 NCAA tournament without a single loss, beating Michigan 86–68 in the title game. Immediately after the game, Knight lamented that "it should have been two." The 1976 Hoosiers remains the last undefeated NCAA Division I men's basketball team. Through these two seasons, Knight's teams were undefeated in the regular season, including a perfect 37–0 record in Big Ten games on their way to their third and fourth conference titles in a row. Behind the play of Mike Woodson, Indiana won the 1979 NIT championship.
The 1979–80 Hoosiers, led by Mike Woodson and Isiah Thomas, won the Big Ten championship and advanced to the 1980 Sweet Sixteen. The following season, in 1980–81, Thomas and the Hoosiers once again won a conference title and won the 1981 NCAA tournament, Knight's second national title. In 1982–1983, with the strong play of Uwe Blab and All-Americans Ted Kitchel and Randy Wittman, the No. 1 ranked Hoosiers were favorites to win another national championship. However, with an injury to All-American Ted Kitchel mid-season, the Hoosiers' prospects were grim. Knight asked for fan support to rally around the team and, when the team ultimately won the Big Ten title, he ordered that a banner be hung for the team in Assembly Hall as a tribute to the fans, who he credited with inspiring the team to win its final three home games. Nevertheless, in the tournament Kitchel's absence was felt and the team lost to Kentucky in the 1983 Sweet Sixteen.
The 1985–86 Hoosiers were profiled in a best-selling book A Season on the Brink. To write it Knight granted author John Feinstein almost unprecedented access to the Indiana basketball program, as well as insights into Knight's private life. The following season, in 1986–87, the Hoosiers were led by All-American Steve Alford and captured a share of the Big Ten title. The team won Knight's third national championship (the school's fifth) against Syracuse in the 1987 NCAA tournament with a game-winning jump shot by Keith Smart with five seconds of play remaining in the championship game. In the 1988–1989 season the Hoosiers were led by All-American Jay Edwards and won a Big Ten championship.
From 1990–91 through 1992–93, the Hoosiers posted 87 victories, the most by any Big Ten team in a three-year span, breaking the mark of 86 set by Knight's Indiana teams of 1974–76. Teams from these three seasons spent all but two of the 53 poll weeks in the top 10, and 38 of them in the top 5. They captured two Big Ten crowns in 1990–91 and 1992–93, and during the 1991–92 season reached the Final Four. During the 1992–93 season, the 31–4 Hoosiers finished the season at the top of the AP Poll, but were defeated by Kansas in the Elite Eight. Teams from this era included Greg Graham, Pat Knight, All-Americans Damon Bailey and Alan Henderson, and National Player of the Year Calbert Cheaney.
Throughout the mid and late 1990s Knight continued to experience success with continual NCAA tournament appearances and a minimum of 19 wins each season. However, 1993 would be Knight's last conference championship and 1994 would be his last trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
On March 14, 2000 (just before Indiana was to begin play in the NCAA tournament), the CNN Sports Illustrated network ran a piece on Knight in which former player Neil Reed claimed he had been choked by Knight during a 1997 practice. Knight denied the claims in the story. However, less than a month later, the network aired a tape of an Indiana practice from 1997 that appeared to show Knight placing his hand on the neck of Reed.
—Bob Knight, March 1994
In response, Indiana University president Myles Brand announced that he had adopted a "zero tolerance" policy with regard to Knight's behavior. Later in the year, in September 2000, Indiana freshman Kent Harvey reportedly said, "Hey, Knight, what's up?" to Knight. According to Harvey, Knight then grabbed him by the arm and lectured him for not showing him respect, insisting that Harvey address him as either "Mr. Knight" or "Coach Knight" instead of simply "Knight." Brand stated that this incident was only one of numerous complaints that occurred after the zero-tolerance policy had been put into place. Brand asked Knight to resign on September 10, and when Knight refused, Brand relieved him of his coaching duties effective immediately. Knight's dismissal was met with outrage from students. That night, thousands of Indiana students marched from Indiana University's Assembly Hall to Brand's home, burning Brand in effigy.
Harvey was supported by some and vilified by many who claim he had intentionally set up Knight. Kent Harvey's stepfather, Mark Shaw, was a former Bloomington-area radio talk show host and Knight critic. On September 13, Knight said goodbye to a crowd of some 6,000 supporters in Dunn Meadow at Indiana University. He asked that they not hold a grudge against Harvey and that they continue to support the basketball team. Knight's firing made national headlines, including the cover of Sports Illustrated and around the clock coverage on ESPN.
In 1979 Knight guided the United States Pan American team to a gold medal in Puerto Rico. In 1984 Knight led the U.S. national team to a gold medal in the Olympic Games as coach of the 1984 basketball team (coaches do not receive medals in the Olympics). Players on the team included Michael Jordan and Knight's Indiana player and protege Steve Alford.
Following his dismissal from Indiana, Knight took a season off and was on the lookout for coaching vacancies. He accepted the head coaching position at Texas Tech, although his hiring was opposed by a faculty group that was led by Walter Schaller. When he was introduced at the press conference, Knight quipped, "This is without question the most comfortable red sweater I've had on in six years."
Knight quickly improved the program, which had not been to an NCAA tournament since 1996. He led the team to postseason appearances in each of his first four years at the school (three NCAA Championship tournaments and one NIT). After a rough 2006 season, the team improved in 2007, finishing 21–13 and again making it to the NCAA Championship tournament, where it lost to Boston College in the first round. The best performance by the Red Raiders under Knight came in 2005 when they advanced as far as the Sweet Sixteen. In both 2006 and 2007 under Knight, Texas Tech defeated two Top 10-ranked teams in consecutive weeks. During Knight's first six years at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders won 126 games, an average of 21 wins per season.
On February 4, 2008, Knight announced his retirement. His son Pat Knight, the head coach designate since 2005, was immediately named as his successor at Texas Tech. The younger Knight had said that after many years of coaching, his father was exhausted and ready to retire. Just after achieving his 900th win, Knight handed the job over to Pat in the mid-season in part to allow him to get acquainted with coaching the team earlier, instead of having him wait until October, the start of the next season. Knight continued to live in Lubbock after he retired.
In 2008, ESPN hired Knight as a studio analyst and occasional color commentator. In November 2012, he called an Indiana men's basketball game for the first time, something he had previously refused to do. Former Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean reached out to Knight in an attempt to get him to visit the school again. Knight has thus far rebuffed all attempts to bring him back to Indiana University. On April 2, 2015, ESPN announced that it would not renew its contract with Knight.
Knight was an innovator of the motion offense, which he perfected and popularized. The system emphasizes post players setting screens and perimeter players passing the ball until a teammate becomes open for an uncontested jump shot or lay-up. This required players to be unselfish, disciplined, and effective in setting and using screens to get open.
Knight's motion offense didn't take shape until he began coaching at Indiana. Prior to that, at Army, he ran a "reverse action" that involved reversing the ball from one side of the floor to the other and screening along with it. According to Knight, it was a "West Coast offense" that Pete Newell used exclusively during his coaching career. After being exposed to the Princeton offense, Knight instilled more cutting with the offense he employed, which evolved into the motion offense that he ran for most of his career. Knight continued to develop the offense, instituting different cuts over the years and putting his players in different scenarios.
Knight was well known for the extreme preparation he put into each game and practice. He was often quoted as saying, "Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win." Often during practice, Knight would instruct his players to a certain spot on the floor and give them options of what to do based on how the defense might react. In contrast to set plays, Knight's offense was designed to react according to the defense.
The 3-point shot was adopted by the NCAA in 1986, which was midway through Knight's coaching career. Although he opposed the rule change throughout his life, it did complement his offense well by improving the spacing on the floor. He sardonically said at the time that he supported institution of the three point shot because if a team's offense was functioning efficiently enough to get a layup the team should be rewarded with three points for that basket. Knight's offense also emphasized a two-count. Players in the post are expected to try to post in the paint for two seconds and if they don't receive the ball they go set a screen. Players with the ball are expected to hold the ball for two seconds to see where they are going to take it. Screens are supposed to be held for two seconds, as well.
On defense Knight was known for emphasizing tenacious "man-to-man" defense where defenders contest every pass and every shot, and help teammates when needed. However, Knight has also incorporated a zone defense periodically after eschewing that defense for the first two decades of his coaching career.
Knight's coaching also included a firm emphasis on academics. All but four of his four-year players completed their degrees, which was a ratio of nearly 98 percent. Nearly 80 percent of his players graduated; this figure was much higher than the national average of 42 percent for Division 1 schools.
Knight's all time coaching record is 902–371. His 902 wins in NCAA Division I men's college basketball games is second all-time to Knight's former player Mike Krzyzewski. Knight achieved his 880th career win on January 1, 2007 and passed retired North Carolina coach Dean Smith for most career victories, a title he held until his win total was surpassed by Krzyzewski on November 15, 2011. Knight is the youngest coach to reach 200 (age 35), 300 (age 40) and 400 (age 44) wins. He was also among the youngest to reach other milestones of 500 (age 48) and 600 (age 52) wins.
Texas Tech's participation in the 2007 NCAA Tournament gave Knight more NCAA tournament appearances than any other coach. He is the only coach to win the NCAA, the NIT, an Olympic Gold medal, and a Pan American Games Gold medal. Knight is also one of only three people, along with Dean Smith and Joe B. Hall, who had both played on and coached an NCAA Tournament championship basketball team.
Knight received a number of personal honors during and after his coaching career. He was named the National Coach of the Year four times (1975, 1976, 1987, 1989) and Big Ten Coach of the Year eight times (1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1989, 1992, 1993). In 1975 he was a unanimous selection as National Coach of the Year, an honor he was accorded again in 1976 by the Associated Press, United Press International, and Basketball Weekly. In 1987 he was the first person to be honored with the Naismith Coach of the Year Award. In 1989 he garnered National Coach of the Year honors by the AP, UPI, and the United States Basketball Writers Association. Knight was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
On November 17, 2006, Knight was recognized for his impact on college basketball as a member of the founding class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The following year, he was the recipient of the Naismith Award for Men's Outstanding Contribution to Basketball. Knight was also inducted into the Army Sports Hall of Fame (Class of 2008) and the Indiana Hoosiers athletics Hall of Fame (Class of 2009). In August 2003, he was honored as the first inductee in The Vince Lombardi Titletown Legends.
A number of Knight's assistant coaches, players, and managers have gone on to be coaches. Among them are Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, UCLA coach Steve Alford, Murry Bartow and NBA coaches Randy Wittman, Mike Woodson, Keith Smart, Isiah Thomas, Evansville Coach Marty Simmons, St. Louis Coach Jim Crews, Lawrence Frank and Texas Tech coach Chris Beard.
In 1986 author John Feinstein published A Season on the Brink, which detailed the 1985–86 season of the Indiana Hoosiers. Granted almost unprecedented access to the Indiana basketball program, as well as insights into Knight's private life, the book quickly became a major best-seller and spawned a new genre, as a legion of imitators wrote works covering a single year of a sports franchise. In the book Feinstein depicts a coach who is quick with a violent temper, but also one who never cheats and strictly follows all of the NCAA's rules.
Two years later, author Joan Mellen penned the book Bob Knight: His Own Man (ISBN 0-380-70809-4), in part to rebut Feinstein's A Season on the Brink. Mellen deals with seemingly all the causes celebres in Knight's career and presents the view that he is more sinned against than sinning.
A number of close associates and friends of Knight have also written books about him. Former player and current UCLA head basketball coach Steve Alford wrote Playing for Knight: My Six Seasons with Bobby Knight, published in 1990.
Knight's autobiography, written with longtime friend and sports journalist Bob Hammel, was titled Knight: My Story and published in 2003. Three years later Steve Delsohn and Mark Heisler wrote Bob Knight: An Unauthorized Biography.
Knight has appeared or been featured in numerous films and television productions. In 1994 a feature film titled Blue Chips featured a character named Pete Bell, a volatile but honest college basketball coach under pressure to win who decides to blatantly violate NCAA rules to field a competitive team after a sub-par season. It starred Nick Nolte as Bell and NBA star Shaquille O'Neal as Neon Bodeaux, a once-in-a-lifetime player Bell woos to his school with gifts and other perks. The coach's temper and wardrobe were modeled after Knight's, though at no time had Knight been known to illegally recruit. Knight himself appears in the movie and coaches against Nolte in the film's climactic game.
ESPN's first feature-length film was A Season on the Brink, a 2002 TV adaptation from John Feinstein's book. In the movie Knight is played by veteran character actor Brian Dennehy. ESPN also featured Knight in a reality show titled Knight School, which followed a handful of Texas Tech students as they competed for the right to join the basketball team as a non-scholarship player.
Knight made a cameo appearance as himself in the 2003 film Anger Management. In 2008, Knight appeared in a commercial as part of Volkswagen's Das Auto series where Max, a 1964 black Beetle interviews famous people. When Knight talked about Volkswagen winning the best resale value award in 2008, Max replied, "At least one of us is winning a title this year." This prompted Knight to throw his chair off the stage and walk out saying, "I may not be retired."
In 2009, Knight produced three instructional coaching DVD libraries—on motion offense, man-to-man defense, and instilling mental toughness—with Championship Productions.
Knight married the former Nancy Falk on April 17, 1963. They had two sons, Tim and Pat, but the couple divorced in 1985. Pat played at Indiana from 1991 to 1995 and served as head coach at Lamar from the time of his father's retirement until he was dismissed in 2014. Pat Knight coached Texas Tech after his father's retirement before he moved to Lamar. In 1988, Knight married his second wife, Karen Vieth Edgar, a former Oklahoma high school basketball coach.
Knight has a high regard for education and has made generous donations to the schools he has been a part of, particularly libraries. At Indiana University Knight endowed two chairs, one in history and one in law. He also raised nearly $5 million for the Indiana University library system by championing a library fund to support the library's activities. The fund was ultimately named in his honor.
When Knight came to Texas Tech in 2001, he gave $10,000 to the library, the first gift to the Coach Knight Library Fund which has now collected over $300,000. On November 29, 2007, the Texas Tech library honored this with A Legacy of Giving: The Bob Knight Exhibit.
|Army Cadets (NCAA University Division independent) (1965–1971)|
|1965–66||Army||18–8||NIT Fourth Place|
|1967–68||Army||20–5||NIT First Round|
|1968–69||Army||18–10||NIT Fourth Place|
|1969–70||Army||22–6||NIT Third Place|
|Indiana Hoosiers (Big Ten Conference) (1971–2000)|
|1971–72||Indiana||17–8||9–5||T–3rd||NIT First Round|
|1972–73||Indiana||22–6||11–3||1st||NCAA University Division Final Four|
|1974–75||Indiana||31–1||18–0||1st||NCAA Division IElite Eight|
|1975–76||Indiana||32–0||18–0||1st||NCAA Division I Champion|
|1977–78||Indiana||21–8||12–6||2nd||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|1979–80||Indiana||21–8||13–5||1st||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|1980–81||Indiana||26–9||14–4||1st||NCAA Division I Champion|
|1981–82||Indiana||19–10||12–6||T–2nd||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|1982–83||Indiana||24–6||13–5||1st||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|1983–84||Indiana||22–9||13–5||3rd||NCAA Division I Elite Eight|
|1985–86||Indiana||21–8||13–5||2nd||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|1986–87||Indiana||30–4||15–3||T–1st||NCAA Division I Champion|
|1987–88||Indiana||19–10||11–7||5th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|1988–89||Indiana||27–8||15–3||1st||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|1989–90||Indiana||18–11||8–10||7th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|1990–91||Indiana||29–5||15–3||T–1st||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|1991–92||Indiana||27–7||14–4||2nd||NCAA Division I Final Four|
|1992–93||Indiana||31–4||17–1||1st||NCAA Division I Elite Eight|
|1993–94||Indiana||21–9||12–6||3rd||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|1994–95||Indiana||19–12||11–7||T–3rd||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|1995–96||Indiana||19–12||12–6||T–2nd||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|1996–97||Indiana||22–11||9–9||T–6th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|1997–98||Indiana||20–12||9–7||T–5th||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|1998–99||Indiana||23–11||9–7||T–3rd||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|1999–00||Indiana||20–9||10–6||5th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|Indiana:||662–239 (.735)||353–151 (.700)|
|Texas Tech Red Raiders (Big 12 Conference) (2001–2008)|
|2001–02||Texas Tech||23–9||10–6||T–3rd||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|2002–03||Texas Tech||22–13||6–10||T–7th||NIT Third Place|
|2003–04||Texas Tech||23–11||9–7||T–5th||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|2004–05||Texas Tech||22–11||10–6||4th||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|2006–07||Texas Tech||21–13||9–7||5th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|Texas Tech:||138–82 (.627)||53–49 (.520)||
(*) Indicates record/standing at time
National champion Postseason invitational champion