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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It was the abatement of 1978, and the leaves had done their axis on that backward arctic October day. I bethink bath out of the wind and aimless into Assembly Hall, afraid as hell as a 19-year-old sportswriter on assignment.
I was armed, as I would be for best of my four decades. I had my anthology and two pens – and one added affair on this day.
A altogether card.
It was Bob Knight’s 38th altogether on Oct. 25, and I was about to accept my first-ever contiguous affair with him. I was activity to awning Indiana basketball that division and had accounting some nice things about Scott May – one of Knight’s best admired players and now accompany — a few canicule earlier. He admired the story, I was told later, and my account request, which were consistently denied out of hand, was accustomed this time. I had anesthetized the aboriginal test.
Be there afterwards practice, she said. She gave me the time, and I started to adapt my questions. This ability be a one-shot deal, so I put them in adjustment to get as abundant as I could if he cut the affair short.
A acquaintance of abundance who knew about the both the account and Knight’s birthday, chock-full at my desk. ‘You should buy him a altogether card,” she said. ‘That would accomplish you memorable.”
“Is that the goal?” I anamnesis asking.
“If it’s not, it should be,” she said.
She was right, so I absolved over to the Indiana Memorial Union from Ernie Pyle Hall and pored through the altogether cards, as if the accommodation was a awe-inspiring basic best or something. It abiding acquainted like it. I mean, it had to say the appropriate thing. All I bethink all these years later, was there was some array of cartoon, a avoid with a gun, I think, and it said commodity about “having a blast” on your birthday. Knight was an ardent hunter, so I anticipation that would work. It said abundant afterwards adage a lot.
I bethink disturbing with the absolute words to address on the card, too. I wrote commodity about thanking him for the time, scribbled “Happy Birthday” and alive my name.
And I was off, reporter’s anthology and altogether agenda in hand. I waited about 20 account for him to appear up to his appointment – I consistently adopt to be early. Aback I got there, I alien myself, thanked him for his time and admired him blessed birthday. He sat bottomward at his desk, and laid the agenda bottomward unopened.’
He didn’t say annihilation about it.
“You’ve got 15 minutes, Go,” was all he said. He answered all my basketball questions, with one abundant acknowledgment afterwards another, as I recall. He was consistently a abundant account aback he capital to be. Appropriate at 15 minutes, he said “One more.”
I stammered a bit, because I apparently had a dozen questions still accounting bottomward central my anthology (a addiction to action nerves). “What are you accomplishing for your birthday?” I asked.
“They charge not be teaching you annihilation over there,” he said. “You get one question, you should ask commodity you’ll get an acknowledgment to.”
He stood up, and I stood up as I bethink all these years later. I thanked him for the time, and told him how abundant I accepted it. I did, always. As I larboard his office, the agenda was still on his desk.
I wondered if he anytime opened it.
When Bob Knight angry 50 years old in 1990, Indianapolis Monthly annual did a big awning adventure on him.
For Knight, the altogether didn’t beggarly annihilation to him. Born in Massillon, Ohio and aloft in adjacent Orrville bottomward from the Smuckers plant, Knight was never abundant for occasions as a grownup.
“I don’t feel any altered than I acquainted aback I was 30,” he told them, adage that the Oct. 25 date agency “nothing to me.” He was a advantageous non-smoker non-drinker who was alive abundant with golf and hunting. He wasn’t activity anywhere anon he said, admitting “I could get hit by a barter this afternoon. There are too abounding added things for me to anguish about.”
The accuser said commodity about association generally acquainted milestones like this. “I’m not necessarily a absorption of what association thinks,” Knight said.
At the end of the commodity 30 years ago, Knight talked about accepting old.
It’ll appear how it happens, he said then.
“Why anguish about it? Why not artlessly booty affliction and go? How the hell do we know? I achievement that as continued as I live, I’ll be able to do things,” he said, “that I’ll be able to comedy golf, angle and read. I’ve absolutely enjoyed what I’ve done.”
There was a time aback in aboriginal February area a lot of us anticipation that 2020 was activity to be the greatest year ever. We saw Bob Knight aback in Assembly Hall, amidst by dozens of his admired players, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Bob Knight was aback afterwards a 20-year absence aback his battlefront from Indiana.
Tears flowed that day because the adulation for Bob Knight amid the Indiana fan abject is clashing annihilation I’ve anytime seen. Alike 20 years later, you can’t address a adventure about the accepted Indiana basketball aggregation or its coaches and not accept admirers counterbalance in “how Bobby would accept done it.”
Legend almost defines him. It’s above that. So far above that. And aloof accepting him active aback in Bloomington now array of gives anybody that balmy feeling, that he’s aback area he belongs, aback amid his friends, aback amid his people. He’s still ours, in one way or another.
He’s 80 years old today, and that’s a admirable thing. He’s got some bloom issues, and he’s not the alarming personality that he acclimated to be. That February weekend was wonderful, and aloof seeing him about boondocks has been nice. Because of COVID, we haven’t apparent him out and about lately, and that’s affectionate of sad.
I apperceive in my case, it’s nice that he’s aback in Bloomington, with his wife Karen there with him every day and his abutting accompany nearby. It’s as it should be, it seems. Life, activity abounding circle.
We’ve absent some of his bigger apprenticeship opponents and aeon this year, guys like Lute Olson and Lou Henson, and others like John Thompson and alike Jerry Sloan, whose son Brian played for Knight.
But Bob Knight turns 80 today, and I achievement he has a admirable day. Because of him, Bloomington and Indiana University will never be the same. Not for me, not for bags of us.
He deserves a abundant day, although if it’s annihilation like the past, it’ll aloof be addition day for him. Don’t accomplish a fuss, because he won’t.