A new college basketball top 25 is now live.
I’ve decided that I like using this space to write a column about whatever is on my mind, so I’m going to take advantage of that again and talk a bit about Bob Knight and his return to Indiana.
To set the stage for why this is such a big deal for people that don’t know, Knight was fired in 2000 after then Indiana Athletic Director Myles Brand gave him a zero tolerance policy stemming from the leak of a practice video that showed Knight choking a player named Neil Reed. A few months later, a student walks by him and said, “What’s up, Knight?” to which he responded by grabbing the kid’s arm and lecturing him, with a few f-bombs thrown in for good measure.
Knight was pissed about getting fired. He felt betrayed. He vowed never to return to the school, and until Saturday, he hadn’t. There have been very public attempts to get him back. In 2014, A.J. Guyton — the quintessential Knight player, a middling recruit that became an All-American and a pro though hard work, determination and the rest of the cliches — pleaded with him in an open letter to return to come to his induction into the IU Athletics Hall Of Fame. Knight did not. In 2016, Knight skipped a celebration for the 40th anniversary of his 1976 championship team that went undefeated. He then went to a fish fry for Purdue alums a month later. As recently as 2017, he went on air with Dan Patrick and said that he hoped everyone involved with his ouster from Indiana is dead or will die soon.
The bridges were burned.
No one ever thought this would happen.
But in October, according to Pat Knight, who was speaking on Jeff Goodman’s podcast, Bob Knight moved back to Bloomington in large part due to the fact that he didn’t have any friends or family in Lubbock. A former player, Randy Wittman, called Bob up half-drunk from a golf course to pitch the idea of coming back and seeing everyone, and it actually worked!
And, according to Pat, Wittman was ready to stop coming back for alumni events. “The only reason I wanna go back,” Wittman had told him, “is to see coach.”
This is where this story gets complicated.
Bob Knight’s exile from IU was entirely self-inflicted. He’s a jerk, a petty, self-centered, mean-spirited a-hole. He was a tyrant as a head coach, one that started Indiana down this path to basketball mediocrity because the best players in the state, and from around the country, decided that they did not want to be verbally, and physically, abused for four years.
But keep in mind, I’m looking at this from my perspective, from the future, so to speak. I wasn’t alive when Knight had turned Bloomington into the center of the college basketball universe. I wasn’t alive when he went undefeated. I was two years old when he won his third title in an 11 year stretch. My formative years came after Knight had allowed the absolute power of being a God in the state where basketball is a religion to corrupt him absolutely. They didn’t come as he was in the process of building himself to that point.
Put another way, there are a lot of people whose memories of Knight are of a man that gave their city, their school, their state all the power in college hoops. Those same people remember good ole days and believe he became a curmudgeon. They remember him as the ball coach that did things the right way, and the 50-some-odd players that were at Assembly Hall on Saturday — many of whom had tears in their eyes when he made his way to the court — are a testament to the fact that he wasn’t always entirely bad.
So I can recognize why Knight meant so much to so many people, and I’m not even sure I can judge them for it.
I get it.
Just like those same people should be able to understand that there is a segment of society that is going to have a problem with the deification of a man that pretended to whip black players at press conferences, that threw plants at secretaries, that head-butted players, that choked players, that hung tampons in the lockers of players that he deemed soft.
Dan Dakich is probably considered by many to be a Bob Knight loyalist, and he hates the man more than anyone.
So I can and will sit here and enjoy the moment that a college basketball icon, a titan in the game, returned home because it’s something that has needed to happen for a long time.
And I will do so while fully recognizing that this exile was entirely Knight’s doing, that he held a grudge against a school that fired him justifiably after growing tired of being humiliated by a coach whose ego and anger had grown completely out of control and that could no longer win at the level they expected.
Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.
NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25
1. BAYLOR (21-1, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (25-1, 2)
3. KANSAS (20-3, 3)
4. LOUISVILLE 21-3, 4)
5. DUKE (20-3, 5)
6. FLORIDA STATE (20-3, 6)
7. SAN DIEGO STATE (24-0, 7)
8. DAYTON (21-2, 8)
9. SETON HALL (18-5, 9)
10. MARYLAND (19-4, 17)
11. AUBURN (21-2, 12)
12. KENTUCKY (18-5, 13)
13. OREGON (18-6, 10)
14. WEST VIRGINIA (18-5, 11)
15. VILLANOVA (17-6, 14)
16. IOWA (17-7, 15)
17. HOUSTON (19-5, 20)
18. ILLINOIS (16-7, 18)
19. PENN STATE (18-5, 23)
20. COLORADO (19-5, 25)
21. CREIGHTON (18-6, 19)
22. LSU (17-6, 21)
23. MARQUETTE (17-6, NR)
24. MICHIGAN (14-9, NR)
25. MICHIGAN STATE (16-8, 16)
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 Marquette, No. 24 Michigan
DROPPED OUT: No. 23 Arizona, No. 24 Butler