There was a time when he said he’d never return to anything associated with IU basketball.
Bob Knight said it, he believed it, and everyone else believed it.
Knight’s return to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall during halftime of the Purdue game three years ago was a very public change to that stance, but it still wasn’t as if he had suddenly become a friend of the program.
The legendary former head coach and three-time national champion came back three years ago because it meant something to his former players. At the time, everyone thought it was a one time thing.
Time had healed some of the wounds, but three years ago, IU basketball hardly resembled the program Knight left in 2000.
Knight’s close friend Dr. Larry Rink was still there, as was long-time trainer Tim Garl. But when it came to the coaching staff — and the product on the floor — everything was different.
But now that a former player — and one of Knight’s favorites at that — is running things, much has changed.
According to head coach Mike Woodson, someone who played a key role in the halftime return three years ago, Knight has become a regular on the Branch McCracken Court once again.
“He comes to practice once a week, and it’s a beautiful thing, and it’s been that way for the last month and a half,” Woodson said on Thursday.
“He pays me a visit and sits at courtside. It’s just nice to see him sitting there where he belongs.”
Woodson was asked about Knight on the anniversary of one his former head coach’s more infamous moments. 38 years ago he hurled a chair from the IU bench across the court after receiving a technical foul in a game against Purdue.
No chairs are being thrown when Knight attends IU practice these days, but it was a moment Woodson can now appreciate.
“As coaches we’re crazy, man. We do a lot of crazy shit on the practice floor and during the game, and a lot of it is — sometimes it’s not warranted and sometimes it is based on the officiating and things that go on during the course of a ball game,” Woodson said.
Woodson hasn’t been thrown out of a game yet like Knight was on that day in 1985.
But he’s been close. Woodson received a technical foul last week at Northwestern after making contact with an official.
Now on a weekly basis, Woodson has someone to lean on who understands that part of the game better than anyone.
“For the mast part I’ve tried to keep my composure, but sometimes it’s just hard (laughing). It really is. So I understand Coach Knight’s frustrations that day (laughing).”
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