What kind of fool would give up a professional career as an accountant to start a website that covers IU Athletics?
And if you only allowed me two words to describe how someone could turn nothing more than a domain into a functioning business despite no experience and immense competition, I’d probably have to go with this:
Because in Indiana, in some way, shape or form, we are all Bob Knight.
Digger Phelps became the Notre Dame basketball head coach in 1971, the same year Knight took over at IU. Phelps has said he thought of Knight as an older brother. They met in the early 60s and Phelps attended Knight’s practices at Army.
“He was my role model as a coach, he really was,” Phelps said at a Knight roast ten years ago. “I would go up to West Point and watch practice, watch how he would break down film, and study how he would teach defense.”
Phelps’ rise to prominence in the 70s mirrored Knight’s. He had to rebuild when he arrived, but beginning in 1974, he led the Irish to eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances including the 1978 Final Four.
Phelps and Knight became great friends. His success in South Bend was his own, but it was influenced by Knight.
Purdue basketball was respectable in the 70s and early 80s, but was operating firmly in the shadow of Indiana, Bob Knight, and the program’s national titles.
“They were the standard,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of Knight’s IU basketball program on Wednesday evening.
If you are a Purdue basketball fan, you are in some small way Bob Knight. That passion that you feel towards beating Indiana, towards hanging your first banner? That’s all heavily influenced by Knight, and passed down through the generations. And that’s exactly how new coach Gene Keady felt in 1980.
Short of winning national titles, Purdue became Indiana’s equal once Keady found his footing in West Lafayette.
With Knight in Bloomington, he had no choice.
“What great coaches and great competition does, it makes other programs better,” Painter said. “And I think he (Knight) brought the best out of everybody in this league, nationally.
“And I think Coach Keady would totally agree with that in terms of having someone that you constantly have to beat, whether it’s in recruiting, whether they’re in games, whether it’s trying to win the Big Ten Championship, whatever it might be, because they had so much success.”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my high school basketball coach was trying to turn us into a version of IU basketball north, with a motion offense and ball-you-man defensive principles.
It turns out my experience in the late 80s and early 90s wasn’t unique.
“Every high school in the state was playing man to man defense and running motion offense because of Coach Knight,” current Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry said on Wednesday evening.
Shrewsberry was on the Butler staff in 2010 and 2011 when the Bulldogs made consecutive trips to the Final Four. That team was led of course by Brad Stevens, who grew up a fanatical IU fan.
Stevens’ father Mark, who played football at IU, once told the Boston Globe of Brad’s excitement when he saw Knight throw the chair live in 1985.
“Brad was thrilled,” Mark Stevens recalled. “He thought it was pretty cool.”
You see, Brad Stevens is Bob Knight.
Current Butler coach Thad Matta? He grew up a big Bob Knight fan too.
Butler, Purdue, Notre Dame. Who else?
Up in Muncie, second-year Ball State head coach Michael Lewis is as Bob Knight as they come. He arrived at IU as one of the state’s most prolific high school scorers and turned into IU’s all-time assist leader. Why? Knight told Lewis when he was a freshman that playing point guard and facilitating the offense was his path to playing time, and he’s been capitalizing on that advice ever since.
“I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have played and worked for him, but I will always cherish my relationship with him as a friend and mentor more,” Lewis said on Thursday. “As great a coach as he was, he was a greater friend and mentor to many of us. I am forever indebted to Coach for the profound impact he has had on my life.”
We could go on like this for days, and cast out the net much wider. There’s Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Parcells, Steve Alford, Randy Wittman, Dusty May, Isiah Thomas, Lawrence Frank, Keith Smart and countless others. They are all Bob Knight too.
And of course there’s current head coach Mike Woodson.
On that note, let’s go back to Bloomington.
IU women’s basketball All-American Mackenzie Holmes is from Maine, so you wouldn’t think she’d have meaningful connections to Bob Knight.
But you’d be wrong.
Her father once drove his basketball team from Maine to Bloomington for a basketball camp, and it seems clear his affection for Knight played some part in his daughter visiting, and ultimately playing at IU.
Holmes speaks like someone who understands Bob Knight, because she is Bob Knight.
“Bob Knight built Indiana basketball. He set the foundation,” Holmes said on Wednesday evening. “He instilled those intangibles that we look for here at Indiana on the men’s and women’s side, being competitive, gritty, all of those things. His legacy is something that will never be replaced.”
Holmes plays in a system at Indiana heavily influenced by Knight. Her head coach grew up in Seymour, Ind. in a house with cream and crimson carpet and a family that idolized the man.
IU women’s coach Teri Moren has turned her program into a powerhouse of its own, and one that’s heavily influenced by Knight.
“For me, coach Knight was it,” Moren said on Wednesday. “He was a fabulous coach and I fell in love with Indiana men’s basketball at a very young age, and he is perhaps one of the reasons I’m sitting here today.”
“He was so disciplined in the way he ran his program and the expectation he had for his guys, he didn’t put up with a lot of crap and I like that about him. I think it’s kind of similar to how we run our program, we are very disciplined in nature. We have standards and expectations. We hold their feet to their fire.”
You see, Teri Moren is Bob Knight. And it all comes full circle. It turns out in his later years, Bob Knight was Teri Moren.
“I do know that they watched us,” Moren said. “I’ve been told by Pat (Knight) that Coach Knight would watch us play.”
And in that way, Knight’s legacy will carry on, in Indiana, and beyond.
My place in all of this is insignificant.
I’m just a guy who has found a way to carve out an existence pursuing a passion, shaped by a childhood obsession with IU basketball.
And what I do is only possible because of the love for IU basketball developed by the masses in the 70s and 80s, and passed down through the generations.
That is, it’s only possible because of Bob Knight.
And you’re here reading this now, because you’re Bob Knight.
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