Former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight almost beat Kirk Haston to Lobelville that spring day in 1999.
When he arrived just a few minutes after Haston at his boyhood Tennessee home to mourn with him over the loss of his mother, Knight said something that proved to be prophetic.
Acknowledging the difficulties that Haston was going through after learning that his mother was tragically killed in a tornado, Knight told his young player that he knew he was tough enough to get through it.
“I know you have that kind of toughness in you because your mom had that kind of toughness in her,” Knight told Haston as reported in a book by Terry Hutchens and William Murphy.
Needless to say, moments like that created a pretty strong bond between Haston and Knight. So much so that the former Hoosier star forward went on to write a book called “Days of Knight, How the General Changed My Life.”
Between the loss of his mother after his freshman season and the firing of his coach the next year, Haston certainly saw a lot of unique moments with Knight during his time in Bloomington.
But one thing Haston never thought he would see was Knight’s return to the Indiana campus.
When the news broke in April of Knight at an IU baseball game and the photos started to emerge, Haston was thrilled.
“That was great,” Haston told Indiana Sports Beat. There was a really good picture of him looking out from the box watching the ballgame. It was kind of a goosebumps deal seeing that.”
While it wasn’t the ceremonial reunion that many had hoped for, Haston is happy to see the ice thawing.
“I know he left on some bad terms with some people that aren’t even there anymore,” Haston said. “It’s hard to have a family reunion when the family patriarch isn’t a part of it. It is nice to see him starting to come back.”
The news on his former coach continued to emerge this summer when it was discovered that Knight had purchased a home in Bloomington. Haston went from goosebumps to disbelief.
“Are you sure about that?” Haston said. “Everybody better make sure they have their souls right, because Tiger Woods winning a major and Coach Knight moving back to Bloomington. Strange things, but some great things happening.”
Haston did indeed have the toughness that Knight saw in his mother.
After a three-year Indiana career that saw him score 1,406 points, Haston was selected 16th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2001 NBA Draft.
After playing professionally and then coaching, Haston next turned to politics.
In 2018 Haston was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, representing District 72. He won with 81% of the vote.
Almost as unlikely as his return to Bloomington, Knight has supported a couple politicians in recent years.
Haston’s old coach was there once again, providing an endorsement and other help behind the scenes in connection with that 2018 campaign.
Knight’s own brand of toughness was on full display with a quote he famously provided for the campaign.
“I’ve known a lot of dumb politicians in my day, and Kirk won’t be one of them,” Knight said.
Haston’s mom raised a tough kid indeed. And Knight would be the first to tell you that she didn’t raise a fool.
You can listen to the full interview with Haston here.
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