Bobby Knight, the legendary and polarizing Indiana Hoosiers basketball coach known for his triumphs and his storied temper, died Wednesday at age 83. Knight, who led Indiana to three NCAA championships and the last perfect season in major college basketball, had been battling ill health in recent years.
Knight’s success at Indiana included national titles in 1976, 1981, and 1987, with five Final Four appearances. His 1976 team achieved a remarkable 32-0 record. Dan Dakich, former player and coach under Knight, hailed him as possibly the greatest NCAA basketball coach ever, praising his ability to build winning teams with diverse talents.
However, Knight’s career was as much marked by his fiery temperament as by his victories. Known for his harsh disciplinary style and anger management issues, Knight’s confrontational approach often overshadowed his coaching achievements. His most infamous outbursts included throwing a chair across the court during a 1985 Indiana-Purdue game and dismantling a phone with his fist at a 1987 NCAA Tournament game.
Knight’s temper led to his dismissal from Indiana in 2000, after which he coached at Texas Tech until 2008. Despite his controversial methods, Knight’s impact on basketball is undeniable. He earned the nickname “The General” for his disciplined approach and military background, having started his head coaching career at Army before moving to Indiana.
A forward at Ohio State from 1959-62, Knight was a backup on the 1960 national championship team. As a head coach, he finished with a record of 902-371, ranking 14th among college basketball coaches in wins. Knight’s influence extended beyond his own teams, with former players like Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s celebrated coach, having played and coached under him.
Knight’s run at Indiana might have been even more storied had Larry Bird, originally signed to play for him, not left for Indiana State, where he led the Sycamores to the 1979 national championship game against Michigan State.
Enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, Knight’s legacy is complex, blending unparalleled coaching success with often contentious behavior. His statement at a 1994 Senior Day event reflects this duality, as he jokingly suggested being buried upside down so his critics could “kiss [his] ass.”
Bobby Knight leaves a lasting imprint on college basketball, remembered for his extraordinary achievements, his explosive personality, and his enduring impact on the game.