The World Has Moved on From Bob Knight
Tonight, my beloved Illinois Fighting Illini men’s basketball team will play the Indiana Hoosiers. It’s an important game in the Big Ten standings, but the reason the game really matters is because of the history between the two teams. Indiana hates Illinois. But Illinois really hates Indiana.
And the reason is of course Bob Knight.
I grew up in Central Illinois, the town of Mattoon, and in the days before streaming or the Big Ten Network or ESPN-Plus, every Illinois game was played live on WCIA Channel 3, the CBS affiliate. Whatever the national programming that CBS put on, it was always pre-empted in Champaign for the Illini game. This is a direct beam to my childhood, right here:
When every game is on locally like that, the Illini became more than just the college basketball team 45 miles up I-57: They became the Yankees, the local religion, the center of everything. Lou Henson was our leader; Kenny Battle was our hero. And there was no greater villain than Bob Knight, Indiana’s coach and resident monster.
It is difficult to overstate how much of a terror Bob Knight was as Indiana coach. He famously was fired by the university for both choking a player in practice and accosting a student who said “What up, Knight?” to him on campus. But those were just the final straws. To take a look back at Knight’s more notorious incidents is to see a man going through some sort of psychic break, every three nights, for the whole world to see.
There was the time he assaulted a police officer in Puerto Rico and then escaped the country before he could be arrested, saying, “Fuck ’em, fuck ’em all.… The only thing they know how to do is grow bananas.”