Legendary College Basketball Coach Bob Knight Dies at 83

Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images
Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Bob Knight, the legendarily mercurial college basketball coach who remains one of the most successful men to ever prowl the sidelines, died at his home in Bloomington, Indiana this week, his family announced in a statement Wednesday night. He was 83.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share that Coach Bob Knight passed away at his home in Bloomington surrounded by his family,” the statement said.

“We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy as Coach requested a private family gathering, which is being honored.

“We will continue to celebrate his life and remember him, today and forever as a beloved Husband, Father, Coach, and Friend.”

A cause of death was not disclosed.

At the time of his retirement in 2008, Knight had won a stunning 902 NCAA Division I basketball games as head coach—a record at the time. He now sits at fifth on the all-time wins list, with three NCAA championships, one NIT championship, and an Olympic gold medal as coach of the 1984 U.S. team.

He began his career as an assistant at Army military academy, later taking over as head coach there for six seasons.

But Knight, nicknamed “The General,” was best known for his nearly 30-year career as head of the basketball program at Indiana, where he elevated the team to a national powerhouse while maintaining rigorous academic standards and a high graduation rate for his players. He won all three of his championships there, as well as a NIT tournament victory in 1979.

One of Knight’s most lasting legacies remains the motion offense– a style of play characterized by hard cuts, screens, quick passes and constant off-ball movement that he popularized at Indiana–and is now standard practice for teams of all levels.

Despite his success, Knight remains one of the more polarizing figures in modern basketball history, as well known for his volatile outbursts as he was for his winning record.

Indiana head coach Bob Knight yelling at a player.

Indiana head coach Bob Knight yelling at one of his players, Tom Kitchel, during a game against Northwestern in 1983.

Tony Tomsic /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

These included verbal altercations with his bosses, his players, officials, the press, fans—nearly anyone who got in his way—as well as several incidents that spilled over into physical violence.

Knight’s use of profanity was also the stuff of legend.

“In the course of a day, he describes an incredible number of things being done to the derrière: It’s burned, chewed out, kicked, frosted, blistered, chipped at, etc.,” the legendary sportswriter Frank Deford wrote for Sports Illustrated after witnessing Knight in action in 1981.

Knight was ultimately fired from Indiana in 2000 following several incidents—including one in which he was caught on video choking a student during practice.

Following his ouster, he went on to a largely uneventful stint as the head coach at Texas Tech, where he retired in 2008, handing over the program to his son, Pat Knight, during the middle of the season.

Despite the incidents, Knight retains a fanatical following among both fans and former players—especially those in Indiana, where he enjoyed much of his success over a nearly 30-year period.

Longtime Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who played under Knight at Army and later surpassed him as the NCAA basketball coach of all time in 2011, was one of many to pay tribute to his mentor Wednesday night following his death.

“We lost one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball today. Clearly, he was one of a kind,” he said, according to ESPN. “Coach Knight recruited me, mentored me, and had a profound impact on my career and in my life. This is a tremendous loss for our sport and our family is deeply saddened by his passing. We offer our sincerest condolences to Karen, Tim, Pat, and their families during this difficult time.”

ESPN personality Mike Greenberg also remembered Knight for the complex character he presented: “brilliant and demanding, cantankerous and huge of heart, irreverent and very funny.”

“He was also inarguably on the short list of greatest coaches in the history of American sports. Rest in peace, Coach. You will never be forgotten.”

Knight was even honored with a moment of silence before Wednesday’s exhibition match between Indiana and Northwood University—with the announcer at Assembly Hall calling him “one of the true giants of the game.”

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