With Bob Knight set to return to Assembly Hall in Bloomington for the first time since he was fired in 2000 after physically grabbing a student on campus.
That was, of course, just the final straw after a lengthy series of incidents, including choking player Neil Reed. Going back further, his 1988 comments on sexual assault (“I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it”) should have been enough. Knight went on to coach at Texas Tech and then worked as an ESPN analyst. With his health reportedly failing in recent years, there’s been a lot of speculation on when or if Knight would decide to return to Assembly Hall.
That was today, at halftime of Indiana’s rivalry game against Purdue.
Bob Knight is confirmed to attend today’s IU-Purdue game, per source. Today is the day. #iubb
— Zach Osterman (@ZachOsterman) February 8, 2020
With the game on ESPN (and longtime Knight friend and defender Dick Vitale on the call), the first half featured multiple examples of Vitale hitting his usual talking points about Knight.
Expecting Vitale to be an impartial arbiter here is clearly asking too much. He’s clearly close to Knight, telling the story of how Knight essentially got him inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Knight spoke at Vitale’s induction, even.
And then, at halftime, Knight did indeed return.
Bob Knight back in Assembly Hall for the first time since 2000. What a moment. pic.twitter.com/JdLIZjVU1l
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) February 8, 2020
Bob Knight still had some intensity in him. 👀 pic.twitter.com/Cjhrql1Ar9
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) February 8, 2020
After the half, the crew did pay some lip service to why Knight hadn’t been back, stemming from acrimony over how and why he was fired.
Knight returning is undeniably a big sports story, and there’s nothing wrong with setting the stage properly. There’s also certainly value in Vitale being on hand (likely just a fortuitous coincidence, as Knight wasn’t officially showing up until today), as he’s certainly familiar with Knight’s legacy and what it means to the Indiana program. But he’s also not going to do anything more than nod towards the various flaws, as he put it, that make Knight’s return much more complex than a typical coach return.
The problem, though, is that saying “Just ask his players!” isn’t always an option.