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Neil Reed dies at age 36.

Bob Knight and Neil Reed.  (Photo used via Getty Images subscription).
Bob Knight and Neil Reed. (Photo used via Getty Images subscription).

Former Hoosier Neil Reed, whose allegations of physical abuse by former IU coach Bob Knight ultimately led to Knight's firing, died yesterday at age 36. Reed is survived by his wife and by two young daughters, and by his parents. It is, above all, a tragedy for Reed's family. It's incredibly awful for two young girls to be without a father, for his wife to raise them as a single parent, and for his parents to have to bury their son. In Indiana, Reed will always be remembered, for good or for ill, for his role in Knight's firing. Reed came to IU in 1994 as a McDonald's All-American, a very highly regarded recruit who had spent part of his childhood in Indiana, including his early high school years at Bloomington South. Reed became a fan favorite as he played through injuries, particularly a shoulder injury that forced him to play in a brace early in his career. For whatever reason, Reed's career stagnated, as did the careers of his classmates Andrae Patterson and Charlie Miller, and as did the program generally.

We've talked on this site often about what exactly it was that caused the decline of IU's program in the mid to late 1990s, and one of the common theories is that Knight to some degree lost his ability to effectively communicate with and motivate with kids as times changed. If that's true, it was relative, as we've all learned in the 12 seasons since Knight's firing. Knight continued to recruit quality players and managed to win way more games than he lost and made the NCAA Tournament every year until the end. Still, Reed's case makes for a seductive piece of evidence for this theory. A kid who seemed like the stereotypical Knight player didn't really blossom under the direction of the coach for whom he had always wanted to play. That wasn't an unfamiliar story at IU in the late 1990s. Regardless, there's no real point in relitigating those times. It's an incredibly sad story, and I hope that his family can find some peace in this awful time. Rest in peace, Neil.

A final note: Reed becomes the third IU player from the late 1990s to die. Jason Collier and William Gladness are the others. All of them have died of apparently natural causes. It's very strange and sad.