It happens every time.
If Indiana University wants to, it can find an anniversary for a basketball championship practically every year, and lately it feels like that’s the case – last year was 40 years since the perfection of 1976, this year is 35 years since Isiah Thomas and Landon Turner beat North Carolina. We bring back the dramatis personae, we all go wild for them, and it’s a great time. I was there last night, and the halftime celebration was an awesome experience.
Every time, there’s about a week of speculation. Is this the time? Will he finally do it?
Is Bob Knight going to be there?
Bob Knight left Indiana University in 2000, after three championships, a bunch of Big Ten titles, and a swath of accusations of emotional and physical abuse that finally got to the point where even in those less woke days, they couldn’t be ignored. He hasn’t been back since, even though...even though a lot of things.
Even though Myles Brand not only is not only no longer at IU, he passed away almost a decade ago. Knight didn’t come back then.
Even though when Tom Crean was hired at IU in 2008, one of the things that brought him here – and one of the things that helped him revive the half-dead Indiana program – was the History, the Legacy. Crean said (and maintains to this day) that not only is Knight welcome to come to the Assembly Hall whenever he sees fit, but that Crean would welcome him, and cheer him along with the crowd. Crean asked him to come, and at that moment in time, his support and endorsement could have meant everything to this program. Knight didn’t come back then.
Even though former player after former player has begged Knight to return to Bloomington, to forgive whatever crimes against him he believes were committed, to honor the fans and the program and allow them to honor him in return. Isiah Thomas did this most recently, just last night. Knight didn’t come back then.
Instead, he’s held his grudge. His grudge against people who left, people who have nothing to do with the Indiana University or basketball program that exists in 2016. That’s his prerogative, I guess. I think it’s silly, but Knight is a prouder man than I, and he’s achieved more in his life than I. Surely that changes one’s perspective.
This is not an exhortation to Bob Knight – he can do what he likes with his life. If he wants to stay away, stay away. No, this is a request to you. IU basketball fans. The media. Everyone who’s not Coach Knight.
Stop chanting about Bob Knight.
Stop making signs about Bob Knight.
Stop wondering, every time we celebrate one of these championship teams, whether this is the one that will finally get Bob Knight to show up.
Stop caring about Bob Knight.
I understand why people care, and have for so long. I’m relatively young, but I remember late-period Bob Knight. I went to Indiana, but that’s not how I ended up rooting for IU. I was a fan from my youth because of my dad, who had cheered for the Hoosiers for years before I was born. He became an IU fan because of Bob Knight. Knight’s the reason I’m a fan, he’s the reason I’m writing for this blog – hell, as much as I don’t want to admit it, he’s a big reason I ended up attending Indiana University.
He brought championships and memories and legends to Bloomington. But that’s all in the distant past. If you’re an Indiana fan, Bob Knight has spent much of the past two decades disrespecting you. He’s blown off his players and (in many cases former) fans again and again, and in some pretty blatant and, in my eyes, unforgivable ways.
We should have been done with this last season. When Knight no-showed the 1976 celebration – Scott May even came, for goodness’ sake! – and only a month later was the centerpiece of a Purdue fundraiser in Indianapolis. Yeah, he’s friends with Gene Keady, I get it. But man, even if that’s accidental, it’s really bad. It’s not isolated. And it’s silly after nearly two decades to expect anything else.
People like Dick Vitale won’t quit, so we’ll still have to hear about it. But Indiana basketball fans don’t have to participate. We don’t have to keep rolling the rock up the hill, only to be crushed under it when it rolls back down. Banners hang forever, but we don’t have to.
Soon this team will be made up of players who weren’t even alive when Knight was fired. They won’t care about Bob Knight. I stopped caring about Knight a long time ago. My dad stopped caring about Knight a long time ago. I think it’s high time we all stopped caring about him. It is very apparent that he does not care about us.