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Bob Knight’s relationship with Bloomington is still complicated as ever

Bob Knight gave a speech at Bloomington North High School last night that turned into a thank you letter to the fans.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It was supposed to start at 7.

As 7:15 rolled around many of the hundreds of spectators in Bloomington North’s gymnasium were getting nervous.

Oh no, where is he?

Then, right on cue, an old familiar figure lumbered out with that signature white hair and his classic red sweater. Bob Knight had returned to Bloomington. Although just weeks before Knight had put to rest any thought of a return to Assembly Hall after wishing all the administration that fired him were dead, he was greeted by a standing ovation that rivaled Archie Miller’s inaugural visit to Assembly.

This visit was for the fans. He made that abundantly clear from the start.

“I’m here simply just to say thank you to all of you here and those who couldn’t be here for all of the support,” Knight said.

There were no backhanded comments toward Indiana University in Knight’s nearly two-hour presentation on the very floor that his son Pat had played his high school ball years ago. However, a subtle slight towards IU was found in the event’s program, which only listed his yearly records at Texas Tech.

But mostly, this was a greatest hits tour. He gave a quick run-through of his famous notebook that was required of all his players to read and spoke of the undefeated champions from 1976, his love for his wife, his playing days at Ohio State, and the 1984 Olympics. He raved about former players such as Scott May, who he claimed was the greatest player to ever play at Indiana, and Quinn Buckner and his unparalleled leadership.

Inevitably, as has become par for the course for Knight, there were some questionable moments. At one point, he went on a Trump tangent, and later, he tapped an eager female fan’s rear end.

Ultimately, last night was a stroll down memory lane for Knight but he really just wanted the fans to know how much they meant to him.

“I love you people,” Knight said. “No matter where we went, there was nobody like you.”

Not only did he praise the Indiana faithful, he wanted to interact with them. He was eager to open it up to questions from the audience and was livelier than many had seen him in years. From telling his many stories to answering questions from the audience, he was truly enjoying himself.

He even praised Indiana’s new hire in Miller and urged fans to “get behind him” and “enjoy some really good basketball.”

There were emotional moments for the famously stern coach as well. He left the stage and hugged Pat Ryan, the wife of late former Indiana president John Ryan, who Knight claimed was his “favorite person in all college sports.”

He was also moved by an elderly fan’s message of gratitude that garnered an even bigger standing ovation than before. “It meant a lot to me that we were giving something back to you,” Knight said about his time at Indiana. Now the fans were giving it right back again.

He may not be as sharp or as quick as he once was, but for longtime IU fans, he’s still Coach Knight. He still demonstrated that he respects the fans, even if his relationship with the school has faltered.

This speech might have been Knight’s farewell to Bloomington. If so, he did it his unique way - firm but grateful.

What more did you expect?