Wednesday, former Texas Tech, Indiana, and Army basketball head coach, Bob Knight, one of the most legendary figures in the history of college athletics passed away at the age of 83. He is survived by his wife Karen and his sons Tim and Pat.
Best known for his time at Indiana from 1971-2000 where he amassed 622 wins and three National Championships, Knight was a key figure in the modern era of Texas Tech basketball as well.
Though he only coached the Red Raiders for six full seasons (and part of a seventh), he helped legitimize a program that had fallen on hard times under James Dickey thanks to NCAA probation. In the four years prior to Knight’s arrival, Tech had failed to produce a winning record and had not won more than 13 games in a season. That included a mark of just 9-19 the year prior to his arrival on the South Plains.
In his first season with Tech, Knight authored one of the great turnarounds in program history. Leading his new program to a 23-9 record in 2001-02, he helped Tech reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. However, that run would be short-lived with a first-round loss to Southern Illinois.
In 2002-03, Tech would miss the NCAA Tournament but would go 21-13 and take third place in the N.I.T. A year later, Knight would take the program back to the Big Dance and Tech would advance to the Sweet 16, the furthest the program had gone in the tournament up to that point.
In 2004-05, Tech struggled to a 15-17 record which resulted in no postseason play. However, the next season, Knight would get the Red Raiders back to the NCAA Tournament, but, unfortunately, that trip would also be brief after a first-round loss to Boston College.
In 2007-08, Knight would coach the first 20 games of the year going 12-8 before stepping down to allow his son, Pat, to take over. He would end his career with 902 wins (an NCAA Division-I record at the time), five Final Four appearances, and 11 regular-season conference titles.
Knight also coached the 1984 U.S.A. men’s basketball team to a gold medal in the Los Angeles games. As part of that team, he coached Michael Jordan, who was a collegiate at North Carolina at the time.
While most of Knight’s most memorable accomplishments as a coach came during his lengthy tenure at Indiana, he was the key figure in the revitalization of a Texas Tech program that had fallen as far out of the national spotlight as any program could have.
Don’t forget that Tech was only in the third year of playing in United Supermarkets Arena when Knight arrived. (Interestingly, he was the opposing head coach in the arena’s first game as head coach at Indiana in 1999.) However, because the program was so bad in the first two seasons in its massive new home, the empty seats made the arena feel like a mausoleum.
When Knight arrived, so too did the interest in Texas Tech basketball. In fact, his introductory press conference drew a crowd of thousands that dwarfed what any game that season was able to bring through the gates.
Though he never reached the heights in Lubbock that he did at Indiana, he did legitimize Texas Tech hoops on a national level. Sure, the controversies from his past (and a few during his Red Raider run) were part of the circus aspect of his tenure but the basketball that he brought to the South Plains was noteworthy in that it helped invigorate a new generation of Red Raider hoops fans.
For Red Raiders such as myself who were in school in the early 2000s, it has been a rough 10 months as the two prominent coaching figures of our college years, Knight and Mike Leach, have passed away. However, we have to be thankful for the opportunity to watch each legend up close, and like Leach, Knight will always have a place in the hearts of Texas Tech fans everywhere.