BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – For the first time since late March, when former Indiana great Mike Woodson came home to coach the Hoosiers, a good portion of the basketball family got together for the weekend at the French Lick Resort.
It was special for a lot of reasons, because it signaled the transformation of the Indiana basketball program, back to where it ought to be, with one of its own in charge. It's Indiana, like we've heard before, but now it's an Indiana guy coaching Indiana, and that's even better.
The best, really.
The best thing of all, though, was seeing former coach Bob Knight at the event, mingling with many of his former players, addressing the crowd for a quick minute and – best of all – still being the feisty Bob Knight.
He showed up at the Indiana basketball reunion wearing an "Army Basketball'' shirt. Always poking the bear. If you think we were all past this kind of stuff after last year's return to Assembly Hall was supposed to thaw the hard feelings, he always reminds us that he has the final say on that.
It was great to see him because, at almost 81 years old, we all worry about him. We all loved that February 2020 day at Assembly Hall when he came back for the first time in 20 years, surrounded by several of his former players, including Woodson, who would become the Indiana coach 13 months year.
We had seen Knight in and around Bloomington a bit since he moved back three years ago, but when the COVID-19 pandemic kicked in, we didn't see that anymore. And all I knew was what I heard. I talked with former Purdue coach Gene Keady after he and his wife spent a Sunday with the Knights, and he told me that Coach Knight was doing great, and they had a wonderful visit.
That made me smile.
And even since Woodson came back, he's told me that he's visited with Knight and his wife Karen several times since he has come back to Bloomington, even getting a surprise when his own wife met him there for a visit. He's always saying that Knight is doing well, too.
But it was nice to see a little clip of Knight talking at the reunion, and so many people being excited to see him there. It was nice to actually see him doing so well – and still being the Bob Knight we know.
"I can't tell you how much I enjoyed coaching here. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed raising hell with your boys,'' Knight told the crowd. "I hope they learned to be better. And they had great mothers. I'm not sure about you dads, but they had god-damned great mothers, I tell you that.
"Great people here, and I'm not going to waste your time, but I just wanted you to know that there's nothing I think more of during my life than having had the opportunity to coach young boys, teach them how to be men, and to do it here. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me do that.''
It's nice – really, really nice – to see him talk about how much all these guys mean to him. Maybe time does indeed heel all wounds, but that's always been the hardest part about this 20-year staredown between Knight and the university where he coached for 29 years to great success, winning three national titles.
It was his players who often paid the price for that.
Knight refused to show up for the 40-year reunion of the undefeated 1976 team because of his stubbornness, and he's missed 1981 and 1987 reunions, as well, not to mention several Hall of Fame inductions that he's been asked to attend.
But all that is changing now. It's nice to see him at events like this, and being able to laugh and joke and visit with guys like Quinn Buckner and Scott May and Steve Green at an Indiana event, and everyone feeling good about it. No hard feelings any more.
That's the way it should be, right?
When Knight chokes up a bit as he says, "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me (coach his Indiana kids),'' you know he really means it. Despite the 20 years of seething anger, these players mean the world to him. We saw that last February, and we saw it again this weekend.
I love that picture of Woodson and Knight, once player and coach but now just two Indiana head coaches. That's wonderful.
We wasted a lot of years through all of Knight's feud with Indiana, but it's great to see it get better now. It warms the heart, it really does.
And when November rolls around, with Mike Woodson coaching his first game at Assembly Hall, you've just got to know that everyone will want Coach Knight to be there, too.
Full circle for sure.
Just the way it ought to be. But can we please get the guy some Indiana gear?