As the legendary basketball coach walked slowly onto the court, fans were momentarily subdued, as though they could scarcely believe Bob Knight was really back. Soon the cheers and applause built to a crescendo that might have lasted the rest of the afternoon had the Hoosiers not had a game to play. Few will long remember that arch rival Purdue won. But no one is likely to forget Knight's return to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall Saturday.
By any measure, Knight was one of the most influential figures in college basketball history. He made IU a national powerhouse, leading his teams to 11 Big Ten titles and three NCAA championships. But his influence on the game went far beyond Bloomington. Knight shouted “play defense!” Saturday afternoon, a reminder that his coaching style emphasized fundamentals over flash. There was no room for showboats on Knight's disciplined fleets. But his system molded outstanding performers, nonetheless. The former players who joined Knight on the court Saturday were even stronger evidence than the championship banners that hung above them – Knight demanded excellence from those he coached, and got it.
Knight's fiery temper sometimes led him astray, alienated some fans and ultimately led to his dismissal in September 2000. Most of his critics have moved on, and the university had made it clear his return to campus would be welcomed and honored. Sensing that Knight was finally overcoming his own bitterness, some of his players finally made it happen. The coach was said to have wondered whether anyone would show up. He needn't have worried.