Bob Knight ends his legendary coaching career with three NCAA titles and five trips to the Final Four. He has an Olympic gold medal, coached the last undefeated men's team (a 32-0 Indiana squad in 1976) and leaves as the winningest coach in D-I history. His last win, a 67-60 win against Oklahoma State, was the 902nd of his 42-year career.
Regardless of how Knight's perceived (cast your vote here), his wins record is an impressive achievement (though Knight always maintained it just meant he'd been around for a while). That's nearly 22 victories a season for 42 years. And when you consider 13 of those seasons were spent at Army and Texas Tech, it reinforces to me just how good Knight was as a coach.
After all, his time at Indiana (662-239 in 29 seasons, including those 3 titles) remains one of the hallmarks in college hoops history. Simply put, the man could coach.
But that's how Knight will have to be remembered – as a great coach, because he won't keep that wins record for long.
Duke's Mike Krzyzewski will pass Knight sometime during the 2011-2012 season. And Coach K may not be the only coach to surpass 900, either.
I wrote this column about Coach K when he surpassed 700 wins a couple years ago. If Coach K stays in the game until he turns 65 (he'll be 61 next week) and the Devils keep winning at their usual 27 games a season (yes, they had a sub-par 2006-07, but they're gonna win more than 30 this year), Krzyzewski will pass his mentor, and then some. If he coaches to age 67 – like Knight – that puts the wins record around 950. I know, IF, but that's what'll likely happen.
(Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, 63, also could make a run at 900, but he has fewer wins than Coach K. The guy most likely to pass Krzyzewski – with serious long-term projections – is Florida's Billy Donovan. He's 42, has 314 career wins and notches about 27 victories a season. If he coaches until he's 65, that's about 930 career wins. That's a lot bigger IF.)
So if Knight doesn't keep the wins record, what is he left with? We can debate his coaching /personal style, but I'll leave that to our columnists, Ken Davis and Ray Glier. (Click here for more.) Me, I like the quotes.
"A man's got to believe in something. I believe I'll go fishing." (Simple, offbeat.)
"All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things." (Insulting, at least to all of us media types…)
"If the NBA were on channel 5 and a bunch of frogs making love was on channel 4, I'd watch the frogs, even if they were coming in fuzzy." (David Stern, getting upset!)
"You don't play against opponents, you play against the game of basketball." (Dismissive and silly.)
"When my time on Earth is gone, and my activities here are past; I want that they should bury me upside down, so my critics can kiss my ass." (Blatantly offensive.)
"People take Patton — a tough, demanding individualist — and equate him with me. Well, that's not what I try to imitate. He sacrificed people. My basic idea is 'Let's live and fight tomorrow.'" (Um…is that the softer side?)
Then you have longer exchanges, like this one when Indiana lost to Colorado in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Knight, always one of the game's more intimidating presences, was downright brutal here. The man does not suffer fools (or at those he deems fools).
"Now you only got two people who are gonna tell me I'm not gonna be here. One is our SID and the other is me. Who the hell told you I wasn't gonna be here..I'd like to know. Do you have any idea who it was?"
Moderator: "Yes I do coach."
Coach Knight: "Who?"
Moderator: "I'll point him out to you in a minute."
Coach Knight: "They were from Indiana right ... nope, they weren't from Indiana and you didn't get it from anybody from Indiana, did you?"
Moderator: "Could you please address questions?"
Coach Knight: "No, I'll handle things the way I want, now that I'm here. You #$%^ed it up to begin. You just sit there or leave. I don't give a $#^! what you do. (Turns toward the media members). "Now, back to the game."
(That soundbite also is included in this video clip. I also love the "gameface" bit. If you don't mind cursing, try this now famous clip of Knight's golf outtakes. Not suitable for work or delicate ears.)
Without Knight – who had mellowed a bit in recent years, but was still good for the occasional ridiculous story – the college basketball landscape loses one of its best coaches and best quotes. And that's a strange world to live in. Thankfully, we have the TV clips.