The other day, in the midst of the Tip-Off Marathon madness, my buddy emailed me with a screengrab from this ESPN Media Zone schedule. He pointed to Monday's Legends Classic opener, Indiana vs. Georgia, and the announcing team scheduled to call the game: Dan Shulman, Bob Knight, and Andy Katz. His question: "Is this really happening?"
It is indeed. It was probably only a matter of time before Knight ran into the Hoosiers in the normal course of his media responsibilities, but that doesn't mean IU fans aren't simultaneously thrilled and completely anxious about what will transpire on the sideline Monday night. Will he and Tom Crean speak? Will athletic director Fred Glass get another chance to pitch that whole Hall of Fame thing? Is this the "Mr. Knight, tear down this wall (and also please stop spending so much time with Thad Matta)" moment? Will they all -- gasp -- shake hands?
If this all seems sort of silly, well, I agree. But trust me, IU fans are interested. The Indy Star's Terry Hutchens says his inbox is already blowing up before offering his take on the situation:
Now, for all of you out there that are reading into this that because Knight is doing an IU game that it means he’s ready to ride on his white horse (with a red sweater probably) back to Bloomington and become part of the Indiana family again, I would say this: Relax, take a deep breath, calm yourself and don’t get carried away here. It’s one game, and it’s one game predicated by the fact that Indiana is the No. 1 team in the nation. It was the preseason No. 1 team in the land for the first time since the 1979-80 team that Knight coached for the Hoosiers.
Could it be a first step to repairing relations? Maybe. But if I was someone at IU and hoping that would be the ultimate outcome here, I would have my doubts. It’s one game. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Whatever "interaction" fans are hoping to see, it will probably disappoint. Crean will probably speak with Knight in whatever professional capacity broadcasters and coaches speak before the game (I just work on the Internet, so I don't know), and Knight will call the game in his usually straightforward, knows-more-hoops-than-the-rest-of=us-ever-will style, and the game will end and that will be that.
Knight has steadfastly avoided his former stomping grounds, rebuffing every olive branch the new athletics administration has sent his way, to the point of ignoring his Hall of Fame ceremony. This has left many IU fans with the feels. "Why doesn't he love us anymore?" they say, not unlike spurned teen-agers. And, sure it's easy to ridicule, but I'm being a little bit callous, because you can understand why this whole thing -- a beloved coach many fans grew up seeing as a monolithic embodiment of basketball itself suddenly completely ignoring his former school entirely -- would be difficult to process.
But the first comment on Hutchens's post strikes me as about right. It includes this sentence: "It's like we're at the prom with this great girl and we're all excited about the fact that our ex might be there and -- gasp! -- acknowledge us." Indiana fans have an awesome thing going these days, what with being ranked No. 1 and landing top-five recruiting classes and generally being "back," and Crean doesn't need Knight's approval, tacit or otherwise, to maintain his position as the most popular man in the state (or at least half of it). So whatever happens with Knight, Monday night or down the line, is probably best approached with much more apathy.
Come to think of it: If Indiana fans are looking for something to get worked up over, might I suggest the fact that said vaunted class of 2013 is currently oversigned?
Crean signed six players in 2013. He will have three scholarships available next season, and four if Cody Zeller decides he wants to be a top-five pick (which is not a guarantee). This summer, senior forward Matt Roth had to not-return in somewhat questionable fashion, and Indiana had to get lucky with incoming recruit Ron Patterson's academics, for the team to get under the 13 scholarship threshold. Next season, the Hoosiers will have to a) send recruits to prep school, b) see players transfer, or c) some combination of the two to get back to 13 scholarships.
What are the chances every current and incoming player will end up feeling like they got a fair deal? Slimmer than the chances IU fans pay more attention to oversigning than Bob Knight, I'd guess.