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Knight's tale one of success, controversy

Tuesday, November 8
Knight's 1975-76 Hoosiers were perfect
By Mike Puma
Special to

Signature Game
March 29, 1976 - Since the preseason, Indiana had been No. 1. Starting two All-Americans, forward Scott May and center Kent Benson, to go with Quinn Buckner, Tom Abernethy and Bobby Wilkerson, the Hoosiers won their first 31 games going into tonight's NCAA final in Philadelphia.

Yesterday, a day after winning its Final Four game over UCLA, Knight was modest, honest, comical and introspective when he met the media. Tonight, Indiana was seeking its third victory of the season over Big Ten rival Michigan, the first time in NCAA Tournament history that two teams from the same conference had met in the title game.

Things started out badly for Indiana when Wilkerson sustained an early concussion and played only two minutes. The beefy Wolverines took advantage of the absence of Wilkerson, a defensive ace, and grabbed a 35-29 halftime lead.

But Indiana rallied, shooting 60 percent from the floor in the second half. With May scoring a game-high 26 points and Benson 25, the Hoosiers rolled to an 86-68 victory. At 35, Knight had won his first national championship.

But even in his moment of triumph, the coach recalled the previous season. "Should have been two," he told a friend as he left the court.

In 1974-75, the Hoosiers were also undefeated going into the NCAA Tournament. However, they lost 92-90 to Kentucky in the Mideast Regional final.

The 1975-76 team is the last NCAA Division I team to finish the season undefeated.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • At Ohio State, Knight's best game was a 15-point performance against Delaware as a sophomore.

  • When Ohio State won the NCAA championship in 1960, Knight came off the bench to score six points in the Buckeyes' first tournament game, but didn't score in any of their last three contests.

  • One of Knight's players at Army was Mike Krzyzewski, whom Knight later hired as an assistant coach at Indiana. Upon receiving strong recommendations from Knight, Krzyzewski became head coach at Army and, later, Duke.

  • Knight's Army teams didn't lose to Navy in his six years.

  • Before landing the Indiana job, Knight lobbied for the Notre Dame position, which went to Digger Phelps.

  • In Knight's second season at Indiana, the team reached the 1973 Final Four. The Hoosiers lost to Providence 97-79 in the semifinals.

  • Three of Knight's players -- Isiah Thomas, Ray Tolbert and Mike Woodson -- were members of the 1979 Pan-American team that Knight coached to a gold medal.

  • Knight's discipline was inspired by, among others, General George Patton and Woody Hayes.

  • In a celebration of the Big Ten centennial in 1995, Knight was selected as the conference's all-time coach.

  • Knight's 70 postseason victories (NCAA tournament and NIT) rank second to Dean Smith's 72.

  • When Knight coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1984, he became only the third coach to win a triple crown (Olympic gold, NCAA championship and NIT). Knight is the only coach to accomplish the feat in a span of less than 10 years.

  • Knight was the runner-up to Dave Gavitt to coach in the 1980 Olympics, which the U.S. boycotted.

  • For the 1984 Olympics, Knight was selected on the third ballot over Georgetown's John Thompson.

  • Indiana was the only school in the Big Ten to make the NCAA tournament every season in the 1990s.

  • Knight's son Patrick played for Indiana in the 1990s.

  • In 1994, Knight broke his son Tim's nose and dislocated his shoulder in a fit of anger during a hunting trip in Argentina.

  • After his Hoosiers lost to Colorado in the first round of the 1997 NCAA tournament, an angry Knight walked 2 miles through the rain back to the team hotel.

  • In 1998, Knight cursed Jeanette Hargraves, a secretary in the athletic director's office, and advanced menacingly towards her. She also said that during the 1980s Knight had hurled a ceramic flowerpot at a picture frame behind her desk, causing her to be hit with flying glass.

  • In December 1999, Knight fired Ron Felling after hearing his longtime assistant say in a telephone conversation that Knight was taking the fun out of winning and he wondered how the players would hold up under such mental strain during the season.

  • In April 2001 in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Felling sued Knight and Indiana University, seeking damages for being wrongfully fired. In September 2002, Knight agreed to pay Felling $25,000 and signed an agreement in which he admitted to shoving Felling in anger.

  • Knight and his first wife, Nancy, divorced in 1986. They had two sons, Tim and Pat.

  • Knight married his second wife, Karen, a former high school basketball coach, in 1988.

  • Knight was reprimanded by Texas Tech in February 2004 after a verbal spat with the school's chancellor, David Smith, at an upscale grocery store. The altercation started when Smith complimented Knight on his good behavior.

  • In 2005, he directed Texas Tech to the Sweet 16, marking the deepest foray into the NCAA tournament by a Knight team since he took Indiana to the Sweet 16 in 1994.