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Indiana Basketball reacts to the passing of legendary coach Bob Knight: ‘He was always there as a coach. I could lean on him’



The makeshift memorial for former Head Coach Bob Knight after the Indiana versus Northwood women's basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. Knight passed away earlier that evening at 83. © Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indiana basketball is in mourning after the loss of legendary coach Bob Knight. Knight was and is a staple of Indiana Basketball, even over twenty years after he coached his last game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Knight won three NCAA championships (1976,1981 & 1987) with the Hoosiers and you cannot tell the story of Indiana basketball without him.

While his success on the court made him a legend, his loyalty and the relationships with his players is what made him so special to so many people.

Current head coach and former player Mike Woodson had a ton of praise for his former coach’s loyalty during a press conference held a day after Knight’s passing.

“As a coach, he was always there as a coach. I could lean on him,” Woodson said Thursday. “Hell, he was the reason why I got my first coaching job, because he had to make a phone call for me to an owner, and he made that call, and the next day I was hired. First-time assistant in the NBA.”

Woodson shared the story earlier this week about how a phone call from Knight landed him his first job coaching in the NBA. Knight’s loyalty to his players never wavered and Woodson emphasized that Thursday when speaking about his former coach.

“It never wavered all those years, so I wouldn’t have expected anything else,” Woodson said about Knight’s loyalty. “I knew I could pick that phone up and he’d make that call for me. He never would have told me no. That’s just the respect factor and the friendship and the brotherhood that we had all those years.”

Woodson emphasizes loyalty in his program and his players have taken notice of Knight’s impact on their coach.

“He gives us the coach-player relationship,” Indiana captain Xavier Johnson said about Woodson. “He tells us a lot of times that relationships are the biggest things, and that was something he was taught from Coach Knight.”

Woodson had taken so much from his former coach and when Knight visited practice, the players knew it meant business.

“When he came to practice, our practices were probably one of the best practices we had,” Johnson said about Knight’s visits.

“It’s special being able to see him sitting over there and just seeing Coach Woodson, like his face light up whenever he walked in, it was special to see that,” Trey Galloway said about his coach’s relationship with Knight.

Knight meant so much to Woodson and he was clearly fighting off his emotions during Thursday’s press conference.

“I just think we need to wrap our arms around him, honestly, because I know how it feels to lose somebody that’s close to you,” Johnson said about Woodson. “I know that Coach Knight was basically a father figure to Coach Woodson because he lost his actual dad when he was 14, so I know he’s taking this real hard.”

Knight’s loyalty was one of his best traits and former player and current Indiana basketball director of player development Calbert Cheaney had a lot to say about his loyalty.

“That he does things for people that most people around in the public don’t really see or realize or know,” Cheaney said about Knight. “The one thing that he’s going to be tough on you, he’s going to push you, he’s going to make you not like him sometimes, but at the end of the day, when you graduate and go off and do your own thing, he’ll do anything for you.”

Cheaney said a lot of the same things as Woodson, which highlighted how real Knight’s loyalty was.

“You pick up the phone and give him a call, he’s going to pick it up and do whatever you need,” Cheaney said about Knight’s loyalty. “That’s just the type of person he’s always been. A lot of people didn’t really see that, but there’s a lot of people in this — that he’s touched a lot of lives in the time he was on this earth.”

There are so many things you can say about Bob Knight, but you can’t tell the story of his life without talking about his loyalty to the people around him.

“He’s just like a mentor — he’s a big-time mentor for me, not only just a coach,” Cheaney said about his former coach. “He’s been there, done that, and sometimes I was able to pick up the phone and give him a call if I did have some trouble, but now in certain situations, I’m sure he’s in a better place.”

SEE ALSO: With a unique perspective, former IU head coach Archie Miller reflects on Bob Knight: ‘Brilliant coach and also a brilliant person’

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Drew Rosenberg is staff writer for and hosts 'The Talkin' Bout the Hoosiers Podcast' covering Indiana University athletics. Drew graduated from Indiana University's Sports Media program in 2024.