BOZICH | Bob Knight's Top 10 Kentucky Moments
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Sorry, Mike Anderson. I know you're bringing your Arkansas team to Rupp Arena Thursday, and it's a revenge game for Kentucky because the Razorbacks defeated the Wildcats in Fayetteville Jan. 14.
That's not The Main Event – not with former Indiana coach Bob Knight working the game for ESPN. For most of his career Knight has had as much love for Kentucky basketball as he's had for Puerto Rican policemen.
There's no reason to delay. Cue the highlights of Bob Knight's 10 Most Memorable Kentucky Moments.
10. Hello, Adolph – Knight came to Indiana from West Point in 1971 with considerable respect for the game's leading coaches. He was friends with Pete Newell, Clair Bee, Hank Iba and other Hall of Famers. He was not as gaga about Adolph Rupp.
His introduction to Kentucky and Rupp came in Freedom Hall on Dec. 11, 1971. Steve Downing, a junior center, secured his spot as one of Knight's favorite IU players ever by scoring 47 points and collecting 25 rebounds as the Hoosiers beat Kentucky, 90-89, in overtime. The fun had just begun.
9. Toe Meet Scorer's Table – If there is anybody Knight disliked more than Kentucky, it was the gentlemen with whistles and striped shirts. Ask Gerald Boudreaux.
The Wildcats defeated IU, 70-61, on Dec. 8, 1998, but needed overtime to do it. Knight would also tell you they needed at least one bad whistle from Boudreaux. With UK leading 56-51 in the final four minutes of overtime, Boudreaux made a traveling call against IU forward Kirk Haston.
Knight did not agree – and said he thought it was traveling. I guess Boudreaux did not hear him. Knight then kicked the red plastic covering on the scorer's table, leaving a mark and earning a technical foul. Everybody heard that.
8. Beaten By A Million – Rick Pitino's team showed it was capable of reaching the NCAA title game early in the 1996-97 season – and they did it in Freedom Hall. Derek Anderson scored 30 and Ron Mercer added 26 as the Wildcats blasted the Hoosiers, 99-65. There weren't many 34-point beatdowns on Knight's resume, but he was helpless to stop this one. And Bob Knight does not enjoy being helpless.
7. Silencing The Super Kittens – Knight took Indiana to five Final Fours. The first was 1973, his second season in Bloomington. Beating Kentucky to get there was something Knight enjoyed.
His group of sophomores, led by Steve Green and John Laskowski, were not supposed to be as talented as Joe B. Hall's collection of four Mr. Basketballs – Kevin Grevey (Ohio), Mike Flynn (Indiana), Jimmy Dan Connor (Kentucky) and Bob Guyette (Illinois).
But the Hoosiers beat the Wildcats, 72-65, in the Mideast Regional finals in Nashville, advancing to the Final Four in St. Louis and a game against UCLA. It was the first time that Knight showed he could beat somebody's five-star players. And it would not be the last time.
6. Questioning John Calipari – There's a lot to cover here. In 2009 Knight spoke in Indianapolis about a "coach at Kentucky," who put two schools on probation and was still coaching. He mentioned Calipari's program again when he took a shot at the one-and-done rule, although Knight later had to back away from his comments about the academic performance of the UK players.
Then there was that stretch that Knight wouldn't mention Kentucky by name – or maybe it was that Kentucky would not mention Knight by name. I forget.
5. Slap Happy – Knight always made certain that everybody understood there was only room for one alpha male when he was in the room – and that guy was Robert Montgomery Knight.
Late in a 1974 game in Assembly Hall that Indiana won, 98-74, Knight was not pleased when he thought he heard somebody on Kentucky's bench say something to him.
The next thing you knew UK coach Joe B. Hall and Knight were conversing at mid-court. When Hall turned to walk back to his bench, Knight reached out and smacked (or patted) the back of Hall's head. One writer called it a "cuff." Most writers called it a mistake.
After the game, Knight suggested it was a mostly friendly gesture. Hall had a different interpretation. But Knight's place as a Kentucky antagonist was secure.
4. Buzzer Beater – Knight's 1976 IU team finished 32-0, the last Division I college basketball champion to hang an unbeaten season on a banner.
How close was Indiana to losing a game that season?
Indiana trailed Kentucky by two with nine seconds to play when center Kent Benson reached toward the Freedom Hall ceiling with his right hand and swatted a missed jumper by Tom Abernethy into the goal, forcing overtime. From there, Indiana cruised to a 77-68 victory.
Kentucky fans called it luck. Indiana fans called it an all-American play. Afterwards everybody realized how close the Wildcats came to ending the Hoosiers' perfect season.
3. Keeping Kent Benson – Benson was the first Indiana Mr. Basketball that Knight recruited to IU. To get Benson, Knight had to outwork many major powers, including Kentucky, which worked relentlessly to land the 6-foot-11 center from New Castle.
And that recruiting victory became even sweeter after Benson's father, Robert, told a reporter than a representative of Kentucky told him he could arrange for Benson to get hard-to-get farming equipment. The official denied the allegation. But nobody could deny it was one of the sweetest recruiting scores of Knight's career.
2. Cracking On Cawood – Remember what I said about Knight's appreciation for college basketball history? That included Hall of Fame announcers. Knight said he enjoyed listening to UK's Cawood Ledford call games on the radio. He respected Ledford's professional approach.
That's why eyebrows arched during Knight's pre-game radio interview with Ledford before the 1985 game in Rupp Arena. Indiana was forced to play without junior guard Steve Alford, who was penalized by the NCAA for posing for a calendar that an IU sorority was selling to raise money for a camp for handicapped children.
Knight decided to make Alford sit for the UK game instead of making him miss a Big Ten game.
But that was the same year the Lexington Herald-Leader delivered its Pulitzer Prize winning stories about shenanigans inside the Kentucky program under Hall. When Ledford asked Knight a question about how special the IU-UK game was to him, the coach did not hold back:
"You know, Cawood, with all the crap that has gone on down here over the years with recruiting and all, these games are not nearly as special to me as you might think."
1. Kentucky 92, Indiana 90 – Knight exited coaching in 2008 with a Hall of Fame record of 902-371. There isn't any doubt about which loss kept Knight howling at the moon.
It was Kentucky's 1975 NCAA Regional final victory in Dayton, the one that ended top-ranked Indiana's unbeaten season. Knight erred by trying to play all-American forward Scott May less than a month after he had broken his left forearm.
May was ineffective (two points in seven minutes) and so was Indiana's defense as the Wildcats avenged that 24-point defeat in Bloomington. Knight later hung a banner in Assembly Hall to mark that team's achievement, but that game likely stopped the Hoosiers from celebrating back-to-back unbeaten championship seasons.
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