Bob Knight felt right at home in Indiana. For more than 90 minutes Thursday night in Indianapolis, Knight recounted tales from his coaching days, stories from the recruiting trail, lessons he passed along to players and, oh yes, even a new critique of the NCAA and Kentucky's John Calipari.
Just like old times, Knight lobbed memorable one-liners at some old targets while speaking at a fundraiser for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
He criticized a proposed tournament expansion to 96 teams, saying nobody should get a bye in the NCAA Tournament.
He urged the governing body's administration to require tournament teams to submit eligibility reports, an effort to assure that players who are competing in postseason games have been attending classes and earning acceptable grades.
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"We've gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that's why I'm glad I'm not coaching," he said. "You see we've got a coach at Kentucky (John Calipari), who put two schools on probation and he's still coaching. I really don't understand that.
"And very few people know this, but a kid can play the first semester as a freshman, pass six hours of anything and play in the NCAA Tournament without ever attending a class in the second semester. I don't think that's right."
Knight also said he was glad to be out of coaching because he no longer had to deal with poor officials or incompetent administrators.
Knight's speech had some poignant moments, too.
"You know, I've always been a Kenny Rogers fan and I always liked that song where he says 'You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run,'" Knight said. "I've tried to follow that philosophy, and I should have run at Indiana when the trustees and the administration had gotten too far apart and that's probably as much my fault as it was theirs."
Knight said he had been advised by three different people early in his career that he was too strong-willed to stay at Indiana forever. Instead of heeding that advice, though, Knight said he couldn't find a better basketball environment and stayed right up until the moment Myles Brand fired him in September 2000. It's close as Knight has gotten to admitting he may have made a mistake in Bloomington.
Those who paid $50 for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame didn't come to hear Knight offer regrets, they came to hear the man they still revere and Knight welcomed the two standing ovations he received.
"I'll always take great pleasure in having been part of the heritage of basketball in Indiana," he said.
It was a rare trip to the state where Knight was treated like a royalty, and it was his first public appearance in Indiana since skipping his own induction into the Indiana University Hall of Fame last month.
Before the induction, new athletics director Fred Glass made a personal plea to reunite The General and the university, to no avail. Knight said then that he didn't want to distract from the induction of others into the Hall of Fame. It may not have been the only reason he didn't go.
"I would have loved to have seen him back for the induction," said longtime broadcaster Chuck Marlowe, who writes to Knight on a regular basis. "But he explained to me that 'You do know there are still reasons why I cannot do it.'"
Marlowe was one of the friends hoping Thursday night's appearance may open the door to getting Knight and the university back together.
"I think somewhere along the line, there will be a relationship renewed that will bring him back into a relationship with IU," Marlowe said.