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Knight, IU Basketball Legends Meet

Last updated on Saturday, June 16, 2012

(INDIANAPOLIS) - More than 30 Indiana University basketball legends, along with iconic coach Bob Knight were at Marian University on Saturday morning for a fundraiser for Marian’s athletic department.

Steve Downing, Marian's athletic director, played for Knight at IU and is a longtime friend.

The coach must have felt at home, as the sign on a building across the street from the football stadium read "I Am A Knight,'' and inside the stadium, one section was dubbed "Knight Club.'' The school's nickname is the Knights.

Perhaps someday, a similar event will take place in Bloomington rather than Indianapolis.

Knight's latest Hoosier State stop was a two-day reunion with ex-players about 50 miles north of Indiana University.

Knight spoke after receiving an award Friday night, then sat inside a tent Saturday morning with former player Landon Turner, where the two signed autographs for roughly three hours to help raise money for Marian's athletic department.

Everyone else was stationed at folding tables on the football field and spent their free time mingling, retelling stories and answering the one question Indiana fans have been asking for more than a decade: What do the Hoosiers have to do to get Knight back to Bloomington?

"I hope someday he (Knight) will be honored at Indiana. That needs to happen. Somebody needs to make that happen,'' said Scott May, a starter on Knight's 1976 unbeaten championship team and an outspoken critic of Knight's firing.

"I think they should name Assembly Hall after him, the Bob Knight Center,'' May added.

Downing and many of the players agree with that sort of honor. But nobody can say whether even that would be enough.

Knight did not take questions this weekend. Instead, he spoke Friday night about the importance of athletes earning their degrees and canceled a scheduled speech to the fans Saturday because he wasn't feeling well on an unseasonably warm day in Indianapolis.

The split between the school that made Knight a household name in college basketball and the man who broke Dean Smith's career record for victories after landing at Texas Tech began Sept. 10, 2000. The late Myles Brand fired Knight after an Indiana freshman accused the coach of grabbing him by the arm. It was the final transgression on a long list, which included his most infamous incident -- throwing a chair during a Purdue game.

School officials have made attempts recently to mend fences with the man who brought the Hoosiers three national titles and won a school-record 661 games.

In 2009, Knight was voted into the school's Hall of Fame along with Downing. Indiana AD Fred Glass wrote to Knight twice, asking whether he would attend the induction ceremony. A week before the ceremony, Knight declined the offer, saying he didn't want to detract from the other inductees.

Knight also refused a $75,000 offer from the school that month to settle a lingering lawsuit because he said the money came from alumni donors.

Current Indiana coach Tom Crean has reached out to Knight's former players, too, setting up get-togethers with players on the current roster. Some former players -- such as Damon Bailey and Brian Evans -- have attended games at Assembly Hall. Crean also hired Indiana's career scoring leader, Calbert Cheaney, as his director of basketball operations last summer.

Many fans and some of Knight's players would like to see the rift end.

"I do wish this could go on in Bloomington. I think it's time,'' said Bobby Wilkerson, who also played on the 1975-76 championship team. "He's a great coach and a great friend and he did a lot for Bloomington and Indiana University. I don't know what it will take. I think it depends on who approaches him and how he feels about it. Maybe it could be something to help kids - that's always a good cause. You don't know, but that's how I would angle it.''

The possibility of a thaw in this icy relationship seems less likely with each passing year.

Knight will turn 72 in October, and even pleas from May and Mike Woodson to attend the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2009 couldn't convince him to come back. May and Woodson, now the New York Knicks coach, flew to Lubbock, Texas, to make their appeal in person.

"It's not going to happen, or maybe I should say I'd be surprised if it did,'' said Quinn Buckner, who played on the '76 championship team and now works for the Pacers. "It's one of those things I think we'll just have to live with and some of us may not see.''

Some ex-players, such as Butler assistant coach Michael Lewis, said they understand Knight's reasoning. But most would relish the opportunity to see an event like this weekend's reunion to take place in Bloomington - with Knight.

"A couple of years ago, I thought it was really possible,'' Downing said, referencing the plane trip to Lubbock. "I think he thought real hard about it. I thought he would do it at that time. But I think it's going to take time.''

Added Evans: "If that's something he wants to do, it would be great. If it's not on his list, then it's not going to happen. He gave Indiana everything he had for 30 years, and that's good enough for me.''

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