INDIANAPOLIS – As thousands of Hoosiers remember legendary Coach Bob Knight, some of his former players and team managers now reflect on their favorite memories and qualities of the former Indiana University men’s basketball coach.
That includes Joe Hillman, who was a member of the 1987 NCAA Championship Team. He was also captain of the 1989 Big Ten Championship Team under Knight’s command.
“He was such a big personality,” Hillman said. “He got the people of the state of Indiana to learn the game of basketball the way he wanted players to play. Everybody in the state that was an IU fan bought into that.”
Hillman still has a handful of photos framed in his office from his time on the team. What could be considered a lifetime ago almost feels just like yesterday. All these years later, he said he would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
“I tell people all the time, I’m 17 years old from California again, I would come back and play for Bob Knight in Indiana in a second,” Hillman described.
It’s no secret Knight was very animated during his time as head coach, but players like Hillman remember that to be a part of his drive and love for the game and the players.
“He always talked about, ‘I’m not going to be easy on you guys when you’re here,'” Hillman recalled. “‘I’m going to push you. I’m going to demand you, but when you graduate, I’m going to be the best damn friend you’ve got for life.'”
He said he learned lessons along the way as “the General” loudly and passionately prepared his men for battle on and off the court.
“That toughness created a brotherhood, that’s for sure,” Hillman said.
As a new generation of players step on the court squaring up for their best shot, their coaches are the ones who now try to carry on Bob Knight’s legacy.
“I think in many ways from a modern standpoint, he formed everything that us high school coaches and many collegiate programs try to emulate,” said Lawrence North boy’s basketball Head Coach Chris Giffin.
Before Giffin took to coaching his own young athletes, he worked under Knight as a student team manager.
“His intensity, passion, the loyalty and really the achievement, the success that he had for those 29 years in Bloomington, it’s hard to truly, I think, ever get to that point again,” he said.
There may never be another Bob Knight, Giffin said, but he will always strive to be just as loyal.
“I’ve tried to copy that loyalty to my players and former players,” Giffin said.
Both Giffin and Hillman said they believe Knight will always go down as one of the greatest coaches in men’s college basketball history. They both said Knight was a great teacher who shaped many pivotal aspects of how they live their lives.