KRAVITZ: On Bob Knight's infamous chair toss and other fond memories

Bob Knight in the 1985 game against Purdue (photo taken from YouTube)
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Has it been 30 years?

Lord, I'm old.

It feels like I was watching Bob Knight's chair toss in a 1985 game against Purdue at Assembly Hall yesterday. You can watch the video here (the technical gets called around 1:00 into the clip; he throws the chair about 20 seconds later). It's real, and it's spectacular.

And it's prototypical Bob Knight, a vintage performance from a man who demanded personal discipline and accountability from everybody except himself.

I just watched the video again today to refresh my memory, and here's what happened February 23, 1985.

There was a loose ball in the Purdue front court, several players diving for the basketball, and somehow, what should have been a jump ball was deemed a foul on Steve Alford (whose perfectly feathered hair is worth the price of admission alone). At that point, Knight was quite exorcised, but the fuse had just been lit.

Seconds later, Daryl Thomas was called for a touch foul while guarding a Purdue player in the post.

The bear had been poked one too many times.

Technical foul, Bob Knight.

As Steve Reid, a 95 percent free throw shooter, stood at the line, Knight grabbed a folding chair from behind the bench and launched it all the way across the lane and out to the other sideline. It was a neat aerodynamic trick. Reid looked like he'd seen a ghost.

Two more technicals were called and Knight was properly ejected, leaving the floor to the wild applause of the IU fans.

Reid then hit three of six free throws.

Thirty years later, I'd love to know what Knight's thoughts are on the subject, but I'd have a better chance of getting an audience with the Pope (who has never thrown a chair in the Vatican, to the best of my knowledge). Somewhere over on the Purdue sideline, Gene Keady, himself the owner of a volcanic temper, must have been mildly amused, thinking, “Why haven't I ever thought of that?''

Knight was ultimately suspended for one game and put on two-year probation.

Thirty years later, I'm still not sure if it was funny (which it was) or just downright sad (which it was). I'll leave it to you to make the call.

My relationship with Knight was typically weird and somewhat complicated.

We met my sophomore year, 1979, when I was a sophomore beat writer for the Indiana Daily Student. I went to Assembly Hall to meet him for the first time, and it would be safe to say that my mouth was dry and I was very, very nervous.

When I arrived, his secretary told me to wait in his office and that Coach would meet me shortly.

Moments later, he emerged from a shower and sat down in his chair.

Buck naked.

At which point, he proceeded to scratch himself. A lot. And I'm not talking about scratching his arms or legs.

If he was trying to throw me off my game, suffice to say, it worked.

Anyway, we talked and talked – mostly he talked – and he made it clear that the IDS, which had supposedly burned him before, would not be getting the same access as, say, Bob Hammel of the then-Bloomington Herald-Telephone.

I argued vehemently that we deserved the same access, and quite honestly, I was quite impressed with myself for fighting Knight on the matter.

Apparently, so was Knight. He seemed to like the fact that I fought back, something most people don't dare to try.

Did I get equal access? Honestly, I don't recall. That was a long time ago, but I can say that Knight treated me extraordinarily well for the next month or so, routinely answering my questions and helping me with stories.

And then one day, I had this smart idea to do a story on the one-year anniversary of three players being booted off the team for allegedly smoking marijuana while on a trip to the Alaska Shootout. I reached two of the three players – one still held a grudge against Knight, the other believed Knight did him a favor and set him on the right path. The point of the story was going to be that IU overcame those suspensions and won the NIT over Purdue the year of those suspensions.

I told the IDS advisor, an adult named Pat Siddons, that I would be going back to Assembly Hall to talk to Knight about the one-year anniversary. Why not? Knight had told me the first time we met, “If you have a story that involves me, don't be a [bleep] like all these other reporters and not come to me for my comment.''

Siddons begged me not to approach Knight with the story, advised me not to do the story at all. But, hey, I was an impetuous 19-year-old New Yorker with an attitude, and anyway, I was getting along famously with Knight up to that point.

So I ignored Siddons, as I often ignored the advice of adults, and went to Assembly Hall. I told him up front what I was working on, and then the volcano exploded. He was in my face, the veins in his neck bulging, spittle coming from his mouth. “Do you think these [bleeping] kids now give a [bleep] about what happened to a bunch of [bleeps] one [bleeping] year ago? What the [bleep] kind of story is that? Get the [bleep] out of here and don't come back.''

At least that's the way I remembered the gist of the eruption. I wasn't taking notes at the time. But you get the point.

A couple of weeks later, I found myself at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., sitting in the dining area before a game at Kentucky. I kept noticing how all the student managers were muttering, looking over in my direction and pointing at me. So I knew something was up.

After the game, an IU loss, I went to the door to the Hoosiers' locker room. Two student managers intercepted me. “You're not going in,'' they said.

So it was established: I was not allowed back in the IU locker room again. Ever.

Knight took it a step further. During press conferences, whenever I asked a question, he looked over my head and said, “Anybody else have a question?'' Being the professional provocateur that I was, and am, I made sure to ask Knight a question at every press conference, just to annoy him and let him know I wasn't backing down.

Thereafter, I foolishly made a point to take my unfair share of shots at The General. Hey, I was 19. I was enraged. I was disappointed. What do you expect from a kid, right? I probably was a bit too harsh and unfair at times but….did I mention I was 19? And frankly, there were times when he deserved to be chided, like when he rolled out a donkey on his TV show to represent the Purdue athletic director, George King. Thought it was classless then, and think so now. Funny, yes, but classless.

Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone. One year – I can't remember exactly what year it was – "60 Minutes'' came to Bloomington to do a puff piece on Knight. They would film the post-game press conferences, during which Knight was downright gracious and charming, everything he wasn't during a normal presser. Then after Knight left, "60 Minutes'' would talk to the reporters, all while the sports information directors were hanging around.

I had to speak up, didn't I? I told them that this was a giant act, that Knight is normally churlish and rude during his pressers, and he was putting on a BS show for the "60 Minutes" cameras. That footage and information never made the show, but I'm quite sure it got back to Knight that I was being critical.

I have to admit, all of this was 36 years ago, so the memories are increasingly foggy, but that's the general outline.

After I was off the beat, Knight didn't talk to the IDS for decades.

Decades.

At least I can say this: I don't recall that he ever threw a chair at me. Not that he didn't want to…