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Bob Knight’s chair: college basketball’s classic furniture

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana fans always waited for Bob Knight to lose his temper. It was as much a part of Hoosiers basketball under Knight as the wins.

On Feb. 23, 1985, it didn’t take long.

Five minutes into a game against rival Purdue, Knight drew a technical foul then nonchalantly turned around, picked up a chair and hurled it past Boilermakers guard Steve Reid.

It became a defining moment of Knight’s storied career.

“There are times in my passion for basketball that led me into confrontations that I could have handled a lot better,” Knight said in a statement before taking the Texas Tech job in 2000. “I have always been too confrontational, especially when I know I’m right. I know as well as anyone does: I have to develop a more diplomatic approach. I’m not very good at just forgetting something and going on, and I am truly sorry about that.”

There was no need to apologize to those fans who basked in The General’s epic on-camera scoldings of players and refs. The images only added to Knight’s reputation as a hard-driving perfectionist with no tolerance for mistakes.

Eventually, the list of his misdeeds under the bright lights grew: pulling his team off the floor against the Soviet Union; hitting a phone at the scorer’s table in the NCAA Tournament; appearing to kick son Pat while he sat on Indiana’s bench; and playfully using a bullwhip on his players during an NCAA news conference.

But on that winter night in 1985 even Knight’s mother, Hazel, sensed something was different as she watched the scene.

Her reaction: “Oh, Bobby, oh, no,” she told John Feinstein in his best-selling book “Season on the Brink”.

While the outburst shocked the sports world, Indiana’s players hardly reacted. Why?

They’d seen it before. In the years following the chair-throwing game, former players told stories of Knight’s practices, with some alleging physical, verbal or emotional abuse. Others recalled Knight routinely flinging chairs.

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The video of Knight has drawn hundreds of thousands or millions of views on social media. The images have spawned a few copycats, dozens of tales and countless claims of who actually was inside Assembly Hall when it happened.

Reid was standing at the foul line and getting ready to shoot when he saw a red speck out of the corner of his eye. The chair whizzed past him and into a row of photographers seated on the baseline. The chair stopped near the sideline and Reid helped retrieve it, linking him with Knight for college basketball eternity.

“There are times I walk into a meeting or a friend calls to say, ‘I saw you on TV last night,’” Reid told The Associated Press as the 20th anniversary of the game approached. “I know what they’re talking about.”

The crowd gave Knight a standing ovation and chanted “Bob-by! Bob-by!” The raucous applause continued as Knight was called for his third technical and again when he made the short stroll from Indiana’s bench to the locker room.

Longtime public address announcer Chuck Crabb had the unenviable task of telling fans Knight had been ejected.

“Our crowd, in the next few minutes after that, was a very ugly crowd,” Crabb said.

The cheers quickly turned into boos and eventually fans tossed coins onto the court. One hit Pat Keady, the wife of Purdue’s coach, in the eye and some Boilermakers players later said they were fearful when the game resumed.

“I was so nervous and so scared because it was so piercing loud,” said former Purdue star Everett Stephens, then a freshman. “That was the loudest crowd I had ever been around.”

School officials issued an oddly worded apology from Knight, but they didn’t punish the coach. A year later, they used cables to lock in place the chairs and courtside trash cans. The benches weren’t unlocked until they started using interlocking metal folding chairs decades later.

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Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke suspended Knight for one game and warned that another outburst would result in an additional two-game suspension.

While few remember that day’s final result — Purdue 72, Indiana 63 — the lore of Knight’s fling never dissipated even as he playfully tried to put it behind him.

“That’s the furthest I’ve thrown a chair in a long time,” Knight said when he tossed aside a broken metal chair in 2002 while coaching a reinvigorated Texas Tech program.

Sometimes, he explained, what he really wanted to throw was a sports coat that he didn’t wear that Saturday. Former player and assistant coach Dan Dakich, who would go on to become an ESPN analyst and local radio personality, confirmed that version.

Knight has autographed dozens of black-and-white photos with the chair cocked in his hands, autographed a chair he threw for a charity fundraiser, presented the late Lou Henson, a longtime rival, with a wooden chair as a retirement gift and even appeared on the Golf Channel to coach David Feherty on proper chair-throwing technique.

But at book signings or speeches, Knight would usually answer the inevitable questions by reverting to his favorite story.

“I get up, and I’m up and down a lot, and one time I’m standing up and I looked across the floor and (hear) ‘Coach Knight?’” he explained on David Letterman’s show in 1987. “And here’s a little old lady across the floor that reminded me of my grandmother. I thought (it was sweet), particularly to take time during the course of a tough game, so I said, ‘Did you want something?’ And she said, ‘If you’re not going to sit down any more today than you have so far, could I have your chair?’”

___ AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball