Indiana coach Bob Knight gave an engraved chair and a mid-court hug to retiring Illinois coach Lou Henson, a man who once called him a “classic bully.”
The coaches feuded five years ago after Knight criticized Illinois for recruiting violations that led to a ban from the NCAA tournament. During a brief pregame ceremony Wednesday night in honor of Henson, who will retire at the end of the season, both made light of their spat.
“In 21 years, players from both teams have shown what is best about college basketball. We’d like to give you a little remembrance of the competition between our two institutions,” Knight said. “You have been a tremendous part of Big Ten basketball. There has not been over 21 years a team that’s been tougher for us to play against year after year than your team has been.
“The back of this chair has a plate that simply says, ‘To Lou Henson, an excellent coach, a tough opponent. Best wishes, from Indiana basketball.’ And we haven’t agreed on everything over the years, but I’m going to miss you.”
He then hugged Henson. “Is this really the Bob Knight that I know?” Henson said.
Knight and Henson were chided by the Big Ten in 1991 after an exchange that began after Knight ran off the court during the final seconds of Indiana’s victory at Illinois, skipping the traditional postgame handshake. In the hallway leading to the locker rooms, Henson and Knight argued in an exchange including profanity from Knight, witnesses said. Later, at a postgame news conference, Knight launched into a 10-minute monologue on Illinois’ ban from postseason play.
“I thought that it would be, and it was, an incredibly difficult game,” Knight said sarcastically. “I’d like to help Illinois, but I can’t give them much time, because I’ve got to go to the NCAA tournament.”
That’s when Henson called Knight a “classic bully,” and added that “his entire life is based on intimidation.”
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