Was Bob Knight Racist? Controversial Past Of Legendary Coach

This article was last updated by on

The late American basketball coach Bob Knight was never off controversies during his tenure that included the alleged use of racist slurs. So, was Knight a racist?

There are two-sided claims about the legendary coach’s attitude. Some say he was a dedicated coach who ensured his team’s success by any means, while some insist that he was a biased person.

Regardless of past controversial acts due to his outspoken nature and his volatility, Bob remains one of the most successful basketball coaches. He died on November 1, 2023, at the age of 83.

Late American Basketball Coach Bob Knight Was Always In Controversy During His Coaching Career
Late American Basketball Coach Bob Knight Was Always In Controversy During His Coaching Career (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

Nicknamed “the General,” Robert Montgomery Knight dedicated more than three decades as a coach and became a 3-time NCAA Division I champion.

A native of Ohio, Knight retired in 2008, having coached college basketball at Indiana University Bloomington (1971- 2000) and Texas Tech University (2001-08).

His successful career made him a millionaire- he had a net worth of $8 million at his death.

The two-time Henry Iba Award winner married two times, with Nancy Falk (m. 1963- div. 1985) and Karen Vieth Edgar (m. 1988).

His second marriage didn’t result in any children, while his sons, Tim and Pat Knight, from his first wife, Nancy, have followed his basketball legacy.

Was Legendary Basketball Coach Bob Knight Racist?

Throughout his career, Bobby Knight ran circles with controversies, and some of those incidents raised a question mark if he was a racist.

Despite being on legal errands for making alleged racial remarks, the late basketball coach always denied holding a grudge just because of skin color.

But having said that, it won’t buy off the fact that he got media criticism for his picky attitude and some alleged racial-biased actions.

When Knight became the coach of the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team, hispanic groups demanded his removal. But he went on to coach anyway and the U.S. to the Olympic gold medal in 1984.

They cited that the coach insulted Hispanics while coaching the U.S. team in the 1979 Pan American Games. 

Knight , The Indiana And Texas Tech Basketball Coach, Often Received Accusation Of Being Racist
Knight, The Indiana And Texas Tech Basketball Coach, Often Received Accusation Of Being Racist (Source: ABC News)

In March 1992, the then-Indiana Hoosiers coach found himself in hot water for alleged racism.

He playfully mock-whipped Indiana player Calbert Cheaney with a bullwhip gifted by the Indiana players.

However, since Cheaney was black, some black leaders made racial connotations of the act.

In June 1999, Knight got into another controversy after he allegedly choked a customer in a parking lot and made racial remarks.

According to his lawyers, his assault action came after being provoked, and witnesses testified that he “certainly wasn’t racist.” He was not pressed for any charges.

Butch Carter’s Book Depicted Bob As A Racist

The former Toronto Raptors coach Butch Carter wrote about Bob’s unethical actions against a black player in his book. He once played for Knight at Indiana.

In his 2002 book Born to Believe, co-authored with his brother, Cris Carter, he stated that the coach shoved a black player into the locker room after a practice and made racial slurs.

That player left the Hoosiers after a year, who was believed to be Isiah Thomas. However, Thomas denied the use of the “N-word”. Another of Carter’s then-fellow teammates, Mike Woodson, denied such things.

Controversial Past Of Bob Knight

Knight’s tenure of three decades from the 1970s to the 2000s was barely free of controversies.

His furious yet compassionate seriousness for the game led to him yelling at fans, referees, and players, showing both anger and empathy.

Bob Knight Arguing His Point With A Basketball Referee
Bob Knight Arguing His Point With A Basketball Referee (Source: The Hill)

While many see him as “the object of near fanatical devotion,” not all of his actions got him off easily.

Here is the list of some of his past controversies:

  • December 7, 1974: During the Hoosiers’ 98-74 win against Kentucky, he approached the latter’s bench, and as a return, he hit coach Joe B. Hall in the back of his head. It infuriated the Kentucky officials to the point that assistant coach Lynn Nance had to be restrained from hitting him.
  • 1979 Pan American Games: In a training facility dispute while in Puerto Rico, Knight allegedly punched a policeman, attributing it to a “reflex action.”
  • February 23, 1985: Famous for his tempered attitude, Knight threw a plastic chair across the court during Purdue vs. Indiana. As a result, the officials ejected him from the game and gave him a one-day suspension.
  • Comment On Rape: During an n April 1988 interview with Connie Chung, his remarks on a sensitive matter like “rape” enraged women over the globe. He said, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”
  • Fired From Indiana: In the 1999 fall, Bob Knight was fired from the Indiana Hoosiers after a video surfaced that showed him catching Neil Reed by his neck during a 1997 practice.

After the Hoosiers sacked him, Knight coached Texas Tech from 2001 to 2008, with fewer controversies during this time.

Krishna Pandey
Krishna Pandey

Krishna Pandey

Krishna Pandey is a versatile writer with a passion for exploring the diverse and dynamic world of sports. His articles offer readers a captivating blend of sports analysis, human interest stories, and cultural insights, providing a holistic view of the athletes and events that shape the sports landscape.


Cultural Perspectives Athlete Spotlights


  • Krishna explores the cultural significance of sports, examining how athletics intersect with identity, community, and social change.
  • He shines a spotlight on athletes from diverse backgrounds.


Krishna's passion for sports journalism is fueled by a love of competition and a desire to uncover the stories that lie beneath the surface of the sports world. With a background in writing and a keen interest in sports sociology, he brings a multidisciplinary approach to his writing, exploring the complex intersections of sports, culture, and society.

Related articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share article

Latest News