February 12, 2020 – KEITH TAYLOR
It took a while but Bobby Knight made his way back to Assembly Hall, a place where he won games, lost them, once threw a chair during a game and spent most of his career coaching the Indiana Hoosiers. A place where he spent a span of nearly three decades coaching basketball.
Although Knight wanted no part in returning after he was fired nearly 20 years ago, he eventually accepted an invitation to return. Like him, love him or hate him, Knight deserved a chance to return to Bloomington where he now resides and likely will have an open invitation to attend a game anytime he wants.
Knight led the Hoosiers to three national titles during his tenure at Indiana and is one of the most recognizable coaches in school history. It was the right thing for both parties to embrace each other and bury the hatchet.
It was simply time for both parties to reconcile.
Kentucky should consider doing the same for former coaches Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith. Sutton, who is now 83-years-old, had the most tumultuous tenure of all three coaches but also had the task of following Joe B. Hall, who followed the legendary Adolph Rupp at Kentucky.
Sutton won 88 games in his four-year tenure and collected most of those victories in his first season with the Wildcats, guiding Kentucky to a 32-4 record and the NCAA Eite Eight. almost three years later, his tenure was tarnished by a scandal that included payments to recruits and numerous NCAA violations. Sutton resigned followed a 13-19 season in 1989.
Kentucky was slapped with three years probation, including a two-year ban from the postseason and no live television appearances the following year. Sutton went on to coach at his alma mater Oklahoma State, where he won 368 games and led the Cowboys to the Final Four in 1995 and 2004. He won 804 games in his career and the court at Oklahoma State is named in his honor.
Although not an ideal ending at Kentucky, it was a road that led Sutton back to greatness and provided Pitino an opportunity to lead the Wildcats back to the promised land. Despite the odds that were stacked against him, Pitino led the Wildcats to the Final Four four years after his hiring and guided Kentucky to the NCA A title in 1996. He led Kentucky to a runner-up finish one year later before going to Boston to coach the Celtics before he returned to coach at Louisville.
Smith followed Pitino and led the Wildcats to their seventh NCAA crown in 1998 and Smith coached for more than a decade before bolting for Minnesota. Smith had the task of succeeding Pitino, who inherited a mess after following Sutton.
All three coaches had success at one time or another with the Wildcats and an open invitation should be extended to all three former Kentucky coaches to come to Rupp and take a bow at center court.
Just as Knight proved, never say never.