KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tributes have poured from across the sports world this week following the passing of legendary basketball coach Bob Knight. One high school basketball coach in Knoxville shared a special moment he had with the coach known simply as “The General.”
Grace Christian Academy basketball coach Dominic James Wright grew up in Richmond, Indiana, roughly two hours from Indiana University where Knight won three national championships. In an interview with WATE, the former Marquette University standout recounted Knight’s impact on the state’s passionate basketball community.
“Basketball is deeply rooted in our upbringing. Everywhere you go it’s ‘cornfield-cornfield-basketball goal,'” Wright said. “Being from Indiana, you always just connect the General Bobby Knight to that. He just led the way with his passion, his love for the game, his leadership.”
Though he dreamed of playing for the Hoosiers, Wright ultimately attended Marquette after he said he was not heavily pursued by Indiana. When Golden Knights squared off against a Knight-led Texas Tech team in the 2006 CBE Classic, the two shared a conversation before the game he’ll never forget.
“While we we’re warming up, I looked over and was just in awe because there was “The General” Bobby Knight himself. He looked at me and he waved me over to the bench. So, I sprinted over to him and he had a seat on the bench and he said, ‘have a seat next to me,’ and I sat next to him without hesitation,” Wright recounted. “He looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘If I was still the coach at Indiana, you never would’ve made it out of the state.'”
“I took that as a great compliment, knowing that he would’ve recruited if at IU. The funniest part of that moment was after he said those words, he gave me two smacks on the cheek and told me to get my butt out there and get back to warming up,” he said. “That’s just something I will never forget. I have a great deal of respect for him and just to know that he was a fan of my game, that just meant the world to me.”
Marquette defeated Texas Tech that night and squared off against another coaching legend and Bob Knight protégé, Mike Krzyzewski and Duke University, in the tournament final. Wright was named tournament MVP after scoring 25 points in a win over the Blue Devils.
“To beat two legends in the same tournament and I took home the MVP hardware along with the championship trophy, that was just an unforgettable moment for me.”
While Knight’s hall of fame career was marred by his angry outbursts, Wright said he’ll remember The General’s wisdom and personable side.
“Obviously, he’s a very powerful man but I think he was very humble as well. When I had a chance to have that moment with him, he wasn’t yelling, he wasn’t screaming, he was actually soft spoken,” Wright said. “I got a great deal of respect for him and I wish I would’ve had an opportunity to see a lot more of that side of him.”