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GREENWOOD — As Bob Knight tells the story, the play that won the 1987 national championship was executed by Keith Smart.
Only it wasn’t the famous shot that Smart hit to seal the victory. Rather, it was a heads-up foul that put the team in position to hit the game winning 3-pointer.
“That was maybe the smartest play I’ve ever seen,” Knight said. “We wouldn’t have won a national championship without that foul.”
Knight offered a string of obscure stories and behind-the-scenes looks at some of the most memorable moments in Indiana basketball history during his speaking event in Greenwood on Thursday night. The famous coach teamed with two former Indiana University players, Greenwood’s own Tom and Dick Van Arsdale, to help raise money for the Greenwood Public Library.
The evening was billed as “A Knight to Remember,” and about 1,100 tickets had been sold to the event as of Thursday night. Organizers estimated it would bring in more than $40,000.
His presentation mixed X’s and O’s, some teasing of former players and a little bit of cursing. The event drew big laughs and a standing ovation from the packed crowd wearing IU sweaters, jerseys and jackets.
“I’ve talked about some of the things that were memorable to me in coaching. But one of the most memorable things to me is the fans we had down in Bloomington,” Knight said as he left. “You fans are what will be the greatest memories I have.”
Knight let the crowd into the events that shaped his coaching.
He told them about problem solving, such as trying to get star guard Steve Alford to defend early in his career.
He shared his opinions about athletes in general. He called Michael Jordan “the best all-around player in any team sport he’d ever seen.” Bill Russell was the most valuable player in basketball history.
While his gruff demeanor was ever-present, Knight also brought a sense of humor. He joked when he walked out for the night that he was disappointed he wasn’t chosen to give the opening prayer.
He told jokes and humorous stories about football coach and close friend Bill Parcells and various referees he encountered.
“A Knight to Remember” was driven by the Van Arsdale twins, who were inspired to step up and help their hometown library as it struggled financially.
The library had to cut about $480,000 from the $1.9 million it spent last year because of declining revenue from property taxes and other areas, library director Cheryl Dobbs said. That included laying off 12 mostly part-time employees, closing on Sundays and reducing hours.
“What we’ve done is correct everything we could change to the budget to let us live within our property taxes budget. But that doesn’t help us with things that have been deferred to the building,” Dobbs said. “This will make our tax dollars go farther.”
The brothers created the Hilda Van Arsdale Library Fund in honor of their mother. The idea was to provide a sustainable source of support for the library and allow the community to step up with donations.
“We know that (Hilda) is looking down at us from heaven thinking what a great event this is, because we’re raising money in her name for the Greenwood Public Library,” Tom Van Arsdale said.
To kick it off, the Van Arsdales recruited Knight to help. Knight was very close with the brothers and was a big fan of Hilda Van Arsdale.
Knight dedicated the night to his friend, excited that he was able to take part in something so noble in her name.
“Hilda, in my mind, the only lady equal to her is the Statue of Liberty,” he said.
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