EACH WEEK, WE'LL TAKE A LOOK BACK AT A MEMORABLE MOMENT IN ILLINI HISTORY, THANKS TO THE WORDS OF THE NEWS-GAZETTE
This week: Fifteen years ago this month, Lon Kruger's Illini won a Big Ten title and Bob Knight went nuts.
Date: Feb. 25, 1998
Headline: Valentine's day a real heartache for Indiana coach
By JIM ROSSOW
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — He thanked the cheerleaders, the band, the four seniors, even the student managers.
But everyone who stuck around for Bob Knight's annual end-of-the-season address Tuesday night wanted to hear about the officials, namely Ted Valentine. Knight, still steaming from a second-half ejection, did not disappoint.
"You're about to go out in life, and I'll tell you one thing," Knight said to an all-ears Assembly Hall crowd. "You saw something here tonight that's a great indication that life isn't fair.
"I've been in basketball for 33 years as a head coach, and this tonight is the greatest travesty that I've ever seen."
The fans erupted, Indiana administrators probably cringed and the Big Ten office most likely pushed "Record" on the VCR. Knight, who's thrown a chair, kicked a player and unleashed the language of a longshoreman on every Big Ten bench, was back at it.
Illinois added another chapter to an unlikely run to a Big Ten title with an 82-72 win Tuesday, but Knight was the headline grabber. A longtime feud with Valentine simmered in the first half, then erupted with 9:37 left in the game, Knight getting tossed after a confusing and heated sequence underneath the Indiana basket.
The play that triggered Knight's last outburst had Luke Recker charging toward the basket and missing a layup. Illinois freshman Sergio McClain was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim, but no goaltending was called. Knight also was upset that no foul was called on Illinois for bumping Recker, who fell hard to the floor with what Knight said was a rib injury.
When Knight walked toward Recker, who was in a heap on the baseline, he received technical No. 2 from Valentine. When Knight continued to argue with Valentine near midcourt, he drew another "T." Before Knight left the court, he walked 50 feet out of his way to brush by Valentine, who was standing near midcourt, as a crowd of 17,103 roared with anticipation.
The result: Three Matt Heldman free throws, a 57-46 Illinois lead and a disgusted Knight.
Knight on the goaltending call that wasn't:
"The basket had to be good because the rim was grabbed. There is absolutely no interference with the backboard or the rim once the ball has touched the backboard. It is my understanding that one of the officials said, "You can't assume that shot's going to be good.'
That's the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard."
Game officials Valentine, Ed Hightower and Tom O'Neill did not meet reporters afterward, but they issued a statement.
"On the play when Indiana's No. 4 (Recker) laid up the basketball, the ball hit the backboard. Illinois' No. 40 (McClain) pulled down the rim, which is a technical with two shots awarded to Indiana and the ball out of bounds. The rule does not allow the officials to assume that the ball would have gone in if the rim had not been pulled down. Therefore, there was not goaltending.
"Following this sequence, Rule 10-10 (bench decorum and unsportsmanlike conduct) came into play."
Knight on the officials' statement:
"You can't assume any goaltending shot is going to be good. If the ball is on a downward flight and it's interfered with, it's goaltending. You don't assume it's going to be good, missed, not hit the rim or anything."
Knight on his second technical:
"When I went out on the floor and walked toward Luke, my only comment was, "I have an injured player.' Period. ... I have every right to go on the floor if I have an injured player."
Knight also disputed his first technical foul, which Valentine doled out during a television timeout 1:51 before halftime. Knight called Valentine over to the Indiana huddle and talked for around 30 seconds before the two separated. Then Valentine turned toward Knight and made the call.
Knight on the discussion:
"I told the guy,"Don't come over here and act like you're my greatest buddy. If you want to come over and call a technical foul on me, fine. Call the technical, but don't come over here with that kind of garbage.'
"He said, "Bob, you know I don't have it in for you. I don't want to do anything.' I said, "Don't lie to me.'
"Twice he said, "What'd you say, what'd you say?' I just looked at the guy and he called a technical foul."
Knight continued to badger Valentine until halftime. Again he strayed from his normal path to the Indiana locker room to walk past Valentine as the teams left the floor. Fans howled with delight.
Knight again strolled toward Valentine after coming out of the locker room after halftime. Knight asked, "What did I say to you" several times before returning to the bench.
Afterward, Knight hinted at problems with Valentine in the past. When asked if Valentine had something against Indiana, the coach said:
"You'd have to ask him that. There have been a lot of strange calls. This tonight was absolutely, totally ... either technical foul was totally uncalled for. Just beyond belief."
Knight can expect to hear from the Big Ten, which does not like its coaches speaking out on officiating. When Knight was asked whether he expected punishment, he said, "Does anybody have a question about the game?" before walking out of his postgame news conference without allowing time for a esponse.
Valentine was booed from the beginning and, after kicking Knight out of the game, was the target of Indiana fans who tossed coins on the floor.