Knight's famous friends

In his 41 years as basketball coach, Knight has made buddies in all areas of entertainment


Associated Press
An avid baseball fan, Bob Knight has been a close friend of St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, right, and the entire Cardinals' orginization.

 

Bob Knight has met presidents, coaches, movie stars - all different kinds of celebrities from all walks of life. Some of those meetings blossom into friendships.

Knight first met Tony LaRussa when LaRussa was the manager of the Chicago White Sox.

The friendship didn't start, though, until LaRussa was the manager of the Oakland A's.

"We had a trainer that was a student-trainer for Bob," LaRussa said. "Several times I'll say something to my players that I hear or read somewhere else and I had used some things that Bob had said.

"One day I got a phone call and the person said, 'If you're going to quote me, you better quote me accurately and I should probably get to know you first. I said, 'excuse me?' It was Bob on the other end. We talked for a while and he came to spring training and I think he's missed only two or three spring trainings since 1988."

Bob Knight's photo albums contain several pictures of his famous friends, including Bo Schembechler

An avid baseball fan, Knight has met plenty of baseball figures that he calls friends - Jim Leyland, Johnny Bench and Sparky Anderson among them.

While giving a speech once, Knight made a polite comment about New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Knight, at the time, didn't think it was a big deal, but someone later told him, "You've made a friend for life."

Steinbrenner sends Knight a letter before every season inviting him to Opening Day, the first game of the playoffs and the first game of the World Series.

 

Bob Knight's photo albums contain several pictures of his famous friends, including Sandy Koufax

Knight's coaching circle also extends into football. He's always talking about Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells and it was through that relationship that Knight met New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Gil Brandt, the former vice president of player personnel for the Cowboys, said Knight called Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell on Belichick's behalf prior to the Browns' hiring of Belichick.

Knight's friendships aren't limited to the sports arena, however. He's had the opportunity to meet several actors, and one relationship developed when Knight had a cameo in the movie "Anger Management."

Adam Sandler, the star of the movie, has been spotted wearing a Texas Tech baseball cap since the movie. He's also been to a game at United Spirit Arena.

Sandler was on location shooting a movie, but in a statement released by his management, Sandler said that Knight has had an impact on his life.

Coach Knight with Bill Parcells

"Not only is Bobby Knight a legendary coach and the greatest actor I have ever worked with, he is also a complete gentleman," Sandler said. "A few years after I had worked with Coach Knight on 'Anger Management,' my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. One night, when I was sitting in my father's hospital room, the phone rang. It was Coach Knight. He didn't want to talk to me; he wanted my father. I handed the phone to Pop, and the two of them spoke for quite a while. I don't know what they talked about, but after he hung up, my father said, "I only know Coach Knight for 20 minutes, but I already like him more than I like you."

Actor Tom Arnold first met Knight while he was still with "The Best Damn Sports Show Period."

Bob Knight and Roger Staubach

Knight was scheduled to be interviewed for the show and he requested that Arnold ask the questions.

Since then, Arnold has been to Lubbock for Knight's golf tournament, and last year to film a fishing segment for the Fox Sports Network show.

"He's a survivor, that's for sure," Arnold said. "If you think about that many wins and how many lives he's changed. He's helped out a lot of people and he doesn't seem old enough to have it but I know he's old."

Lights, camera, action

Over the years Bob Knight has made cameos in three movies and been on many TV shows.

Movies

Anger Management (2003) ... played himself

Blue Chips (1994) ... played himself

Hoop Dreams (1994) ... played himself

Television shows

"Knight School with coach Bobby Knight" (2006) TV series

"Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith" (two episodes in 2005)

"ESPN SportsCentury" (nine episodes in 2000-2005)

SportsCenter" ... (Sunday Conversation guest; one episode in 2003)

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" ... (one episode in 2002)

"ESPN Outside the Lines" ... (one episode, 2002)

"Late Show with David Letterman" ... (one episode in 1993)

Source: Internet Movie Database

Arnold isn't the only admirer of Knight. ESPN last year decided to make a reality show where the winner received a chance to be a walk-on for this year's team.

One of the producers of the show, Rob Lundgren, said Knight was easy to work with because of his familiarity with television.

"It was real clear that we were dealing with a level of competence and talent beyond what we've ever dealt with and we've dealt with a lot of celebrities. Coach is the real deal," Lundgren said.

"He is the one-take wonder. He would walk out and do it. In 13 days of filming, there were maybe two or three times that we said we needed to do something again. I can't tell you how many times we looked at the monitor and said, 'Where is this coming from?' He would go above and beyond what we talked about doing because he just knew what to do and what would look good or sound good."

Arnold said that Knight was the same way when they were filming the piece about fishing.

"I love how he told the producers how to shoot stuff," Arnold said. "He told them what was good and you know what, he was right. He went out of his way for me and we got to spend some time fishing and I really enjoyed that."

Speaking at clinics, his love of baseball and other activities also has allowed Knight to cross paths with various coaches and celebrities.

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner send Knight an invitation before every season for three events - the first game of the season, the first game of the playoffs and the first game of the World Series.

Knight also has developed friendships with managers Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland and Sparky Anderson.

From the gridiron, former Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant has come to the South Plains to hunt with Knight, who also is very close with Dallas Cowboys' head coach Bill Parcells.

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