His closest friends always cringed when the latest flare-up would occur Ė a thrown chair, a flipped chin, a fight at a salad bar (of all places) serving as red meat to the media and allowing Bob Knight's most incredible accomplishment to be lost in the clouds of controversy.
It's easy to show Knight's drama, of course. It's hard to admit the truth. But before retiring Monday after 42 seasons, 902 victories and three NCAA titles, Knight managed to prove the impossible somehow possible:
The coach who cheated the least won the most.
If you want to be honest about Bob Knight then you have to be honest about college basketball, which means admitting it has been corrupt to the core for decades, a sport where the sinners exponentially outnumber the saints, where no matter how pretty the pig gets painted each March, it's still a pig.
At the elite level, you cheat, you might win. You don't cheat, you'll probably get fired.
That's about it. It really is. Plenty of your coaching "geniuses" are nothing more than smart recruiters eviscerating the NCAA rule book. But don't take my word for it.
"At the national level, the elite level, how many coaches really did it honestly through the years?" said Sonny Vaccaro on Monday. "That's a good question."
Vaccaro spent 43 years virtually inventing and then running grassroots basketball. He staged all-star games and shoe company camps, signed endorsement deals with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and was, at the very least, a sounding board for just about every dirty recruiting deed ever done.
He's not called college basketball's "Godfather" for nothing.
"Because of my role, I know these things," Vaccaro said. "I've heard it all. I've been there for these things."
So how many of the big-time, great ones are or were really, truly clean? Vaccaro spent some time thinking about it, running down national championships won, Final Fours made and coaching careers lionized.
"I guess three coaches, maybe four, I'm not 100 percent sure about one guy," Vaccaro said. "And even among that group, Knight stands alone, stands above. I've never heard a single thing about him, never heard anything. Nothing. He's the cleanest one."
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