WEST LAFAYETTE | Indiana wasn’t the opponent Tuesday night, but the Purdue student section still made sure they delivered a hearty heckling to former Indiana player Pat Knight.
Knight returned to Mackey Arena for the first time as a coach as his Lamar basketball team earned every penny from a guarantee-game check with the Boilermakers, falling 72-39 in front of an energized crowd who were undoubtedly razing Knight for his allegiance with the Hoosiers.
Knight, the son of longtime Indiana coach Bobby Knight, played for the Hoosiers from 1991-1995 and lost three of his four games at Mackey Arena.
“This is a special place and I’ve always thought that the rivalry was between the fans,” Knight said. “People don’t realize how close the Indiana and Purdue guys are. I never really got caught up in the rivalry. We’d be sitting down on the court laughing at the fans that were really getting into it.”
Perhaps it was his friendship with Purdue coach Matt Painter, or perhaps he was scaling back his attitude after getting ejected from last weekend’s game against Alabama, but Knight was subdued for much of the evening as the Boilermakers abused Lamar at every turn.
“When you play in these so-called “money games,” it’s not worth it to waste your technicals,” Knight said. “I wasn’t trying to get thrown out of the Alabama game. Now I do have a temper problem, but that’s not my fault; I inherited it.”
Knight and Painter ate dinner together on Monday night and swapped stories about when they were AAU teammates in high school. Once they took the floor, the two suspended their friendship, but Painter was noticeably affected after the game.
“We just try to prepare for the other team, but he’s a friend of mine,” Painter said. “It’s not any fun when you’re out there playing against your friends. A lot of people don’t realize that until you coach in those games.”
One reason the two scheduled the game was for the opportunity for Knight to bring his team out of Texas to the Midwest for recruiting purposes as well as coaching purposes. Knight wasn’t shy about his love for the state of Indiana when talking about the impact he hoped the game would have on his players.
“We’re in a football state and it’s good from a basketball perspective to show our guys what it’s like in the Midwest,” Knight said. “We won’t see a crowd like this (in conference play). It was important for us to come to a place where basketball is important, and sure, get a free trip home that Lamar pays for. I couldn’t pass that up.”