BLOOMINGTON, IND. – Bob Knight appreciated the short walk from the practice hall to the assembly hall.
This ended his 20-year journey back to Hoosier's basketball.
Surrounded by dozens of former players and thousands of Indiana fans singing "Bob-by, Bob-by", the 79-year-old knight finally returned to his local court on Saturday to be greeted with rapturous enthusiasm.
"We love you, Bobby," called a fan from the crowd.
Hoosiers fans have been waiting for years, hoping that they can give the once flammable coach the appropriate reward for everything he did in Bloomington in 29 seasons – three NCAA championships, a school record of 662 wins, 11 big ten titles and five final four appearances.
But the September 10, 2000 discharge caused a bitter separation between Knight and the university. He declined opportunity after opportunity to reunite when his championship teams were honored. He even refused to return for his admission to the school's athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 because he didn't want to distract the other class members.
And then it was suddenly over.
When the Hoosiers competed against their biggest rival, Purdue, and long-time friend and rival Gene Keady in the arena and his 1980s Big Ten championship team were honored, Knight put his grudge aside and went with his son Pat and former players Quinn Buckner Midfield and Scott May.
"Thank you, trainer, thank you, trainer," the fans sang when Knight waved to the crowd and pretended to be doing exercise.
He led the crowd in a "Defense" chant, and when his former players gathered, he hugged some of them. Among them was Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who led the Hoosiers to the national title in 1981. He even played around with television broadcaster Dick Vitale.
No, he wasn't wearing a red sweater. Instead, he wore a red Indiana basketball track jacket.
And it wasn't as loud or fiery as it had been all those years ago. He needed help when he shuffled back to the court and had to stop a few times on his way. He seemed to enjoy the moment as much as the one in the auditorium.
It took years to re-establish the relationship.
Sports director Fred Glass kept in touch with Knight, hoping that one day the icy relationship would break up. Last spring Knight surprised everyone with a baseball game in Indiana.
He also moved back to Bloomington last year and there was speculation over weeks that he might return to Assembly Hall soon.
Knight performed publicly in the city and state, gave speeches, signed autographs, and participated in games and exercises.
Some thought he was coming back to see his Ohio alma mater when the Buckeyes visited the assembly hall on January 11th. Instead, he went to Marian, a NAIA school in Indianapolis, where one of his former players, Steve Downing, is the sporting director.
Knight had not been in the assembly hall since his release after a student accused Knight of having packed him in the hallway hallway. The university introduced a zero tolerance policy for Knight earlier this year after it choked a former player, the late Neil Reed.
Knight ended his career at Texas Tech and retired in 2008 with a record 902 wins.