Indiana University’s hiring of former player Calbert Cheaney as director of basketball operations is more than a staff addition. It’s a sign that Bob Knight has finally ended his all-out effort to torpedo everything in and around Assembly Hall.
Cheaney isn’t the first of Knight’s former players to take a job at IU. Notably, Chris Reynolds is the associate athletic director and Dan Dakich served for a year during the Kelvin Sampson fiasco.
But Cheaney may be the most significant. First, he’s a Knight loyalist, and by far he’s the most accomplished as a player to take an IU job in the post-Knight era.
Do you think the 1993 college player of the year asked his former college coach about going back to Bloomington? Hard to tell with Knight, but that’s a solid bet.
Did Knight give his cheerful blessing? I doubt it, but the fact he didn’t derail Cheaney’s return to Bloomington shows that Knight doesn’t have the kind of disdain for current coach Tom Crean as he has for past IU coaches.
Crean has done everything he can to diffuse the situation. IU Athletics Director Fred Glass’ efforts to reach out to Knight are well documented, and they appear to be working at least to a certain extent.
If Knight were still grinding his ax the way he was during the Mike Davis era when he got in the ear of high school players, coaches and anyone else who would listen about IU’s ills, Cheaney never would have taken such a position, which will make him a valuable lieutenant in the all important recruiting war.
Per NCAA rules, Cheaney will be involved with on-campus recruiting and will make observations about the players, but he will not be an on-court coach during practices.
There’s another possibility. Knight had zero input or impact on Cheaney’s decision. At least that would indicate he’s ceased spewing venom against IU and the distance between the two are growing so great that his termination no longer has an impact on the program.
Either way, I don’t expect Knight to sing the Hoosiers’ praises—or even utter IU’s name—on ESPN any time soon. But IU, in small ways anyway, seems to be finally extracting itself from the post-Knight muck.
Will Knight ever return to Bloomington to hear the roar of the Assembly Hall crowd again? That’s anybody’s guess.
But Cheaney’s hiring at least indicates his heart might be softening a little. And the war within may be finally coming to an end.