It took awhile, but Bobby Knight finally made his way back to Assembly Hall, a place where he won games, lost them, once threw a chair and spent nearly three decades of his career coaching the Indiana Hoosiers.

For the better part of two decades Knight wanted no part of IU after he was fired nearly 20 years ago. However, last Saturday he returned. Like him, love him or hate him, Knight deserved a chance to return to Assembly Hall.

He led the Hoosiers to three national titles during his tenure at Indiana and is one of the most recognizable coaches in school, and college basketball, history. It was the right thing for both parties to embrace each other and bury the hatchet.

It was simply time for a reconcilation.

Kentucky should consider doing the same for former coaches Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith.

Sutton, who is now 83 years old, had the most tumultuous tenure of all three coaches but also had the tough task of following Joe B. Hall, who followed the legendary Adolph Rupp.

Sutton won 88 games in his four-year tenure and collected most of those victories in his first season with the Wildcats, guiding Kentucky to a 32-4 record and the NCAA Elite Eight. Almost three years later, though, his tenure was tarnished by a scandal that included payments to recruits and numerous NCAA violations. Sutton resigned in 1989 following a 13-19 season.

Kentucky was slapped with three years probation, including a two-year ban from the postseason and no live television appearances the following year. Sutton went on to coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma State, where he won 368 games and led the Cowboys to the Final Four in 1995 and 2004. He won 804 games in his career and the court at Oklahoma State is named in his honor.

Although not an ideal ending at Kentucky, it was a road that led Sutton back to greatness and provided Pitino an opportunity to lead the Wildcats back to the Promised Land. Despite heavy odds stacked against him, Pitino led the Wildcats to the Final Four four years after his hiring and guided Kentucky to the NCAA title in 1996. He led Wildcats to a runner-up finish the next year before bolting for the NBA’s Boston Celtics. He resigned after three-and-a-half seasons in Boston before returning to college to coach Louisville.

Smith followed Pitino and led the Wildcats to their seventh NCAA crown in 1998. He coached at UK for more than a decade before leaving for Minnesota. Smith had the task of succeeding Pitino, who inherited a mess after following Sutton.

All three coaches had success at one time or another with the Wildcats and an open invitation should be extended to all three former Kentucky coaches to come to Rupp Arena and take a bow at center court.

Just as Knight proved, never say never.

Recommended for you