After Bob Knight and friend Bob Hammel joined everyone in singing happy birthday to Gene Keady, the approximately 1,500 people at the Embassy Theater received the beautiful gift Friday night. Hall of Fame coaches Knight, 76, and Keady, who turns 81 on Sunday, spent the next 100 minutes reminiscing with stories and jokes to reflect on their long careers.
With Huntington-native and hall of fame sportswriter Hammel, 80, attempting to keep the Indiana and Purdue legends on topic, it was easy to imagine the 100-minute conversation taking place on a porch during a warm summer evening with some iced tea in hand. Stories flowed wherever the coaches wanted them to go.
Hammel talked about how the coaches had a 20-20 all-time record against each other in regular-season play, with Keady and Purdue winning an extra game in the Big Ten Tournament. Both were 14-6 at home against each other, there was at least one ranked team involved in 33 of the 41 games, and the lower-ranked squad won 10 of those 33 games.
"Neither one of these coaches really cared that much about the Big Ten Tournament,” Hammel suggested. “That one game you played each other, did you flip a coin to see who would win?”
“No, we flipped the coin for the guy who could go home first,” Knight said. “Neither one of us wanted to be there.”
That was one of Keady's two wins over eight years in Big Ten Tournament play.
“I always thought the season should mean something,” Keady said. “Why don't 18 games mean more than four where you are not coaching worth a s—- except for one weekend. It made no sense.”
Hammel also recalled the game when both coaches received a technical foul during the first minute of play.
"And we were both right, too," Knight said.
"That might have been the game where Bob says to me, 'Coach, you've got to learn to settle down!' and I said, `Me settle down? Have you looked in the mirror lately?' "
Mostly, Hammel served as set-up man. He looked up Keady's hometown of Larned, Kans., and Knight's hometown of Orrville, Ohio, saying they weren't as big combined as Huntington.
"Do we care?" Keady asked to big laughs.
Perhaps the most famous game where they ever competed against each other happened Feb. 23, 1985 when Knight was ejected for throwing a chair across the Assembly Hall court.
"I loved it because we got six extra free throws," Keady said. "And, and the best coach in the Big Ten was gone."
"In all honesty, and I know you to be one of the most honest human beings I know in coaching, you know that son of a b—— made a bad call, right?" Knight said.
"Yeah," Keady said, "but we had a happy ride home!"
There were other stories such as how hard Knight tried to get Keady to wear a red sweater at the Olympic trials, and Knight wearing a referee shirt while coaching under legendary coach Hank Iba during Olympic trials early in his career.
Some other highlights included:
Knight on Keady: "There were a few creampuffs in the Big Ten, but he sure changed that."
Knight on baseball slugger Albert Pujols pointing to the sky after crossing home plate on a home run to thank God: "Albert, when you do that, I want you to know it just means God screwed the pitcher."
Knight on a trainer's reaction after leading an early IU team in the Lord's Prayer: "Coach, for what it's worth, you and prayer are not a good mix."
Keady on the 1984 Olympic trials: "I never could understand why we couldn't pick (Charles) Barkley, but that's beside the point."
Knight on his language: "I had a player tell me one time I had the greatest ability for profanity of anybody he'd ever met."
Knight on NBA one-and-done players: "If Gene and I were still coaching... we would do everything we can to screw the NBA. What they are doing is taking kids that in most cases are going to make a team anyhow... the NBA is ruining a lot of nice kids... I would love to be coaching right now and dealing with the NBA and what they are doing."
For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.