Former Indiana and Southern Miss player Neil Reed died of heart complications after collapsing at his home Thursday. He was just 36.
In 2000, a few weeks after Indiana fired legendary coach Bob Knight, Reed wrote a piece for ESPN The Magazine. Earlier that year, he had been at center of controversy after revealing a 1997 incident in which an irate Bob Knight placed a hand around his neck during practice.
Here is an excerpt from Reed's 2000 commentary in the Mag:
Believe it or not, I'm not happy that Indiana fired Coach Knight. I don't have any feelings about it, mostly because I've had to stand alone for so long. In a way I've been proven right, but that doesn't make my life any easier. It doesn't surprise me that he grabbed that kid's arm. Coach Knight is always going to be Coach Knight. But did I want to see him screw up? Did I want to see Indiana basketball struggle? No way.
Like I've said, I never wanted to hurt anybody. I just didn't want to live in fear anymore. Because of what I did -- leaving the program after the 1996-97 season -- and because of what I said in a March TV broadcast -- that Coach Knight had grabbed me by the throat during a practice -- I can live with myself these days.
I didn't know much about the latest flare-up until I called my parents three days after the incident. My dad, who's an assistant coach at the University of New Orleans, asked if I had heard that Indiana might fire Coach Knight. Later that afternoon, when I was watching TV, they broke in with the news that Coach Knight was gone. My first thought: "This is going to be a mess."
By the end of the day, I had 31 new messages on my voicemail. ESPN, CNN, People magazine -- everybody in the world called. But I wasn't ready to talk. I'm not even sure this story is the right thing to do. All I know is that Coach Knight's firing doesn't give me closure. I knew he would eventually do something like this to himself, but I didn't want to see Indiana suffer. I don't like to see anyone suffer, and I guess that includes Coach Knight.
What you have to understand is that I grew up worshiping Indiana basketball. I can remember my dad saying the Celtics were on TV at 8, and we'd be there, sitting on the couch, waiting for tip-off. Same thing with Indiana. The Hoosiers on at 7? Hey, we're there. It was like an appointment.
I grew up in Louisiana, but my dad would go to Bloomington every year for Coach Knight's coaching clinics. One summer, when I was 10 or so, my dad took me to Assembly Hall. He went to the basketball offices to talk with a coach, and I snuck down to the court. The lights were off and it was pitch-black, but I didn't care. I dribbled the ball in the darkness and launched shots toward the hoop. All you could hear was swish or brick. I pretended I was playing full-court one-on-nobody. That's basketball, baby. Me against Larry Bird.
Sometimes I'd imagine playing against Indiana guys. Keith Smart. Steve Alford. That's how powerful the pull of Indiana was. You'd see those championship banners swinging side to side and you couldn't help wanting to play there. That's why I took only one recruiting trip -- to Indiana. I wanted to play at Indiana ... for Coach Knight.
Nothing has felt real since I reached that goal. It's beyond anything I could have imagined. Those first few games, you'd try to look cool, but the whole time you're thinking, "I'm wearing an Indiana jersey." Looking back, I think the last time I truly had fun playing ball was during my freshman year. After that, the pressure and abuse were unbelievable. Coach Knight had these superhuman expectations. They were impossible to meet.
At the end of my junior year, all hell broke loose. We started the '96-97 season by winning the NIT, but ended it by losing to Colorado in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That's when Coach Knight called me and two other players into his office and told us we should transfer. One of those players started crying, telling Coach Knight what he wanted to hear. The other rocked back and forth in his chair, talking nonsense. It was ugly. Then it was my turn.
"Well, what do you think?" Coach Knight asked.
"I think Indiana isn't what it used to be," I said.
That was the last time we ever spoke.