Ex-Indiana player Neil Reed dies

Updated: July 27, 2012, 12:32 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Neil Reed, the former Indiana basketball player who coach Bob Knight was caught on tape choking in 1997, has died after collapsing in his Central California home. He was 36.

Pioneer Valley High School Principal Shanda Hererra said Reed died Thursday morning of heart complications in Nipomo, Calif.

In March 2000, Reed accused Knight of choking him during a practice in 1997.

When video of the practice surfaced backing Reed's claim, the Hall of Fame coach, who was known for his temper as well as his success, was put on a zero-tolerance policy by then-president Dr. Myles Brand.

That September, Knight, who became head coach at Indiana in 1971 and won three national championships, was fired after a student accused him of grabbing his arm.

"Believe it or not, I'm not happy that Indiana fired coach Knight," Reed told ESPN The Magazine at the time. "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."

Reed transferred to Southern Mississippi shortly after the incident at Indiana and played there in the 1998-99 season. He told the magazine he "fell out of love" with basketball.

"Maybe that was coach Knight's fault and maybe it was partly my fault," he said. "But if I can handle what I've been through, then I know I can handle what lies ahead."

Hererra said Reed had worked at the Santa Maria school coaching football, basketball, golf and teaching physical education since 2007.

Current Indiana coach Tom Crean called Reed "part of the Indiana family."

"It's just hard to comprehend," Crean said. "He has two young children, a wife and he was just starting to make his way in coaching.

"I've only spoken to him a couple of times since I took over here. The first, I was in San Antonio (at the Final Four) right after I got the job and I ran into his dad. He said to give Neil a call, so I did. I told him obviously I wasn't here when everything transpired and he was always welcome at Indiana.

"About a year later, he sent me his coaching manual -- his coaching philosophy. He was just getting started in coaching and I was really honored that he thought enough of me to do that.

"I didn't know him very well but he's a part of the Indiana family. Obviously, his time here didn't end the way he wanted it to, but he was still a part of this family. It's just so sad.'"

Crean also said that calls were coming in from Reed's former teammates, and Calbert Cheaney, another former player who now serves as Indiana's director of operations, was also fielding calls.

Reed's coach at Southern Miss, James Green, called Reed a "winner" Thursday night.

"He did the things that it takes to win ball games," said Green, now the coach at Jacksonville State in Alabama. "He was good to coach. You knew he was going to go out and give his best."

Green worked with Reed's father, Terry, at Southern Miss and Iowa State.

"When something like that happens, it's like part of your family," Green said. "It's kind of like when you have children, you never expect them to be passing before you."

Reed is survived by his wife, Kelly, and two daughters, Marley and Presley.

Information from ESPN.com college basketball reporter Dana O'Neil and The Associated Press was used in this report.