During the late 1970s, 1980s and early ’90s, I was a contributing sports editor for Inside Sports, Sport and Success (business) magazines.

It was a different era then and sportswriters like me writing 3,000- to 7,500-word features had a lot more access to athletes and coaches, spending days on end with the main subjects, their families and peers.

Hands down, the most competitive character I ever interviewed was Bob Knight, although back then he called himself Bobby Knight. His death at age 83 brought back memories of interviews with him as a profile subject for Success, and also Inside Sports and Satellite Orbit magazine pieces on him coaching the 1984 Olympics basketball team and profiles of his former players Steve Alford and Isiah Thomas.

He didn’t like most sportswriters, saying famously that most of us learn to write in grammar school and then go on to do other things. When I first went to Bloomington to interview him, he refused to allow me to attend a practice, so I stood with an ear to a gym entrance door, jotting down his commands and cussing. During the first interview, he asked if I wanted to do the interview in his Indiana office or in the dressing room with all his assistants. I chose the second because I took it as a dare but also figured I’d get interesting side quotes from them (which I did). As I left, one of the assistants invited me to talk to his athletes about the fine points of addressing media.

Mostly, I interviewed Knight about basketball strategies and memorable games he coached. He grew testy once when I asked about his run-in with a Puerto Rican police officer during the 1979 Pan American games in San Juan. On the telephone, I got great quotes about Knight from Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University and broadcaster and former Marquette coach Al McGuire. In person, I got great quotes from Oklahoma University basketball coach Billy Tubbs who said Bobby had an unfair advantage in the form of an extra assistant because Knight’s big ego also knew how to coach, and from Knight’s fishing buddy Jerry McKinnis, an outdoor TV personality, who said the coach was as happy catching bluegill as he was catching trophy bass. (The interview was before McKinnis invited me to fish for bluegill with him.) The Hoosier players I interviewed like Alford were careful to give me quotes about the coach as bland as pablum.

Knight was a legend at Indiana, where he once threw a chair in a game and later joked that he saw an elderly lady who was forced to stand and wanted to help her out. He eventually was fired by IU president Miles Brand in 2000 for losing his stack and screaming at an IU student he thought disrespected him. (Brand had only nice things to say to me about Knight years before the screaming match).

At any rate, though I was less than a footnote in Knight’s long, tempestuous career, in retrospect he was important to me as an emerging young writer. I learned that the tough interviews you dread can evolve into some of the most interesting articles you’ll ever write.

So rest long and easy, coach Bobby Knight. Thanks for an unforgettable memory. I hope you and McKinnis are having a fine time in heaven bagging bluegill.