'Doc' Knapp, beloved SIU basketball figure, passes away at 80
One of the most beloved fixtures of the Southern Illinois Saluki's men's basketball program, Dr. Don Knapp, died earlier this summer at the age of 80.
"(He made an) indelible impact," Mike Reis, SIU director of external and broadcast operations, said. "(He was) loyal and caring no matter the success of the season or how talented the player was."
Knapp was born in 1935 in Benton, Illinois. He graduated from Benton High School and attended the University of Illinois-Champaign. He then went to medical school at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Knapp initially went into private practice in Robinson, Illinois, but he then returned to Benton and started working at SIU. He became the director of the Student Health Service and also became the team physician for the men's basketball team, a position he held for 30 years.
"For 30 years he was a rock; a constant around Saluki basketball," Reis said. "A rock financially and a rock emotionally. Financially, he was a huge supporter of the program. Emotionally, he was a guy the program could count on to be a good listener as well as an excellent provider of medical care."
When asked what his best memory was of his time working with Knapp, Reis was unable to choose just one.
"Plenty of them," he said. "Sitting in chair 1 on the bench. There’s a huge void now. Yelling 'let the Big Dawg eat' as the team bus pulled out or team plane took off. The time he called me 'Southern Illinois’ Jack Buck.' Buck was my hero and that’s the second best compliment I’ve ever received. The many times he told me I stayed out too late on the road! The many high-end meals he bought for the team on the road. How he cherished the players. How he thought the team was going to the Final Four every year. How he counseled my family when I was hospitalized for much of the summer of 2004."
Besides his work with the basketball team, Knapp also enjoyed playing golf. He married Evelyn Schlichting in 1998 in Minnesota. He is survived by his wife, two sons, Bill (Robin) and John; and a sister, Lynn (Jamie) Shotts. Knapp is also survived by a nephew, Allan (Kelly), and a niece, Julie.
Those wishing to make financial donations in honor of Knapp are being asked to do so to the Southern Illinois University Foundation for Men's basketball (Carbondale, Illinois), the Mayo Clinic or to Seasons Hospice Home in Rochester, Minnesota.