Indiana Basketball – What I miss most isn’t the winning – it’s the arrogance

by Kent Sterling

Lots of Indiana and Illinois kids won a National Championship for Indiana University in 1981.

Lots of Indiana and Illinois kids won a National Championship for Indiana University in 1981.

Before I even begin writing, I want you to be aware that everything I embrace in this post represents pie in the sky ideals from a time long past that cannot return.  Tom Crean might as well submit a letter of resignation as adopt any of these philosophies.  I know they are unworkable, and I’m not holding anyone accountable for not employing them in 2014.

There was once a time when Indiana Basketball followed rules far more rigid than those employed by the NCAA to ensure fairness, and that kids from Indiana filled the Indiana University roster.

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If Indiana needed to reach beyond its borders for talent, it almost never crossed more than one.  Illinois and Ohio were fair game, but beyond that kids were ignored.  Jim Thomas came from Florida, but his parents graduated from Indiana so there was a legacy issue there.  Todd Meier was from Wisconsin, but to us that’s like far northern Illinois.

Indiana graduated virtually everyone, and no advertising was allowed in Assembly Hall.  Hoosier fans could look down there noses at every fan of another school with haughtiness because all of the excuses used for programs that regularly cheated or used basketball players as cattle in a cash grab were shown to be hollow concessions by the lazy and stupid.

And Indiana won – a lot.  Eleven Big Ten titles in 21 seasons, and three National Championships.  Those were high times for the Hoosiers.  It was akin to winning AAU tournaments with a neighborhood team of talented honor students while playing against those who culled talent from everywhere and anywhere.

There was a piece today in the Indianapolis Star about the Indiana University footprint, and how necessary it is for them to establish a recruiting foothold in the east – how financial concerns prompt Indiana to accept cash for playing at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center at the expense of scheduling home and homes or going into there pocket for opponents to visit Assembly Hall without a return.

The days of playing a robust home schedule that makes studies for players easier and life for non-playing students more fun are over.  The thought of never having to leave a 90-mile radius of Bloomington to fill the roster with guards appear to be gone too.  Players still succeed academically, and with the exception of a grim period between 2001-2008, rules have been followed – minus a visit to Gary Harris at Hamilton Southeastern High School one day outside the allowed window and a Steve Alford appearance in an Alpha Gamma Delta sorority calendar for charity.

Indiana wants to get acquire talent from the four corners of the globe, and squeeze money out of every square inch of Assembly Hall just like the big boys.  Can’t blame Crean for trying to find the best players available, and I was happy as hell with Victor Oladipo as Hoosier – both on and off the court – so I’m wooed too by good players who can’t get to Assembly Hall by car in under two hours too, but I sure did love it when championship basketball was played in Bloomington by kids who always dreamed of wearing the candy stripes.

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College basketball is big business, and at Indiana it is THE siren song for prospective college students looking at more than the quality of the business school as they decide where to enjoy their lives for the next four to seven years.

It’s also the single most important factor in determining the largesse of alums and boosters as they decide how many zeroes to throw on the checks that pay for new buildings in Bloomington.  You think athletic director Fred Glass cares if Crean wins with Martians?  Exercising some loony arrogant impulse to win with players from a tight radius of Bloomington is employed at the risk of Crean’s $3.16 million paycheck.

But it sure was fun – and successful – a generation ago.

24 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – What I miss most isn’t the winning – it’s the arrogance

  1. Scott

    Kent, if you are going to use names of people as examples to express your personal opinions and to emphasize your points. You would at least think you would know how to spell their names. The name is Todd Meier.

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      The producer for the Greg Garrison Show is Todd Meyer, and the spelling is always confused by that. No excuses, but that’s what causes my confusion. Thanks for pointing out the error.

      Reply
  2. Bob

    You guys were definitely arrogant, and asshole like your coach! But I enjoyed every minute of it. There were many violations under God Knight, but as total guru of the program with no oversite, he just didn’t turn them in. Now squall and deny it!!! Lol

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      I would be stunned if there were violations. The stories I have been told when from people who were there were that Knight was crazed about any hint of impropriety. His rule book was far stricter than the NCAA’s.

      Reply
    2. Warren in TN.

      Although my standard response is that I personally believe that minor and even major violations happen at schools far more often than the general public knows about, I can see this particular argument on both sides.

      No violations under Knight : Because he ran things with an iron fist and a maniacal manner that would scare the living shit out of anyone that thought they could get away with something illegal. Because GOD FORBID RMK catch you….

      There were violations under Knight that went unpunished and unnoticed : Because he ran things with an iron fist and a maniacal manner that would scare the living shit out of anyone to keep their mouth shut. Because GOD FORBID RMK catch you….

      take your pick

      🙂

      Reply
      1. kentsterling Post author

        Virtually certain it was the first answer. The moral high ground was very important to Knight.

        Reply
  3. Jeff Gregory

    Yes, if you wait long enough, all good things get ruined. You either love or hate Bob Knight, but he sure knew how to put out a successful product that was respected.

    Reply
    1. Warren in TN.

      I have always admired and respected how well Indiana played basketball on the court. Having said that, Coach Knight lost all semblance of respect from me the day he slapped Joe B. Hall in the back of the head. That, and many other instances, made me come to loathe and despise Knight as a coach and as a human being.

      My dad was “old school” and really liked Bob Knight. He saw his outbursts and “coaching technique” as an old school kick you in your ass to get you to do right way of doing things. I vehemently disagreed. We did this as Kentucky fans, mind you. He was from Indiana, as everyone on his side of the family. I was not, and two generations gapped me from his depression age generation.

      I grew up understanding it doesn’t take a slap or a kick or shouting an endless stream of obscenities and hate filled cursing to know you don’t need that to get a point across – or teach someone how to do something properly. You certainly don’t need to do that to properly motivate someone. If so, then why didn’t my parents ever do that to me ? I was a very mischievous and free spirit – getting into trouble – in my youth. But they never resorted to that, and I turned out just fine.

      So my viewpoint of Bobby Knight remains highly critical and full of no respect for him, as a man. The program, sure, I can respect the program. But from afar, that man gets ZERO respect from me. He made the conscious choice to carry himself as a grade “A” asshole all his life to many, many people, and that’s how he gets treated by me in my book.

      I just wanted to make that counter point, because any conversation that I can read and respond to needs to have what I just said as pointing out the other side of the coin where RMK is concerned.

      With respects, just my opinion.

      Reply
      1. kentsterling Post author

        The more stories I hear about Bob Knight, whether from former players, media that covered the Hoosiers during his tenure, or those who just had the misfortune to cross his path, the less I like him. He is unrepentant, and demands loyalty while showing none. There are outlier instances of great generosity, but they are nowhere near enough to serve as an adequate counter balance for those moments of ridiculous behavior.

        He was an ass, and likely remains one.

        All that said, his players graduated, won, and he didn’t cheat. He is likely the best basketball evaluator and strategist we will ever see. None of that mitigates the horror shows that he has authored as a man, but to ignore his ability to build a successful basketball team would be as wrong as many of Knight’s displays of arrogance.

        Reply
        1. Jeff Gregory

          I disagree with one statement you made here. I spent a year with the IU basketball program. I talked to a lot of people and even in interviews, they all say the same thing: Knight demands loyalty, but is ALSO VERY LOYAL to those who are loyal to him. However, once you betray his loyalty, he’s done with you.

          Reply
          1. kentsterling Post author

            I guess the question is – what constitutes a betrayal? Are they consistently assessed, or does Knight hold others to a standard he cannot meet himself?

        2. Jeff Gregory

          The only answer I have for that is for all those who made that statement (and it was a very universal comment), apparently it passed their standards. That would be a good question for you to ask Dan Dakich. I know that he was one of the guys who said that.

          Reply
  4. Warren in TN.

    Miss being arrogant? It’s not too late to come over to the dark side and be a Kentucky fan. C’mon, Kent you can do it ! It’s easy being arrogant over here in the big bad evil empire where everyone – including the generation ago IU fans that loved to hate us then as well as now – we’re still here winning titles, going to title games, and Final Four appearances. UK’s even got a hated coach that everyone likes to take cheap shots at, gets under your skin, but UK fans love, just like good ole RMK. Well, in a certain way, you get the gist.

    I say it’s good to finally hear you essentially admit to wanting to be Kentucky.

    All jesting aside, I’m glad I’m back to post again, I’ve not been feelin’ so hot lately, but am trying to push thru the day. I wanted to drop by your site and say hello to you, my friend. Lots of good content to keep me busy reading this afternoon. This article made me have to respond with some levity and some side points as I went along.

    I think your article hits many great points, but what resonates with me :

    “beyond that (border of Indiana/Ohio/Illinois) kids were ignored” – times change and that arrogance in recruitment mentality has cost Indiana HUGE over the years. Sure if you could simply go back to that bygone age and rekindle getting all that talent to come back to stay inside the state, things might not be much for the worse. But the shortsightedness of a mentality that “ignored” a kid from anywhere else has cost the program a perch that it might not ever recover from falling from.

    “excuses used [by] programs that regularly cheated or used basketball players as cattle in a cash grab were shown to be hollow concessions by the lazy and stupid.”

    – to me, that’s a perfect way to sum up an Indiana fan’s mentality, as I have come to understand over the years. UNCheat, Duke, UK, add any number of other programs to that list you want, but all of them have continued having success with IU falling ever behind. Now, IU is a shell of its’ former self. Maybe an impropriety or two behind the scenes that didn’t become a full blown scandal would’ve paid off for IU a time or two over this long fall. Maybe, just maybe, more Indiana fans would trade that for what has actually transpired over the years, in hindsight. That’s some hella food for thought.

    And yes, IU won a lot. – largely a by-product of the greater emphasis on the high school basketball mentality of the state, in my opinion. It all started there for IU. As it should still be.

    But once again, we come to the crux of the matter. The kids that play ball these days ARE NOT focused on scholastics and graduating. They want the big money of the NBA and getting there asap. In this arena, IU is playing catchup. You can’t have the graduating cake and eat the one and done cake too. It just doesn’t work that way. It appears you need a mix these days to stay at the top echelon of college hoops. I’m not sure if Indiana can make it back there with Crean. I give credit for sticking with him to see if it will work, but I don’t think it’s going to work. And what then ?

    Well, losing Crean would mean a new coach, and he would have to turn around things FAST and make a HUGE splash to crack the elite level and get IU back to a blue blood status once again. And let me make that clear, right now, Indiana has lost that status whether you want to admit that or not. If you don’t believe me, just look at how many college players were ALIVE when IU last won a national title. Your almost pushing 30 years on that one, so you do the math. That’s all that matters in that discussion, in the present.

    But fret not, pining away for the good ole’ days where you could get arrogant right back in the face of us dreaded Big Blue Nation people doesn’t have to be the end of your arrogant days.

    As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them !

    *wink*
    – take care, your friend, Warren 🙂

    Reply
    1. Pauly Balst

      Glad you are feeling better Warren, was worried about you. But I figured we were in a slow part of the year for basketball fans.

      Question: why was the Joe B Hall head slap such a big deal? I saw it as an athlete to athlete sign of respect and even affection. Did the media blow it up? Did Joe B? An affront to UK? I didn’t understand why it was blown up into a big story.

      Reply
    2. kentsterling Post author

      Thanks, Warren. Glad you are feeling better. I always enjoy your perspective. I’m writing less as the result of hosting a daily radio show In Indianapolis (3p-6p on CBS Sports 1430), so you weren’t too badly burdened as you tried to catch up. During the first seven weeks of the show, I have only taken one shot at Kentucky, which is a great surprise to me. I need to get cracking! 🙂

      Stay well. You are welcome anytime.

      Reply
  5. S Brown

    IU’s recruiting strategy sucks. If you recruit the big 5 star player, they leave after one year. Crean needs to focus on players that he can develop over 3 or 4 years. Devon Davis is a good example of a key recruit that can improve, Blackmon is a good example of a poor recruit. He has great talent but he will bolt after one or two years if he has a good freshman year.

    The real issue here is if Crean can teach the game to kids that have potential and plan to stay at IU. Chasing 5 star talent is useless, a waste of time. Teaching the game, is essential and the way that you build a national contender. This year will decide if Crean has the capability to teach and build a contender.

    I have serious doubts about this guy and his capability, but we will see…….

    Reply
  6. philboyd studge

    Losing to some Canadian college kids, the Ottawa Gee Gees today while giving up 109 points won’t do much for the swagger quotient for the Hoosiers. After the loss to the Gee Gees Tom Crean was heard singing, “How Do You Mend a Broken Team” while Fred Glass, who hired Crean, was humming that old classic, “I Started A Joke.”

    Meanwhile, Kentucky thrashed a team of decent professionals in the Bahamas, looking better than the NCAA Runner Up of last year already, despite being without two future NBA players, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles.

    You want to win and be arrogant about it? There is room on the bandwagon, Kent.

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      Part of my arrogance is in not feeling dirty about my affiliation. Kentucky fans are like hedge fund operators. Sure, they get rich, but at what cost to their souls. Indiana fans are more like Martin Sheen in “Wall Street.” We are always going to live paycheck to paycheck, but we sleep well and walk down the street without having our heads on a swivel.

      Reply
      1. Philboyd Studge

        Good luck with the recruitment of Ray Kasango. I think Brandon Bender will feel right at home in Bloomington. Still faking that “losing the right way” nonsense, after years of probation under Kelvin Sanctions, after years of embracing a psychopathic bully in Bobby Knight, after looking the other way as Crean hired the unqualified son of a compromised AAU coach who gave players improper benefits, after this tawdry Kasango flirtation.

        Grow up Kent. Just because all Indiana’s sleazy behavior has resulted in a quarter century of mediocrity — and worse — doesn’t give you any moral high ground. It just makes your status as losers more ludicrous.

        Reply
        1. kentsterling Post author

          You are assuming facts not in evidence. Adams was neither unqualified nor guilty of providing improper benefits.

          Knight was (and is) a bizarre amalgam of the best and worst you could be as a coach. No one is lauding his behavior as righteous.

          Losing the right way is superior to winning through subterfuge, but neither is acceptable.

          Reply
        2. kentsterling Post author

          Your assessment of Adams is intellectually lazy and assumes facts not in evidence.

          Knight is a petulant bully mired in an adolescence extended by a lack of consequence for idiocy, not a psychopath.

          And the mediocrity has only lasted 22 years, not a quarter century.

          The status as loser you speak of is not ludicrous, but torturous.

          Reply
  7. GardenStateHoosier

    Hey Ken,

    Don’t get me wrong. I like your articles. That’s why I’m here.

    But, did you know that IU played 5 games in Canada? Nothing from you. Or, that IU signed a couple new players since your last IU post … Zeisloft and Holt. Nothing from you. Or, that the complete schedule is out? Nothing from you.

    You’re not a REAL fan, are you? lol

    Write more IU-BB stuff! That’s an order.

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      Sadly, the Indiana games in Canada weren’t televised, so I didn’t have a chance to watch for myself. Also unfortunately, the Indiana recruits were not on my radar, and I’m waiting to pass judgment on their signing until I see them for myself. Highlight tapes could make me look like a player. 🙂

      There will be plenty on the Hoosiers soon enough!

      Reply

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