Indiana Basketball – It’s time to right the wrong done 15 years ago, that doesn’t mean bringing back Bob Knight

by Kent Sterling

Brighter days are ahead for Indiana Basketball, I think, and Fred Glass is going to be a part of that solution very soon - one way or another.

Brighter days are ahead for Indiana Basketball, I think, and Fred Glass is going to be a part of that solution very soon – one way or another.

Some mistakes you never stop paying for.

In 2000, Bob Knight was fired by Indiana University for being a jerk.  There was all that nonsense about Kent Harvey greeting Knight by his last name, and Knight typically exploding, but it was the incredible tonnage of bizarre idiocy in and around Assembly Hall that caused then-IU president Myles Brand to initiate the double-secret probation that zero-tolerance represented.

Knight should have walked away from Bloomington as soon as the meeting announcing the zero-tolerance madness was a adjourned, but he didn’t and the inevitable result – one guaranteed by zero-tolerance – came within months.

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Players threatened to walk out if a coach already on-staff wasn’t hired, and Mike Davis, a tee-shirt salesman a couple of years before was tabbed to follow the toughest act in the history of Indiana hoops.  Davis seemed lost, unsure of where he was, most of the time he was in Bloomington.  Like many coaches, Davis annoyed local high school coaches with his indifference to their players, and then baffled longtime Indiana fans by threatening to put names on the backs of the iconic IU jerseys.

His ill fit was obvious, but the trip in his second year to the NCAA Championship game bought enough equity to force fans and administrators to tolerate Davis for a total of six mostly uncomfortable years.  The basketball wasn’t terrible – Davis was fired after a trip to the NCAA Tournament – but the indifference represented by the puny crowd of 7,000 at Assembly Hall for the NIT opener the year before was impossible to overlook.

Rick Greenspan was the athletic director who fired Davis, and he was also trusted to lead the search for a new coach.  This hire brought an opportunity to right the wrong of the Knight firing – a chance for redemption – to set right the chain of events that would allow Indiana to return to its spot among the college basketball elite.  Greenspan isn’t the only person responsible for bringing Kelvin Sampson in as the next leader of the most important marketing arm of the university.  He had a helper.

Captain Velour was also instrumental in choosing Sampson.

Captain Velour was the nickname for Adam Herbert, the president who followed Brand when he assumed the leadership of the NCAA.  Herbert was an odd fellow who wore velour sweat suits to basketball games, and refused calls from the governor.  He was dispatched soon enough, but not before Sampson went rogue and broke the very same rules for which he was punished at Oklahoma before he took the IU gig.

We all remember the train wreck of his nearly two years as coach, and the result was one of the uglier stretches in the history of Indiana Basketball.

Dan Dakich restored accountability as the interim coach with some tickets out of town for those unable to adjust to a re-introduction of consequences for irresponsibility, and then Tom Crean was hired by Greenspan.

There was no succession plan implemented by Knight, Brand, or anyone else associated with Indiana University in 2000, and as a result the Hoosiers have suffered through mediocrity interrupted by equal doses of wretched and excellent basketball.

The fan base has been splintered into factions that are equally disenchanted with the status quo, but unsure where the program should head next, and yet another that believes Crean may in fact be the leader IU needs to rescue its standing among college basketball’s elite.

Only one thing is agreed upon – last year’s 7-11 in the Big Ten followed by this year’s 9-9 is unacceptable.  A roster without a senior or NBA ready player (at least as determined by those who assemble mock drafts) has left many fans with a feeling of hopelessness, and hopelessness brings indifference – the least desirable fan temperament for university administrators.

With the end of every season comes a period of evaluation, and the possibility of a scenario exists where a wrong in Bloomington can finally be righted.  I’m not saying that a Knight disciple needs to be hired to lead the Hoosiers and erase the memory of 15 mostly lost seasons, but that a leader worthy of Indiana’s supposed status as a top five or top ten program can be tabbed to restore the strong culture of winning the right way that made Knight’s lunacy worth tolerating.

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Maybe Crean suffers from many believing that he represents fruit of a poisoned tree.  Maybe his salesmanship rubs people the wrong way.  Hell, maybe he’s the right guy to lead a new generation of Hoosiers.  But there needs to come a reckoning of fans that this is Indiana Basketball, and to finally move forward to enjoy the players and their results.

Whether that means Crean is the longterm solution or athletic director Fred Glass is able to woo a candidate to Bloomington who can unite all factions of the fans like Michigan did in luring Jim Harbaugh to Ann Arbor or not, something needs to be done because using the word “toxic” to describe the situation in Bloomington has become tedious.

20 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – It’s time to right the wrong done 15 years ago, that doesn’t mean bringing back Bob Knight

  1. Matterhorn

    Things are not going to change with Crean. He will never have a top 20 defense. He will never stop Creaning. He will never stop making bad substitutions. He will never start redshirting kids and having 5th year seniors. He will never win a NCAA title. He will never have 10 straight years of making the NCAA. It’s not going to happen; this is like dealing with an addict hoping they will change on their own. IT AIN’T HAPPENING. I’m not going to sit here and list all the top coaches in college but do yourself a favor and go back and look at their coaching records then compare those to Crean. Look at Bill Self, hasn’t missed the tourney since freaking 1998!!! Look at Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, Coach K, Pitino. You know Kent you had Eddie White and your show and once again I need to say how much of an idiot he is, but I think some people really don’t think a coach matters at all. That in fact coaches should NEVER be fired. To say Tom Crean has had a good career at IU is borderline insane. Compared to what? If a business fails who is held responsible….the employees? That’s what I believe some people think. End this madness.

    1. A

      I agree Matterhorn, Crean will never stop being Crean. He’s not suddenly going to begin to really value defense, and push fundamentals on players. He’s not going to stop having knee jerk reactions and pushing players out for newer players he thinks will be better.

      Last night on his radio program, he said Troy Williams played the point guard position all practice yesterday. Seriously? The guy with the lowest basketball IQ, a player known for turnovers, is playing point guard. Not to mention he’s one of the only starters taller than 6 feet 3, so you might need him to help rebound play the post. Williams is not a great passer and doesn’t have great court vision.

      He is freakishly athletic, and can really help win the rebounding battle, but yes, pay him at point guard. This is the kind of thing that drives fans crazy. Not to mention, isn’t it a little late in the year to make this kind of change???

  2. A

    Yes, the environment in Bloomington is very, very toxic. I was here during the Knight years, Davis years, Samson years, and all of Crean’s years. It’s as bad here as it was during Davis’ final year here. Crean is a punch line. He’s mocked, laughed at, second guessed, and highly disliked. These are all from staunch IU basketball fans. Fans will not continue to support the program much longer with Crean at the helm. Apathy has already set in to fans.

    Fred Glass is quickly finding himself lumped together with Crean. First it was the contract, and now it’s the constant need to defend his coach and basketball program which up to this point in the season, has underachieved. Having 2 McDonalds All Americans, and multiple 4 star and 3 star players on a team, to finish 7th in a weak Big 10, losing 3 in a row at home, and to be in a situation where you must win against Northwestern to even be considered NCAA tourney worthy, is UNDERACHIEVING.

    I wish there were a candidate out there that just made perfect sense for IU. Stevens has been built up so much, the only direction he could go is down. He’ll probably never take the IU because of the expectations.

    I just hope a new contract for Crean or any coach would contain some stipulation: ‘Concentrate your recruiting in and around the state of INDIANA.’ Money used for recruiting should have some percentage requirement that the majority needs to be spent recruiting this state, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio.

    1. Matterhorn

      Exactly how can having your starting five be all top 75 recruits (which they are)and finishing 7th at 9-9 in conference even be close to overachieving….YOU WANT OVERACHIEVING- try this on for size…Uwe Blab, Mike Giomi, Steve Alford, Winston Morgan and Dan Dakich beating UNC with Jordan. How dumb does Glass think we are as fans. We know what overachieving looks like.

  3. Bill Stone

    Hey Kent!

    I hope all is well with you.

    I enjoy reading your writing-I especially enjoyed the above article. I have been a long time fan of Indiana basketball, and it has been tough since Bobby Knight left.

    Take care and keep up the good work!


    1. kentsterling Post author

      Thanks, Bill. Hope you had a good birthday. Still think of Lake Hills from time to time and wonder what happened to a lot of those people. Glad we stay in touch.

  4. j

    mike davis did not get fired. mike davis announced his resignation during the big ten season but finished out the season. he had a job in Alabama waiting on him. he did it to take the pressure off everyone and let everybody relax and let the team play. mike davis quit.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      You can look at it any way you like. Whether he jumped before he was pushed is irrelevant to the discussion. There was no chance Davis was going to survive to coach the following season.

  5. j

    for the record I want to say I respect crean for taking the job. he is as hard a working coach as I would expect anyone to be. old Marquette blogs from 2007 have fans complaining about the weave being his only offense is there isn’t a fast break, not playing good defense, not being able to defeat a zone and his only success being tied to a handful of players. its the same complaints we hear today just a different uniform. tom crean has not grown in 8 years. he will not grow in the next 8 years. if he does not grow he will not succeed. if he will not succeed he must be replaced.

  6. Matterhorn

    One last thing. I’m getting tired of hearing how great Glass is and how smart he is. Ok book smarts sometimes mean very little in real world situations. Want to know why Virginia got Tony Bennett as their coach????? Maybe because their athletic director Craig Littlepage played basketball and knows the game and isn’t some hotshot lawyer.

    1. Rick

      Matterhorn: You’re right on!
      Glass is very well connected, that is the prerequisite at IU, you don’t need to have played athletics or had any experience as an AD . We are the only major school who has a football coach with out any head coaching experience, a basketball coach who never played college basketball or an AD who has ever been an AD before. It appears the IU job is one where you can learn on the job.

      I don’t think the IU school of Medicine would hire somebody with no experience in medicine to run the med school?

      1. kentsterling Post author

        Your assertions about the resume’s of Crean, Wilson, and Glass fail take take into account the previous hire in which Indiana indulged. Rick Greenspan was previously an athletic director, as was Michael McNeely. Mike Davis played at Alabama and Kelvin Sampson played at Pembroke State University. Gerry DiNardo previously coached. How did those eras rate in your book.

        I think Fred is doing a great job. I would rather have a basketball team that wins, but the priorities established by Glass have resulted in success in virtually every realm. Football has not turned the corner, but I believe it will. Basketball is a different issue, but addressing it needs to be handled at the right time and through patient evaluation. If Fred is going to make a change, the right guy better be in line to succeed him, or this story will repeat itself in another few years.

        Fred understands the process that will yield the best result in the long run, and I trust he will get it right.

        Be careful what you wish for. Given the roster of previous ADs, Fred is an A student.

    2. Hoosiers1111

      You do realize Glass didn’t hire Crean right? Playing basketball has little relevance to being a good AD, or even coach or general manager. Just look at Isaiah Thomas.

      Glass did hire Wilson, who seems to be getting things on the right track, at least from a recruiting standpoint. And even if Wilson fails, Glass wouldn’t be the first AD at IU to hire a football coach that had a failed tenure. They all have.

      1. Matterhorn

        Yes I know Greenspan hired Crean, however Glass did extend him 10 years so what’s the difference at this point. Here is what is driving fans insane though. Glass comes out and says that at the beginning of the year if he knew IU would be 10-8 he would take that in a second. That’s just not acceptable ever at IU. I just want to know what the expectations are for next year if Crean is retained that’s all I want, because you know the loyalists will have their excuses when things fall apart again, they always do.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Greenspan extended Crean from 8 to 10 years before he left. Fred extended Crean again for an additional two years thru the 2019-2020 season. Not sure that’s germane, but it is accurate.

    1. Matterhorn

      All you need to recruit at Indiana is a car that works and a coach that knows what he is doing the rest will take care of itself, no need to fly to the east coast. That’s like Florida State recruiting football in Indiana.

      1. kentsterling Post author

        Totally agreed. With Tom Crean, I’m often reminded of Bob Knight’s quote, “Don’t complicate winning.” I think Crean complicates recruiting.

  7. PalmettoHoosier

    As a University of Evansville grad and a life long IU fan I have to throw the name out there… Anybody ever heard of Jim Crews? I know his years at Army weren’t the greatest but that was Army. His years at U of E were strong and He is doing a great job in St. Louis now. I know he would be considered a Bobby disciple but maybe the time has come to recognize that’s hard work, discipline, and team over self are not bad qualities to teach young men.


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