Today, it’s Indiana’s turn in the crosshairs of the “Chasing Ghosts” series at ESPN.com, and the regurgitation of the last 19 years since Bob Knight was fired is not pretty.
Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson, Dan Dakich, Tom Crean, and Archie Miller are discussed as unworthy successors to Knight’s throne as the King of Bloomington, and all but Dan are mentioned as those IU might have regretted separating from.
Ironically, all but Dan proved themselves in a variety of ways to be unworthy successors during their reigns.
There are several truths about the responsibilities associated with the position Indiana University that must be embraced. Bob Knight set a hell of a standard in how to build a program that must be met. His behavior was self-indulgent to a historic degree, but his run of excellence on the court, in the classroom, and doing it clean should be a model for anyone interested in succeeding at IU (or anywhere).
Four things must happen at IU for fans to embrace a coach:
- The team must win.
- Players must graduate
- NCAA rules cannot be violated
- Must embrace history and traditions of the program
There are subset of requirements – like recruiting high school players from Indiana, as is being able to out-prepare and out-scheme Big 10 peers – but let’s stick with those four basic criteria as we evaluate those who have come and gone.
Mike Davis won with Knight’s players the first two years, and then regressed. There was loud chatter about Davis dealing with agents in a way for which former Auburn assistant Chuck Person has been convicted. Davis was better at recruiting his home state of Alabama than Indiana. He recruited Greg Oden without pitching Mike Conley, and he wanted names on the backs of IU’s jerseys. That last bit seems a petty reason to dislike Davis, but it isn’t to Indiana fans.
Kelvin Sampson’s flaws extended far beyond the impermissible phone calls and texts that led to his separation with the university. He recruited kids with substantial character issues (compared to typical IU recruits). The only box Sampson was interested in checking was winning, and that’s not enough at IU. That demand for clean recruiting of “good” kids is what colors the perception of this job as tough. Coaches have to win the “right” way with the “right” players.
Dan Dakich understands Indiana better than anyone alive. He played and coached for Knight for the better part of the 1980s and 1990s, and he wasn’t going to put up with any bullshit when he took over from Sampson. He knew first hand that Sampson had populated IU’s roster with bad eggs, and they had to go. Dan could have won with what he had and then cleaned house, but that isn’t in Dan’s character. Playing for IU is a privilege that is earned, and those who don’t earn it need to go – not tomorrow, next week, or next year. They need to go now – and they went. We’ll never know what might have happened if he had been given the opportunity to stick around.
Tom Crean did the right thing and achieved the right results for his first five years. Wins increased every season. Indiana kids wanted to play at Indiana. The APR was almost always 1,000. The only reported hint of cheating was because of a scheduling error that led to an impermissible visit to Gary Harris at Hamilton Southeastern High School. Then, it all went wobbly. Crean’s relationships with Indiana high school and AAU coaches wore very thin, recruiting was handled by a coach who has since been accused of paying cash to family members of a recruit at Louisville. The APR dropped. Winning seasons became less frequent.
Archie Miller has done everything but win. Recruiting and academics have improved. IU’s reputation with coaches is light years ahead of where it was when Crean was fired. Miller’s grade is incomplete, but there are reasons to believe the momentum is headed in the right direction.
Coaching basketball at IU is an impossible job for the wrong guy, and Indiana has hired the wrong guy at least three times since Knight was canned in 2000, and the 2000 version of Knight had evolved into the wrong guy for the very job he mastered.
Indiana fans will love an Indiana coach who leads Indiana kids to success on the court and in the classroom without cheating. Sounds easy enough!