Indiana Basketball – Since Knight, winning hasn’t been worth the hassle for the University

Indiana won games, conference championships, and hung banners with Bob Knight as coach. Since his firing, Indiana University has decided that level of winning is not worth the headaches.

Do you watch Indiana Basketball and wonder why it is on a never-slowing treadmill of mediocrity?

Here is the answer – Indiana University is punishing its Basketball program and its fans for the success it reaped during the Bob Knight era.

Three national championships, five Final Fours, 11 Big 10 titles, and a 659-242 record came with a lot of baggage.  The head butt, kicked shin, flying flower pot, thrown chair, myriad of embarrassing public comments, and Knight’s overall boorishness became intolerable as successes diminished in frequency, so Knight was fired.  But Indiana wasn’t done punishing the program.

Mike Davis was hired to replace Knight, despite being entirely unprepared (by his own admission) for the challenges of the job.  Kelvin Sampson was hired to replace Davis, and he went bananas recruiting talented but behaviorally challenged players.  He broke rules, was fired, and replaced by Dan Dakich.  Too briefly, all was right with the world.  Indiana understood itself again.

Then IU decided to step outside the Knight coaching tree again to hire Tom Crean.  Until he absolutely wore out every coach, player, and recruit’s family in the state of Indiana, Crean found the right combination of in-state and out-of-state talent.  His tenure ended when it became clear his teams were evolving in the wrong direction while his ego remained championship sized.

Archie Miller replaced Crean, and the program has been stuck in suspended animation since.  Each year the promise of growth is broken, and the return to glory is delayed.  This season is still unfolding, but the results so far have been very similar to years past.

As programs at Illinois and Ohio State continue to careen toward excellence after hiring coaches simultaneous to Miller in the 2017 offseason, Indiana sits just under .500 at 6-7.  Brad Underwood and Chris Holtmann have built the Illini and Buckeyes programs that are currently ranked in the top five.

During the 20 years since Knight’s firing, the Hoosiers have won three Big 10 titles (2002*, 2013, and 2016), been to the 2002* Final Four (*with players recruited by Knight), and have compiled a record of 393-285.  That’s right, Indiana won 266 more games under Knight than it has during  for the five coaches who have followed him, while losing 43 more.

Indiana understands exactly what it is doing.  Mediocrity ensures control over a coach, and championships provides popularity that might unleash a massive ego to cause administrative torment and misery in the way Knight did.  Better to be okay in the present with the ability to sell potential for a bright future than play at a championship level.

It’s not really a matter of Indiana punishing itself for creating the monster Knight became, but more an unwillingness to venture down that road again where the basketball coach becomes a campus behemoth – the most famous and popular person in Indiana, not just Indiana University.

IU receding from the blue bloods is a contrived strategy that won’t end with Miller’s firing whenever it comes.  it will continue with yet another underwhelming hire, and another, and another.

The only hope is that athletic director Scott Dolson will be able to find a generational championship level coach whose managerial strength lies in humility, not arrogance.  That John Wooden and Brad Stevens are the only examples of servant-leaders that won big I can think of tells you a little about their scarcity.

Indiana Basketball is mired in mediocrity because of a willful decision that it should be.  The price necessary for greatness has not been paid by IU’s president, board of trustees, athletic directors, or silly blue ribbon panels convened to vet candidates each time the coaching job opens.

Future banners are unlikely to be won because at Indiana it is believed they can only be hung by self-immersed jerks who fail to understand the consequences of hubris.

8 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Since Knight, winning hasn’t been worth the hassle for the University

    1. Larry Kaiser

      Bob Knight deserves blame for the failure to recruit talented centers and power forwards that all of Indiana University’s basketball coaches following him have encountered. Knight established that reputation–Knight wanted to show the world he could win big without having to recruit athletes who to fans appear to have more to do with the winning than does the coach. With the exception of Kent Benson, the few 7-foot centers that played for Knight were project athletes, and the reputation took over from there.

  1. Robert Ashworth

    Facilities? A+
    Salaries? A+
    In State Talent? A+
    Fan base? A+
    Tradition? A+
    Stop making excuses, get someone like Brad Stevens or Tony Bennett, and go to town.

  2. Richard Risk

    Winning is WORTH hassle. Until that mind set is back, this program will continue to decline. I’ll take Coach Knight “baggage” any day, month, or year

  3. Bear

    Kent, once again you amaze me with your intuition. Somehow you have cracked the inner-workings of the minds of the IU Administrators uncovering their real motives. Did you ever consider being a psychiatrist?

    I just have a couple of questions:
    o If the IU administrators don’t care about winning why do they invest so much money on coaches,
    assistant coaches, facilities, and recruiting?
    o Also, why does the athletic department still display the five NCAA Championship banners?
    o Why don’t they simply withdraw the basketball program from the BIG 10?

    Like I said before, your powers of intuition are amazing. Keep trying, Kent, someday you will submit some thoughts that really hit the mark. Remember, even a blind squirrel gets an acorn once in a while.

  4. Archiesgottago

    This is just a dumb article. So let me understand you Kent, Alabama punished their fans on purpose after Bear Bryant???? Really? No it just took them awhile to find the right coach. Really a pathetic waste of time Kent.

  5. Archiesgottago

    Yea It’s all a big conspiracy Fred Glass really wanted IU to suck at basketball, in fact Fred Glass was actually a spy for Purdue and was groomed for this since he was an undergraduate in Bloomington. My god Kent


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