As Indiana searches for its next basketball coach, do we dare utter the name of the perfect candidate above a whisper? You know the guy. The one that fits. The golden coach.
Every time the Indiana Basketball coaching job comes open, which is happening more and more often, one name tops the list of candidates above all the rest. As quickly as his name is mentioned, he is dismissed as unrealistic. Even when the job hasn’t been open, people acknowledge that if he ever expressed an interest, whomever the current coach is would be dispatched in his favor.
You know him. I know him. We all know him. In Indiana, we just call him Brad. Like Celine in Vegas or Elton in, well, anywhere, Brad Stevens is just Brad.
There isn’t an Indiana Basketball fan who can’t recite his story. Raised in suburban Indianapolis, Brad and his dad made many trips to Assembly Hall to watch Bob Knight‘s teams. He starred at Zionsville High School, played college ball at DePauw, got a cool gig at Eli Lilly, and then talked his way into an unpaid coaching job at Butler where he ascended as his mentors left one after another for more cash. He took the Bulldogs to back-to-back NCAA Championship games, and then left Hinkle Fieldhouse when Danny Ainge shocked Indy – and Boston – by hiring Brad to coach the Celtics.
Indiana’s job opened again today when Archie Miller was fired after four long years filled with losses to Purdue, non-winning Big 10 seasons, and bereft of invitations to the NCAA Tournament. Archie, for all his success at Dayton, didn’t fit in Bloomington. Maybe he’ll fit somewhere else. I hope so.
Brad fits Indiana, despite never playing or coaching for the Hoosiers. Basketball is the first and best loved sport in Indiana, and the people here are remarkably kind, welcoming, and generous. Indiana University once had a brilliant basketball mind as coach. They also had other coaches who were (and are) generous and kind. Never has Indiana had a coach who was both at the same time. Brad would be the first.
There are murmurs from disparate sources that Brad is actually considering a move home. Granted, they are rooted in hopes rather than tightly sourced documentation, but they are reasons for a genuine sense of hope nonetheless. Every story about IU and Brad begins with “A guy told me…,” so…. a guy told me earlier today that he had spoken to a very well connected guy in the world of business and college basketball a couple of weeks ago. When asked what he thought about IU and Archie, he dispassionately said, “Archie’s gone, and don’t be surprised if Brad Stevens takes the job.”
Another guy called today and said he was told two weeks ago by a business manager that his aunt was excited that she was able to meet Brad. She is a realtor in Bloomington and showed Brad and his family some homes. The conversation had nothing to do with Indiana Basketball At the time it was not thought that Miller would be fired, and my friend thought nothing of it. Just a nice anecdote, nothing more – until today.
These stories are not meant as factual evidence Brad will be the next coach in Bloomington. They are expressions of hope because that is all that fuels Indiana Basketball passion these days. Sure, these accounts are closer in tone and content to the infamous “Billy Donovan and his wife are in Bloomington looking at houses” than a report of an actual incident or inked affidavit.
The idea of Brad coming home to coach the Hoosiers is a beautiful dream, a plea that maybe one day IU catches a break and the timing becomes right for the perfect coach to lead this imperfect program. At the intersections of those two stories is not a road map to Brad’s plans, but a prayer that maybe this one time the planets align for a magic moment and bring a perfect hire.
Brad to Indiana has always been a magnificent fantasy, and it will likely remain a fantasy, but somewhere just on the other side of likely lies a reality Indiana fans cling to – that Brad might decide it’s time to finally come home.