There are people who have called it “scorched earth” on social media. I call it truth articulated by one who knows because he has been there and done that for as long as Khristian Lander has been alive.
From 1981-1997 and again during the tumultuous final year of the Kelvin Sampson darkness, Dan worked to contribute to the winning and honorable culture of Indiana Basketball. When he watches others refuse to reflect and respect what Indiana Basketball means to him, Dan can get raw and honest.
And he should.
When Indiana is outclassed, outworked, and out-executed at Assembly Hall by Purdue, as they were in last night’s 12-point loss, Dan has earned his place at the pulpit from which to proselytize.
Dan spoke of basketball fundamentals that Purdue exhibited and Indiana seems to ignore, like putting a shoulder to the hip of a screener, keeping hands above elbows ready to catch as you come off a screen, and having your momentum forward during a shot. He also mentioned the clear lack of pride shown by the Hoosiers, and an unwillingness to do what’s necessary to reverse the malaise that has engulfed IU Hoops through the last 18 years.
In his final season as a player, Dan and the Hoosiers played in the 1986 NIT. Despite playing UCLA in the championship game, Dan sees that season as a failure because, well, of course being passed over for the NCAA Tournament was a failure back then. Hell, it’s even a failure now, even though Indiana hasn’t played in an NCAA Tournament since 2016.
Dan spoke eloquently about the sacrifices Steve Alford, Todd Meier, and Daryl Thomas made during the summer of ’86 to turn that failure into Indiana’s fifth and final National Championship in 1987. He correctly assessed the current Indiana team as being unwilling to pay the price needed to win. Evidence of that lack of emotional investment are in the results of all four of Miller’s teams.
In his 27-minute long genuine and forthright monologue, Dan read texts of exasperation from former IU players he received last night during the loss that communicated a sense of abandonment by their university and their program.
Archie Miller is never going to be a part of that world. There isn’t an Indiana fan on the planet that doesn’t understand that Miller is the head coach at IU because former athletic director Fred Glass offered him $24M over seven years with $20.5M guaranteed to take the gig. This wasn’t about work that Miller would do for free because he loves the IU and Bloomington – nor should it be that for anyone. But it was a business deal for Miller, and he took the job despite having no inkling what Indiana Basketball means to the people here or how to win in Bloomington.
So, Dan and other former players are angry that bad basketball is being played by a bunch of kids who seem to be committed to piss away an opportunity to engage in a collective effort to accomplish something meaningful. The alums know these four years go by way too quickly, and never come around again.
I’m sure they players ask, “Who are these old heads trying to tell how it is?” I get it. I used to listen to alums talk about life, and think about how different today was from 30 years ago. I’ll tell you what isn’t different from back in Dan’s day – how to come off a screen, get your hands up ready to receive the ball, and the fundamentals of shooting – three of the many areas where the Hoosiers are sorely lacking.
One thing has changed completely though – Purdue is a lock to kick Indiana’s ass twice a year. That has nothing to do with the psychology of today’s elite athlete. It has to do with Purdue’s culture of toughness and fundamental execution.
See, like Dan asked today, “What does Indiana Basketball stand for?” Any fool could see what Purdue stands for basketball played the right way as part of a culture of toughness developed over 40 years by Gene Keady and Matt Painter. Indiana seems to stand for comfort.
So instead of laughing at the old heads, maybe IU players should embrace playing at a higher level and holding each other accountable for that. And maybe Indiana University should once listen to a group of men who understand first hand the sacrifices necessary to win at their alma mater, and who might succeed at bringing him to Bloomington.
Indiana Basketball under Archie Miller appears determined to do the same thing again and again hoping for different results. The results, now in a fourth year, have not been different. The 81-69 loss to Purdue was similar to all the other results Millers’ Hoosiers have earned against the Boilermakers.
IU’s defeat last night was Miller’s sixth without a win. The average deficit of those losses has been 11 points. Indiana looks eerily similar from game to game and season to season as they languish in the bottom half of the Big 10. Their misery against Purdue stretches farther back that Miller’s arrival in Bloomington. Tom Crean lost five of his last six against Matt Painter‘s Boilermakers, but Miller has been on the job long enough to own the recent lack of success against his in-state rival.
As a counterpoint to Miller’s intractability during duress, I searched for stories about great coaches who adjusted when times got tough. I came across a pretty well known moment during Urban Meyer’s time at Florida when his Gators turned the corner and established Meyer as one of the top leaders in the game.
Using the offense he developed at Bowling Green and Utah, Meyer was out-schemed at LSU in a 21-17 loss. The Tigers blitzed ever time Florida went empty backfield, and Florida had no counter punch as Meyer tried to operate his offense with former coach Ron Zook’s roster.
After the game, Meyer threw his playbook in the trash and resurrected parts of Zook’s offense, including the implementation of a fullback. The following week, Florida beat #4 Georgia 14-10 in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party game at the Gator Bowl.
Meyer put pride and dogma aside and did what was necessary to win. That’s what great coaches do.
As I watch Indiana operate with very similar schemes and behaviors game after game and season after season, Miller appears to be unwilling to do the same thing. There are wrinkles that IU implements, but it seems Miller is convinced that his Hoosiers can succeed only by improving at doing what he demands of them in the way he demands it, rather than catering to their collective and individual strengths. He appears unwilling to throw the playbook in the trash and focusing on winning rather than prideful adherence to his ideology.
We aren’t at practice or in meetings and have only the games as evidence of Miller’s leadership, the achieving the same results again and again suggests the same operational methodology.
The result of whatever is going on behind the scenes at Cook and Assembly Halls has been winning percentages of .516, .543, .625, and .571, and exactly zero winning seasons in Big 10 play. Miller’s current team has two Crean recruits remaining – Al Durham and Race Thompson – so these are now Miller’s guys who should be able to function well in Miller’s system.
Miller keeps saying things like “It’s on me,” in postgame press conferences. He said it again last night, and with a stretch of five games looming against Iowa, Rutgers, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa (again), I expect to hear it a few more times, and he will be right. At some point, the responsibility for entrenched mediocrity – unless there is a drastic change in results – will fall on the desk of the man paid $3.5M per season to win games and graduate student-athletes without cheating.
Coaches who bang their heads against brick walls tend to bleed before finally being carted away. Miller needs to take a page out of Meyer’s playbook, walk around or climb the brick wall, and find a way to win.
The banging – and losing – has to stop.
If a professional athlete outgrows Indianapolis, the issue is not with this city but with the athlete.
During his just ended time in Indy, Victor Oladipo came to believe that he would be unable to reach his potential from a branding/business perspective while stuck in this relatively small NBA market. His evolution as a brand was stunted by tiny Indy and the flyover fans in it.
It never hurt Reggie Miller. It never hurt Peyton Manning. It never hurt Tony Dungy. And it didn’t hurt Oladipo.
What hurt Oladipo – and Paul George before him – is Indianapolis’s lack of fascination with celebrity. People here treat celebrities like ordinary folks. There are no fawning crowds in restaurants clamoring for autographs or people impressed by millions of IG followers. People in Indy are trying to live life as best they can while respecting the space of others.
I knew there was a problem with Oladipo two years ago when he (or one of his minions) called ahead for a private room at the northside Harry & Izzy’s one night while I was there. Maybe in LA or New York, a private room or VIP area serves a purpose to keep groupies away, but not in Indianapolis.
I’ve seen people leave both Manning and Miller alone in restaurants. I’ve seen Larry Bird ignored. I saw NCAA president Mark Emmert at the same Harry & Izzy’s on that same night. Unlike Manning and Miller, Emmert is disliked vehemently by some for the way he runs college sports, and people might want to give him a piece of their mind (no one did – although I was tempted). Somehow, Oladipo needs a private room?
People say, “But Victor is a singer and can’t achieve his goals as a worldwide iconic entertainer in Indianapolis.” Is that right? Being in Indy, Orlando, Oklahoma City, and Bloomington has been the problem with Oladipo’s record sales. The truth is Oladipo doesn’t move music because while a gifted singer among the small universe of NBA players, he is quite ordinary compared to people who do it for a living.
As you list problems that corrupt your ability to be fruitful and happy, where you live should be nowhere near it. The list should be filled with who you live with, why you make the choice you do, and how you behave. Those problems follow us wherever we go. Most people search for solutions without looking in the mirror until turning 30, and begin living as an adult. At that point, we realize that problems tend to follow us from town to town. Moving to LA, Chicago, and New York are not solutions.
The truth about Indianapolis is that this is the best major league city in America for athletes. State income tax is low, real estate prices make buying a great home painless, fans are respectful of your space, teams are almost always competitive (at least), and the complications of a huge city are nowhere to be found.
That Oladipo could not find a way to enjoy Indianapolis and profit from the willing fervor Pacers fans felt for him is all on him. He will find it is the same wherever he ends up after finishing this season in Houston – if he winds up anywhere. He’s 28 and on his fifth team, so continuing to bounce around North America until he’s 36 is a possibility.
Hoosiers bear some responsibility for Oladipo’s wanderlust – and Paul George’s before him – in recognizing when a guy is full of it – when he begins to believe his own hype and drink his self-stirred Kool-Aid. Indianapolis doesn’t like liars, posers, or social climbers. Act like a human being, Indy is right there with and for you. Demand star treatment, and the wall goes up quickly and permanently.
One day, Oladipo might develop enough self-awareness to understand that his happiness – or lack thereof – is entirely based upon who he is … not where he is.
If the Rockets were among the teams Victor Oladipo solicited while in the bubble playing for the Pacers, he got his wish.
Oladipo, who went from selfless hero to mirror-caressing diva with speed enough to impress Paul George, was dealt this afternoon to the Houston Rockets in a four-way deal that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets and Caris LeVert back to the Pacers along with a second rounder.
LeVert is a fifth-year wing who has started roughly half the games he played since joining the Nets in a draft night deal that sent LeVert from the Pacers to the Nets in exchange for Thad Young.
If he can stay healthy, which has been a significant challenge for LeVert since his junior year at Michigan. LeVert is a solid wing who can get points, rebounds, and assists, averaging 18.5/4.3/6.0 while playing more than 27 minutes in al 12 Nets games.
Whether this deal is a great one for the Pacers comes down to whether they could have gotten a better return for Oladipo – a short-term asset for the Rockets with significant buy-in issues and the potential for never being the same player he was prior to tearing his quad tendon. LeVert is a reasonable facsimile of Oladipo in several ways who belongs to the Pacers for two years beyond Oladipo’s best possible expiration date. LeVert is on a team-friendly deal that will keep him in Indy for this season plus the next two at an average of $17.5M per.
Most troubling about Oladipo was his recent return to Chuckerville after taking an average of 19 shots to score 19 points over his last five games. Victor the diva was never going to mesh on the floor with point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who has been the clear and obvious team leader since being acquired by the Pacers in a deal with the Bucks.
LeVert at his best is never going to be the equal of pre-injury Oladipo, but then again neither is Oladipo.
This is a deal the Pacers had to make if Oladipo was determined to bounce after the season – or try to extract max money out of the Pacers. Time will tell whether it was the right deal at the right time, but in the moment it appears reasonable.
And given that Harden’s shots have to be taken be somebody as the Rockets completely unravel, Oladipo may find enhanced opportunities to go bombs away as he stat-stuffs toward a lucrative free agency.
Here is a very partial comp between Oladipo and LeVert for this brief regular season:
Oladipo – 6’4″, 213 lbs – 20 ppg; 5.7 rpg; 4.2 apg; 36.2% 3pt%; 50.3% eFG%; 105 OR; 108 DR
LeVert – 6’6″, 20.5 lbs – 18.5 jpg; 4.3 rpg; 6.0 apg; 34.9 3pt%; 49.0 eFG%; 108 OR; 109 DR