Author Archives: Kent Sterling

Archie Miller needs to bring the gift of pain to the Hoosiers, or change will never come

Archie Miller looks stern in yesterday’s postgame presser, but does he have the mettle to change what bothers him?

“What’s the worst that can happen?” is a question kids ask themselves all the time as they assess the risk and reward scenarios for behavior.

If I make everyone in class laugh, I might get a detention.  Is that worth it?

Within the Indiana Basketball program, it appears the harshest discipline Archie Miller is willing to wield is an unchanging rotation and an occasional scowl.

Not much of a deterrent for those not hard wired toward competing every single opportunity.  It takes awhile for kids to understand that regret is the most effective teacher.  Opportunities lost haunt adults for a lifetime.  That lesson requires experience these kids have not banked yet.

The only playing time casualty this season has been Damezi Anderson, who has earned a spot at the end of the bench because of an entrenched inability to make shots.  Other than that, players continue to get their run regardless of their lack of desire to compete.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

When I was in high school, I knew the punishment for breaking curfew was being grounded for one week, so as the deadline approached at various parties on many Friday nights, I asked myself whether staying later was worth a week at home.  The problem for my parents was that I liked being at home almost as much as going out.  Being grounded was hardly a punishment at all.  So guess what I did?  Stayed out as late as I wanted quite a bit – or stayed home.  It was a win-win.

Seems that’s where Indiana Basketball is right now.  By Miller’s own admission, his Hoosiers refused to compete yesterday.  That’s happened many times this season, and whatever punishment Miller has deployed has yet to bring a change in attitude.

The players seem to have figured out that whatever consequence Miller is willing to Impart, it’s not worth the counter measure of their investment of consistent effort.  Miller has yet to get their attention in three years at IU, and it appears he is unwilling to use the nuclear option of telling a player he has forfeited the right to wear an Indiana uniform.

That’s led to a permissive culture that allows bringing effort on the players’ schedule rather than the coach’s.  Missed shots are on players.  Missed opportunities to lead are all on Miller.

Teams become what leaders tolerate, and Indiana is now 12th in the Big 10 standings.  Unless there is a pivot toward quality effort and play, IU will miss the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year.  That hasn’t happened since 1972, when the field totaled 25 teams.  Bob Knight’s Indiana teams never missed the NCAAs in two consecutive years.

That means that Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis will be the first seniors at Indiana in just under a half century to never earn a trip to March Madness.  Clearly, despite Davis’s performance yesterday, that ignominious distinction hasn’t moved either senior to pony up on a regular basis.

With six opportunities remaining this season for the Hoosiers to prove themselves worthy of an NCAA Tournament berth, the roster appears ill-prepared in every sense to compete.  Miller frequently expresses frustration, but until his irritation is visited upon the players in a way that gains their attention and compliance, nothing will change.

Few coaches or managers want to tell their players employees to pack a box, but that’s the price for sitting in the big chair.  Indiana University isn’t paying Miller more than $3-million per year to teach children how the pack-line defense works.  They pay him to turn children into men, and at that responsibility Miller has utterly failed to this point.

Indiana’s basketball team is filled with boys enjoying a prolonged adolescence because their leader has not yet found or utilized the punishment needed to compel a change in attitude and discipline.  Not a person affiliated with Indiana Basketball will avoid regret for what this season might become.

Change comes when it is less painful that the pain of maintaining the status quo.  If losing by 24 to Michigan isn’t pain enough, Miller’s job requires he raise the ante.

We’ll see Wednesday night at Minnesota whether he got that job done.

Breakfast with Kent – Indiana hoops idiocy; PU & BU with more work to do; Daytona today; Manfred a disaster

Indianapolis Colts need a defensive tackle – and may take one from South Carolina at #13

Chris Ballard will be smiling on draft night if Javon Kinlaw is still on the board at 13.

No one knows who the Indianapolis Colts are going to take with the 13th overall pick in the NFL Draft.  Until teams target and sign free agents, we won’t even know what their needs will be on April 23rd.

Nobody even knows whether the Colts will actually draft 13th.  They could move back and get extra picks.  Maybe general manager Chris Ballard moves up, but that doesn’t seem to be a strategy he embraces in the first round.  It’s expensive to move up, and GMs who do better by right.

Mock drafts are popping up all over the place.  Many have the Colts grabbing quarterback Jordan Love.  Others believe Ballard will grab a wide receiver like Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy.  My money is on the Colts taking a defensive tackle.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

The logic for the Colts taking a three-technique is two-fold.  First, Ballard is relentlessly honest, and he may have laid out the path shortly after the end of the season, “The 3-technique drives this thing. It does. Every time I’ve been a part of this, the 3-technique drives this.”  Dominant three techniques aren’t available in free agency very often, so the draft makes sense as a source.

Second, history suggests really good defensive tackles are available at #13.  Over the last nine drafts, five DTs have been selected at with the 13th pick, including Aaron Donald – the five-time first-team All Pro for the Los Angeles Rams.

The other four have been a little hit and miss.  Nick Fairley was highly thought of coming out of Auburn in 2011, but is now out of football.  Sheldon Richardson played in one Pro Bowl after being drafted in 2013, but has played for four teams in the last four seasons.  Da’Ron Payne made the All-Rookie team in 2018 for the Redskins.  Last year, Christian Wilkins was productive if not spectacular in the middle of the defensive front for the Dolphins.

The Colts drafting a defensive tackle at 13 will have a lot to do with what happens prior to that pick.  Auburn’s Derrick Brown is expected to be off the board long before Ballard has a chance to grab him, so that leaves Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina as a top tier prospect at the three technique.  If Kinlaw is taken by the Browns, Jets or Raiders (the three teams that immediately precede the Colts in draft order at 11, 12 and 13), Ballard will have to pivot toward another position or trade down.

Kinlaw is a young man we will learn a lot about over the next 10 weeks.  He was homeless as a teen, played at a Juco to get his academics straight, and learned a hell of a lot at South Carolina in building the resume’ as a future millionaire.  He has lofty goals – among them becoming the best defensive tackle in the NFL.

By the way, the last quarterback taken at #13 was Chris Miller in 1987.  That’s not to say getting a franchise QB type can’t happen there, but most GMs either take a quarterback early – as will be the case for Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa – or wait to grab one with apparent flaws later.

Anyone who watched the excellent Colts produced video, “The Colts Are on the Clock” has a pretty solid idea that trying to outguess Ballard and his front office is ridiculous.  Smart guys for the Colts will evaluate during the NFL Combine, execute player interviews to make sure those they draft fit, spend frugally (if history is any clue) during free agency, and then put together their board. So will the 12 teams scheduled to draft ahead of them.  Then they will decide who to take.

And most of the experts will find out they were wrong.

I’ll stick with Kinlaw as my choice and feel good about it until Ballard out-thinks me, which is damn likely.

Indiana fans are nuts – and they are not going to change – so #iubb needs to

Indiana fans want players to embrace the effort to be collectively great. Archie Miller needs to want it badly enough to compel it.

Indiana won last night.  In 49 other states, that would be enough.  But this is Indiana.

Throughout last night’s 89-77 win against #19 Iowa, Indiana fans were thrilled or frustrated by each possession regardless of the score because that’s what we do.  For years we were taught that basketball is a possession by possession quest for perfection in execution and effort.  Up 30, down 30, or tied, each moment provides a precious opportunity.

People either get that or they don’t.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Here’s a reply to a tweet I posted as IU led by 14 in the second half:

That’s not the way Indiana fans do things.  We watch the game possession by possession and then celebrate wins when the clock hits zeroes – not a second before.  It might be insane to indulge in that level of relentless judgment, but it’s what we do.

Indiana Basketball is not about passively watching and shrugging our shoulders when Devonte Green throws his nightly ill-advised lob pass out of bounds.  We don’t jump up and down when the Hoosiers go up 18 in the first half after Green hits a three.

It’s about what is next, not what has been.

People who don’t understand tell us to relax.  We talk about poorly set screens, bad block outs, and getting in a stance.  As players try to indulge in an opportunity to get on Sportscenter, we yell about the game being about points and winning, not highlights.  it’s about we – not me.

Indiana fans are not satisfied with a 12-point win against a ranked opponent.  We’re thinking about how to compete on the road against Michigan and Minnesota with a team that doesn’t show itself to be a fundamentally sound very often.

Basketball in Indiana is defined by missed opportunities, not made three-pointers.  That is likely very confusing to a player like Devonte Green, who is capable of getting so hot from deep that he lifts Indiana to wins that should have been losses.  Fans whine about bad alley oop attempts instead of congratulating great shooting nights.

The rest of the Hoosiers are likely baffled by a fanbase more demanding than the coaching staff, and I don’t blame them.  Our behavior is borderline psychotic.  Why the hell do we care so much about flaws as a possession unfolds rather than results?  I can’t explain it – although I’m trying – but there is no changing it.

Indiana Basketball stands for something in the minds of fans – especially those who remember when they won Big 10 titles every other year and national championships every five years for a while.  While talent was certainly part of the equation back then, Indiana won through disciplined and relentless execution by players dedicated to each other and the effort to attain the myth of perfection.

When Indiana teams appear to be unaware of the beauty of that pursuit, fans get salty – win or lose.  Tom Crean never understood that, and Archie Miller seems similarly oblivious to how IU fans perceive the game.  They seem not to trust fans’ willingness to take the ride with a coach who demands sacrificing the individual to embrace the collective.

Whatever Miller needs to do to drive buy-in for team execution at the expense of individual glory won’t just be tolerated by fans – it will be cheered.  Eliminating selfishness works for Indiana fans, if only a coach would bring the consequence necessary to compel compliance.

Indiana fans are crazy, but they don’t apologize for it.  This program is different, and it needs to be led differently.  It’s not about wins and losses, but about the pursuit of perfection.

As long as Indiana represents that motivation, fans will invest wholeheartedly in it.  When sloppy play goes unaddressed and the same mistakes are repeated, fans yell – even if Indiana leads by 18.

That’s Indiana Basketball through the eyes of its fans.  We demand collective efforts toward perfect execution, and that will never change.

Breakfast with Kent – Green thrills AND frustrates in IU win; Kaplan calls Chicago “Hoops Mecca”; Crane latest billionaire twit

Indiana faces must-win tonight – does anyone have the fire to demand more of teammates?

Armaan Franklin seems like a good candidate to be a leader, so he should ask himself to do just that.

Indiana Basketball needs a leader.

Tonight, the Hoosiers will play for their NCAA Tournament dreams against Iowa.  With a win, they are still in the conversation.  A loss would drop IU into the nether regions of the Big 10 standings and likely land them outside the bubble for the fourth straight year.

Someone on Indiana’s roster needs to stand up, grab this team by its collective jersey, and compel 40 minutes of effort and execution against one of the top 20 teams in the country.  The consequences for another exhibition of sloppy and passionless basketball are dire.

Some people crave conflict; they are fueled by it.  Others wither from the potential of a fight – verbal or physical.  The culture of Indiana Basketball for the last several years has been go along to get along.  At least that’s the appearance based upon on-court behavior.  It’s also the message received by fans who listen to Archie Miller’s radio show.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Miller has responded to a fourth straight season (three under his watch) of disconnected play by threatening a change in the rotation.  He has spoken of banishment for those who don’t prioritize winning above all else.  But a coach can only do so much.

Players need to police the locker room, and that requires someone to declare loudly that mediocrity and indifference are not an option.  The words need to be backed up by an eagerness to hold violators accountable.

That can mean a lot of things, and many of them are unpleasant.  If it was easy being a leader, everyone would do it.

Despite the notion being advanced in Bloomington that all players are leaders, sensible people understand that if everyone leads, no one leads.  It’s like the quarterback position in the NFL.  If a team has two starters, it actually has none.

We are what we tolerate, and at Indiana Basketball, an unhealthy tolerance of selfishness and disconnected play has developed.  Being well-liked in the Indiana locker room appears to be more valued than competing at the highest level.  That has to change.

During yesterday’s media availability, Armaan Franklin said, “It’s hard being a freshman and speaking up.”  And he’s right.  But in the absence of seniors and juniors willing to step up and lead, it is necessary.  Everyone in that locker room needs to look in the mirror today and ask, “If not me, who?”

Whether it’s Franklin, Rob Phinisee, Trayce Jackson-Davis, or Cooper Bybee is unimportant.  What is important is that anything but 100% effort and execution is unacceptable.

Sure, it’s uncomfortable for many to step up and demand excellence, but losing is even more uncomfortable for winners.

Change is uncomfortable.  It’s been said by very smart people, “The pain of change must be outweighed by the pain of staying the same for change to occur.”  If losing is not loathed at a level greater than being disliked, Indiana is going to be stuck in this rabbit hole forever.

Someone needs to say ‘enough is enough – this crap ends right now.’  When the inevitable splash back comes from comfortable losers, the leader needs to stand firm and back up his words.

When that happens, toughness will become apparent, those without the stomach for it will leave, and a new culture of Indiana Basketball will be born.  Until then, Indiana will circle the drain.

Franklin is right, “It’s hard being a freshman and speaking up.”  So is everything worthwhile.  The easy road has led to three straight years sitting out meaningful March games.  The hard road leads somewhere different.

Maybe it’s time for the freshman to embrace what is hard.

Breakfast with Kent – Pacers blast Bucks; Butler strikes X; IU must win tonight; Cubs sign Kipnis

SNBS – Bucks -1 1/2 @ Pacers – a gift? Butler hosts X tonight; Brady + Cowboys = sports media gold!

Marriage of Tom Brady to the Dallas Cowboys makes sense only to programmers and producers

Jerry Jones and Tom Brady know they are a terrible pairing, but that doesn’t keep sports media from blathering about it.

The Cowboys already have Dak Prescott as their quarterback, and Tom Brady is unlikely in the extreme to be tantalized by an opportunity to play for “America’s Team.”

No one is his or her right mind believes it is even a remote possibility, so how did this idiotic notion of Brady to the Cowboys start cropping up on talk shows and in digital media?

People who think analytics are used only by NFL, NBA, and MLB general managers don’t understand media and how it works.  During a visit to ESPN in Bristol a few years ago, an executive told me, “We are a research company that broadcasts sports.”  In other words, ESPN didn’t become ESPN by allowing people to talk about whatever the hell they want.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

A quick look at research grading the popularity of NFL assets shows the Cowboys as the most popular team and Tom Brady as the most popular player.  They are also among the most hated teams and players.  That means when hosts talk about the Cowboys or Brady, consumers listen.

Combine a story with both Brady and the Cowboys, no matter how absurd, and people pay attention.

Stephen A. Smith, current captain of sports media’s USS Preposterous, was one of the few to try to give this story credence, “Put Tom Brady, with his pedigree, his knowledge, his championship experience, in Dallas.  I got Ezekiel Elliott behind me running the football. I’ve got this offensive line that’s going to protect me. I’ve got a No. 1 in Amari Cooper. I’ve got a reliable tight end in Jason Witten.  I’ve got others as well – Terrance Williams and these boys.”

Never mind that Williams isn’t in football anymore, Witten may retire, and Cooper is a free agent.  Smith doesn’t require logic or facts to make profitable noise.  He’s great at making the implausible sound rational.

You don’t think Smith – or Mike Greenberg and the cast of Get Up! – just sit around and talk live on network TV about whatever pops into their heads, do you?

The four qualities ESPN and other broadcast outlets shoot for each segment are relevance, authenticity, fun, and creativity.  Relevance refers to topic choice, and all successful media outlets study relevant directions for their content.

No sane analyst sees Brady to the Cowboys as realistic or a good idea for either.  To prove the point, as I write this, the cast of ESPN’s NFL Live are leading the show with a segment about where Brady fits best.  Is it the Patriots?  Is it the Chargers?  Is it the Raiders?  There was no mention of the Cowboys, to the credit of the hosts, but host Suzy Kolber promised more to come in upcoming segments.

As someone who watches ESPN and listens to sports talk radio, you almost certainly wonder why hosts talk about some teams and never about others.  The answer is always – ALWAYS – because listeners care more about those topics.  How do managers know which topics or teams are most popular?  That is their job.

As a radio program director, I would always approach it from two directions – traditional call-out research project by a company that specializes in those things, and advisory panel roundtables where I would ask listeners exactly what they expected from us.

The results were consistent, and we used them as part of the formula to build segments as well as hire hosts.

ESPN used that same methodology on a much larger scale to marry two of the the NFL’s most iconic brands.  The result was inane blather, but sometimes that’s the name of the game.