I know most of you have lives and don’t stay glued to either ESPN or the BTN in the wee hours of the night. However, you have me for that and I can give you my insights into what’s been happening recently.
Groce and Crean, in that order, got canned as the head basketball coaches from Illinois and Indiana, respectively. While I kind of get why each school did what they did – Groce’s on court performance just wasn’t cutting it. He hadn’t sniffed a conference title or an NCAA bid in his time and Illinois and Crean was simply NOT an Indiana (insert “Bobby Knight” here) Man, even though he’d won the B1G twice, been to the Dance several times and also went to a Sweet 16 and an Elite 8. This season started promising for IU, with wins over Kansas and UNC, but injury to 3 key players (imagine Wilson, Wagner and Walton all going down for Michigan – oh wait, that kind of happened last season!) and you have the inevitable B1G result playing freshmen and not ready for B1G Basketball underclassmen. Some fan bases would respect the injuries and keep a gut they liked around. IU cut bait. In other words, what have you done for me lately and do I like the way you sound in your press conference matters.
But, here’s where things get very different: Illinois fires their head coach right after the B1G Tourney and tells the assistant to coach the NIT. Then, RIGHT AFTER OKIE STATE loses to Michigan, the Illini AD (Josh Whitman) gets directly on the phone with Okie State 1-Year coach Underwood (Previous stop Stephen F Austin where he took three teams to the Dance and won a 1st and 2nd round game) and says, “Let’s make a deal.” Next thing you know, Underwood is at the NIT game that Illinois was playing on Sunday as their next head coach, 2 days after losing to Michigan.
Now, that’s an extraordinary hire and transition time. Granted, Underwood was not happy with Okie State’s CYA move of, “We’re gonna hire you at less than comparable Big iiX money, but if you perform, we’ll give you more after your first season.” Underwood lived up to his part of the bargain getting the Cowboys to the Dance for the first time in a decade, but the Okie Stated AD decided that wasn’t enough and that he couldn’t pay Underwood what he deserved. Motivation was there and opportunity, in the form of the Illini, knocked.
Indiana, sort of in parallel I thought, pulled an unusual move by firing Crean on the first day of the NCAA Tourney, literally 10 minutes before the first game started!!! Staying in the Basketball news and letting coaches in the Tourney know that IU was looking. And by doing that, they owed Crean an additional $3M instead of waiting until July 1st when the buyout would have dropped to $1 (instead of $4M total). The MMPG looked at that deal and thought: Well, maybe these two discussed it and Crean said, “I’ll take a little less than what’s owed me and that will give me a chance to land a decent job and Indiana can start talking to their “Ideal Candidates” immediately after they exit the Tourney (just like Illinois) and if their target guy becomes available early (Hot Rumors: Assistant Sparty Coach Dan Fife who played for IU or Steve Alford, head Coach at UCLA) they can talk to him. And pretty much everyone is behind those to candidates because they’re former IU players that get how its done in Indiana.
All Makes Sense…Right???
But THEN Indiana announces they’re hiring a SEARCH FIRM to “Find the Right Guy”.
Whiskey – Tango – Foxtrot….
Basketball and the decisions around off season basketball moves fast. Sometimes the right hire is very apparent and you don’t need a committee to know what the right move and next step is. If Alford’s your guy and Fife is your next guy, so be it. Talk to Alford (who’s relationship as UCLA is a little rocky and his son is in his last season) and do the deal. If that doesn’t happen, then go get Fife.
Indiana shouldn’t need to hire and pay for a search firm to tell them what they already AND SHOULD know if they’re one of the premier Blue Bloods in the land….This reeks and smells a lot like something that would have happened in the “Anti-Christ Period” under BranDictator...
I dunno. Sometimes I think people are in charge of stuff just cause someone has to be in charge of stuff.
Of course, the hubris of serious Indiana fans (who I SWEAR TO GOD are Domer Fans that hang up their Green and Gold and put on Candy Stripes once the Domers are out of it for football season) is amazing, and they believe that IU is still the basketball “Valhalla” for all coaches. Inside The Hall (blog) has the following list of “potential candidates” and why some would be good and others not so hot….
1 . Steve Alford – UCLA
2. Dane Fife – Sparty Assistant
3. Archie Miller - Dayton
4. Mike White – Florida
5. Chris Collins – Northwestern
6. Rick Pitino – Minnesota
7. Gregg Marshall – Wichita State
8. Chris Holtman – Butler
9. Chris Mack - Xavier
I think you get the idea. What do all these coaches have in common? They all made the Dance this season and some are still coaching into the 2nd weekend. Sure, it’d be nice to snag any of those guys….
IU thinks it can pluck ANYONE IT DESIRES and they’ll gladly drop what they’re doing where they’re at and pick up the sacred whistle at IU and do their bidding…
It’s gonna be fun to watch…