Before I begin today, a quick correction with regard to one of my points from yesterday. As several friends and readers have informed me, Milwaukee King has not been atop the AP rankings for the entire year, contrary to what I asserted yesterday. In fact, when I checked on this I learned that King is currently in third place in the AP poll (edit--there's a new poll released today, and they're now second), and has been there for quite some time. My only excuse is that I get most of my high school news from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has had King in the #1 spot in its rankings for most (if not all) of the year. Because I’m lazy, and the Journal Sentinel gives a flashier layout to its own rankings, I tend to look more closely at it. Nonetheless, apologies to Milwaukee Vincent and Oshkosh West, the two teams currently ranked ahead of King by the AP. My point, however, remains the same–King’s about as deserving as any team can be of a #1 seed, yet they’re stuck at #2.
On to my real point for today, though–it’s time to take a break from my normal Wisconsin focus and turn my attention to the school that everyone’s talking about these days–Indiana. I don’t know any more than any of the other millions of fools who are currently weighing in on this topic, but I might as well throw some thoughts out there (hey, I missed the first half of West Virgina-Syracuse last night–what else do you want me to talk about?). First and foremost, I’ve been meaning to thank Mike Davis for resigning and preemptively granting my wish from a week ago that he be fired from his job at Indiana. Sure, his resignation wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but either way, I’m done hearing excuses about why Davis can’t win, and Indiana gets a fresh start.
(Side note–I heard a snippet from Dick Vitale in a radio interview last week where he noted that during Indiana’s Final Four appearance a few years back, Davis was putting his name out to find other head coaching jobs, but no one was all that interested in talking to him. It was maybe the most fascinating thing that I’ve heard during all the talk of Mike Davis’s resignation from Indiana, yet I’ve heard nothing said about these comments after Vitale made them. Am I the only one who heard this sound bite? Am I the only one who thinks it’s interesting? Was I just hallucinating that I went out to lunch on Thursday and heard Vitale on the Dan Patrick show while I drove to buy a burrito? I haven’t been this confused since I was 16 years old and couldn’t figure out if The White Shadow was a real show, or it was just something that my mind had made up when I was three years old.)
In any event, names are flying around for who could fill the Indiana vacancy (several of them with Wisconsin ties). Lots of people are out there advocating why various coaches would be a good fit in Bloomington. Today, however, I’d like to be Mr. Negative and point out most of these guys don’t make a lot of sense. Let the record show that I anticipate Indiana hiring either Steve Alford, or someone who’s name comes completely out of left field. Let the record also show that I think the latter option would be a better choice. Here are those names, and why they won’t work at Indiana:
Rick Majerus: I love Majerus as a coach almost as much as I love him as a broadcaster and personality. And I feel a kinship with him, as another fat kid who grew up on the west side of Milwaukee loving basketball. When Wisconsin hired Bo Ryan a few years back, Ryan was my first choice, but I wouldn’t exactly have been complaining if Majerus had ended up with the job instead. Of course, with health and age issues, Majerus isn’t anywhere close to being a long-term solution. Here’s thinking that it would be best for all parties involved if Majerus keeps his sweet gig at ESPN and keeps entertaining us all.
Keith Smart: Okay, he’s a program guy, and his shot to propel Indiana to its 1987 championship was awesome. But most of Smart’s playing and coaching career has taken place in the CBA. I don’t want to be a snob here, but is Indiana really going to turn over the reigns to a guy who’s best known for minor league exploits? I think not.
Bruce Pearl: Frankly, if Bruce Pearl would bring his style of play to Indiana, I would do two things. First I would wet my pants in excitement. Then (after I cleaned myself up, of course), I would drive to Bloomington and enroll in grad school so that I could get a piece of the action that would ensue as Pearl brings his running style in to shake up the Big Ten, and generally continues to anger Illinois fans for something that happened 20 years ago. Unfortunately, timing is everything in the coaching world (case in point–I fully believe that Rick Majerus is the coach of Wisconsin today if not for the job opening at an awkward time for him), and I just don’t think that Bruce Pearl bails on his first big-time job after only one season. No one looks good if they make a move that quickly.
Dan Dakich: Another "Indiana family" guy. Once a hot prospect, he’s not looking so great at Bowling Green, and aside from once wearing the Indiana uniform as a player, there’s nothing that distinguishes him or makes him worthy of this job right now.
Mark Few: Because he’s at Gonzaga, his name is always going to come up for openings. But let me ask you this–isn’t Gonzaga a pretty sweet gig these days? It seems like they’ve become the place to play basketball in the state of Washington, even more so than the University of Washington. They’ve got an easy conference that logistically, it would be tough for them to move out of. And they’re on ESPN almost as much as Duke (though the Bulldogs are only available to those who are willing to give up a little sleep, due to their usual late-night time slot). If I’m Mark Few, I’m not looking to move. Especially not to Indiana, which offers about 800% more pressure than Gonzaga. Ask Dan Monson how he’s enjoying that move from the Pacific Northwest.
Bob Knight: Yeah, keep dreaming.
Steve Alford: Like I said, I think there’s a fairly good chance that Indiana hires Alford. It’s a nice story about the local boy coming home and all that jazz, but it makes no logical sense to me. Alford’s hot this year, but to me he’s still the guy who couldn’t win with Reggie Evans and Luke Recker, and who’s had wildly inconsistent teams during his tenure at Iowa. Here’s the hilarity of this idea in my mind, though–if I could have my pick of any of the current coaches in the Big Ten, probably the last two guys on my list are Davis and Alford. Even if I’m being generous, I still think they’re both in the bottom four coaches in the league. So is Alford really any sort of an upgrade? Not in my mind.
Randy Wittman: Here we go with the "Indiana family" again. As Big Ten Wonk astutely pointed out a few days back, the obsession with getting a coach from a pool of people who have connections to one’s own program is highly overrated. Particularly when it’s a guy like Wittman, who may be a nice guy, but only has NBA coaching experience. Aside from Larry Brown (admittedly, I’m thinking only of head coaches, which Wittman isn’t), I can’t immediately think of any coach who’s been successful at both the pro and college levels. The duties, and the games are just too different. So hiring an NBA guy doesn’t make sense.
Thad Matta: While I understand that Matta is no stranger to jumping ship on a team, why does this move make any sense for him? He’s already winning at Ohio State, and he’s already got the nation’s top freshman coming to play for him. Things are pretty good, and they’re only going to get better. Who’s left to win over in Columbus? Why subject yourself to new scrutiny in Indiana and risk losing out on coaching Greg Oden?
Tom Crean: Marquette’s head coach seems to get brought up when just about any job opens up. And I used to think that he’d be gone the first time that a good Big Ten job offered itself to him, given his Michigan State roots. Now I see no reason why he’d want to go anywhere. He’s in the Big East, he’s not competing with football (okay, so he wouldn’t be at Indiana, either), he’s making a boatload of money, and he’s got a team that has the potential to make some deep, deep tournament runs in the coming seasons. I’ve also heard that he has a tremendous amount of freedom to run the program at Marquette however he likes. Giving this all up for a program whose best attribute at this point is a name just seems illogical to me.
So, as you can see, it’s a tough spot for Indiana. Usually you can find one perfect candidate, but all of the above frontrunners either don’t seem to me like they would have interest in Indiana right now, or would probably be foolish hires for Indiana. Here’s hoping that Indiana does pull out a good name from somewhere, though, because even though Wisconsin played the Hoosiers during ESPN rivalry week (which to my surprise, must mean that Wisconsin and Indiana are bitter rivals), a good Indiana is good for basketball.