Well, at least Illinois isn’t like our next opponent, Indiana. The Hoosiers’ victory over us in Bloomington a month ago is as dusty of a memory for IU fans as Keith Smart’s jumper in 1987. Since that game, Indiana has gone from being a top ten team to a club that is in serious danger of not making the NCAA Tournament at all for the third season in a row.
Indiana coach Mike Davis has been on the hot seat at Indiana since the day he was named as Bobby Knight’s replacement in 2000 and yesterday, he finally broke down and announced that he would resign from his position at the end of this season. In the aftermath, the sports world is pretty divided between those who believe Davis was never given a chance to succeed and others who think that it was his own fault for the dearth of wins at Indiana.
I believe that it was a little of both. It’s always tough to be the successor to a legend – look at the coaching carousel at UCLA since John Wooden left and how North Carolina ran its first two coaches after Dean Smith out of Chapel Hill. What made the Indiana situation even tougher is that while Wooden and Smith retired on their own terms and hand-picked their successors, Bobby Knight was fired to the chagrin of much of the Indiana faithful. That meant Mike Davis had absolutely no margin for error from the fans and resulted in immense and irrational outside pressure.
Regardless of that pressure, however, Davis wasn’t ready to take over the head coaching reigns of any Big Ten-caliber team in 2000, much less replacing a legendary coach at one of the nation’s most storied basketball programs. Even worse, he hasn’t really improved either as a coach on the floor (Indiana not making 3 NCAA Tournaments in a row is unconscionable to Hoosier fans) or as a recruiter (two of the top high school players in the nation – Greg Oden and Eric Gordon – are from Indiana’s backyard of Indianapolis, yet they have committed to Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Illinois, respectively). In the end, like any other program in the country, Indiana judges its coaches by wins and losses and Mike Davis simply didn’t meet the school’s standards.
It seems to be a forgone conclusion that Iowa coach Steve Alford is heading to Indiana. The media loves the potential story of a former Hoosier hero swooping in to save the program. However, I believe Alford would be absolutely nuts to leave his current job to go to Bloomington. He’s had pretty much the same record at Iowa as Davis had at Indiana, as in there have been a couple of good seasons sprinkled in with general mediocrity and unfulfilled expectations. For as much pressure as Indiana fans put on Davis, it seemed like they expected him to lose. In Alford’s case, the same pressure would be there along with raised expectations for winning, even though his record doesn’t justify any higher expectations than what they expected out of Davis.
Plus, Alford would be going from a Big Ten school to a rival program in the same conference. In a situation like that, the new program better be a huge upgrade over the old one, which I don’t think is the case at all. Sure, the Hoosiers have the history and the alma mater factor, but for the past decade, Iowa has been at least as good or better of a basketball program as Indiana. So, Alford would be trading his current job for another one that’s essentially a lateral move with a lot higher expectations and pressure. That doesn’t sound like a great deal for Alford.