BOZICH | Who's next for IU basketball? Best coach available regardless of alma mater
Who should Indiana hire to replace Tom Crean as its basketball coach? The best coach available -- regardless of his alma mater.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WDRB) – The following college basketball truth is so self-evident that I wonder why I need to write it. But I do.
Indiana University should hire the best basketball coach available to replace Tom Crean.
Not the best former IU basketball player.
Not the best former Indiana Mr. Basketball.
Not the guy who knows quickest route from Paoli to Columbus, the best place to grab a sandwich in Logansport or the name of every assistant coach in the Hoosier Hills Conference.
The best coach.
If that’s Tony Bennett, fine. If that’s Archie Miller, wonderful. If that’s Chris Collins, terrific. If that’s Steve Alford, there’s going to be significant backlash, but Alford would be the guy.
If you have a better (and realistic) candidate, make the case.
This is a call that athletic director Fred Glass must make – and it’s a call that is going to make the opening paragraph of any historical summation of the Glass Era in Bloomington.
Not the soccer coach. Not the swimming coach. Not the football coach.
This basketball hire, the one that Glass said (correctly) will be expected to make multiple Final Fours and win the program’s sixth NCAA title.
Speaking of history, let me remind me you of this: The guy who won the most games and three NCAA titles at Indiana earned his degree at Ohio State.
John Wooden won 10 NCAA titles at UCLA. He grew up a three-point shot from Bloomington (in Martinsville) before starring at Purdue.
Mike Krzyzewskl is a Chicago kid who has taken the basketball knowledge he learned at West Point to rule the college game the last three decades at Duke.
Dean Smith went from Kansas to North Carolina. Rick Pitino played at UMass before coaching at Kentucky and Louisville. John Calipari from Clarion State to his three college stops.
I don’t believe you have. In case you still want to fuss about all this noise about Indiana needing an Indiana guy, I’ll pile on with these two tidbits:
Of the 16 coaches still competing for the 2017 NCAA title, three are coaching their alma maters – Roy Williams (North Carolina); Matt Painter (Purdue) and Bob Huggins (West Virginia).
As Mike DeCourcy reported at Sporting News, 32 of the last 37 men’s national titles have been won by coaches who were not working where they played or studied.
Alford’s time at Indiana is not a reason to cross him off the list. But it’s also not a reason to elevate him to the first line.
Is Alford at the top?
I don’t believe that he is. I’m not certain there is a top line.
Glass and his top lieutenants have disappeared from the grid since the athletic director fired Crean a week ago. If you believe the internet nonsense, at least two guys have already accepted the job (DONE DEAL!!!! HIS WIFE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!) with several breathless reports that have outlined the entire new coaching staff.
My sources have been consistent: Proceed with caution with these stories. Only a few folks know what’s happening.
Alford is alleged to be frontrunner. There are reasons for that. The primary reason is that Glass said last week that candidates with Indiana ties started the process with a double-check plus.
The news business refuses to accept a vacuum. Stories must be reported and filed, especially with no games until Thursday night. There is always talk, talk, talk.
The NCAA Tournament is a coast-to-coast magnifying glass for the credentials of coaches everywhere. It’s often The No. 1 boost for guys looking for better jobs.
If Alford and UCLA beat Calipari and Kentucky Friday night in Memphis in the South Regional, the call will accelerate to bring the pride of New Castle High School home.
A Final Four appearance? A more intense bump. Final Four victory? Non-stop noise. National championship? Inescapable noise.
But Alford is no slam dunk or done deal. Nor should he be. The Steve Alford candidacy needs a serious and exhaustive discussion.
With two weekends to play, Alford’s NCAA Tournament record is similar to Crean’s NCAA Tournament record – and Crean’s NCAA Tournament record at IU (6-4, three Sweet Sixteens) was officially stamped NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
That is the basketball element to Alford’s candidacy. I’m not going to discuss his sizable (nearly $8 million buyout) because there are social, behavioral and criminal elements that are more troubling. Before Alford moved to UCLA, he coached at New Mexico and Iowa. One of his best players with the Hawkeyes was Pierre Pierce.
Pierce was charged with sexually assaulting a female student at Iowa in 2002. Alford defended his player. The school later admitted that it mishandled the matter. Alford’s delayed apology came across to many as insincere and nearly a decade late.
It was an issue when he was hired at UCLA. It’s an issue that will need to be addressed at Indiana – and it was addressed in this powerful story by Julie DiCaro, an IU grad who works as a reporter at WBBM, the CBS television affiliate in Chicago. (I recommend that you click this link and read it).
Is Alford the guy? Or is it Bennett, Miller or somebody else?
I’m not certain. The only thing I’m certain of is that Indiana should hire the best coach – regardless of where he played high school or college basketball.
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