It’s been a week since IU men’s basketball announced it was parting ways with head coach Archie Miller.
In four years with the Hoosiers, Miller recruited three consecutive Indiana Mr. Basketball winners but posted an underwhelming 67-58 record and committed the cardinal sin of never reaching an NCAA Tournament.
For a large contingent of IU fans, the news of Miller’s dismissal was a godsend. For someone who grew up 20 minutes from the University of Dayton before coming to Bloomington, I’m just frightened by the thought of a world in which I can’t see Miller promoting a local used Subaru dealership every time I flick on network television.
Despite Miller’s struggles, it was unclear whether IU would be willing to fork over the $10.35 million buyout necessary to bid him adieu. Fortunately for the university, an anonymous donor swooped in to buy out Miller’s contract.
On one hand, the notion that a wealthy, disenchanted booster can have such a profound and rapid influence on the school’s leadership is more than mildly concerning to me.
On the other, at least now I know my tuition can go toward something more universally beneficial like higher wages for graduate students, dorms that aren’t riddled with mold or maybe a hideous bell tower jabbed in the middle of campus.
At this point, it’s unknown whether IU Athletics Director Scott Dolson knows exactly who he wants to succeed Miller or if he’s making frantic elevator pitches to a hundred different coaches.
Perhaps he and a group of boosters are circled in Dolson’s office, clad in robes with hands linked while chanting over chalk drawings and candles in an effort to summon a younger version of Bob Knight.
Despite all these equally credible theories, there was only one name that seems to truly invigorate IU fans — Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
According to the most hopeful of speculators, Stevens was ready to ditch all the freedoms and luxuries that come with being in the NBA to coach college kids under the constant scrutiny of an immensely demanding fanbase simply because he loves the state of Indiana so gosh dang much.
Cynicism aside, I am an IU student, so of course I want Stevens to come to Bloomington. That being said, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
In this case, Stevens shot down every rumor regarding a return to the Hoosier state, reaffirming his commitment to the professional basketball team paying him nearly $4 million per year.
I realize the Hoosiers haven’t been utterly amazing the last two decades, so hiring someone like Stevens wouldn’t necessarily be a classic case of the rich getting richer. Still, imagine “Aladdin” if the genie’s lamp wound up in the hands of an upper middle-class tax accountant as opposed to a resourceful street rat.
A program that goes three decades with a universally acclaimed coach, stumbles upon a brief rough patch and subsequently paints itself as a hard-luck underdog holding out for a hero isn’t a comeback story, it’s a petulant toddler throwing a temper tantrum after being told “no.”
Part of me feels like IU doesn’t even deserve Stevens. Hoosier partisans have basically hailed him as a potential messiah, and I went to Sunday school enough to know how kindly humanity tends to treat its saviors.
So is IU the historically rich powerhouse with the cachet to pull off a massive hire like Stevens, or is a lovable underdog holding out for a widely beloved hometown hero? It’s difficult to justify both being true.
Supporters, alumni and athletic officials want IU to have its cake, but that might not be possible when it just ate a $10.35 million buyout.
At this point, discussion regarding the Hoosiers’ headhunt has spun up names including Texas Tech University head coach Chris Beard and former Michigan head coach John Beilein, both of whom would probably perform somewhere above Miller’s tenure and far below the immediate expectations heaped upon them.
With Miller gone, it’s safe to say IU is out of the frying pan. Something good has to come next, right?