Doyel: Steve Alford noise is deafening, and kind of dumb
INDIANAPOLIS – Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was spotted Sunday in Indianapolis. That one, I can confirm. I have “sources.” They’re “close to the situation.” They are my left eye, and my right eye. I’m sitting courtside Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and with God as my witness, Gregg Marshall is standing in front of me, not 60 miles from Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Want more? I have more. Marshall was here, helping the 10th-seeded Shockers put a 65-62 scare into second-seeded Kentucky in the NCAA tournament — and guess who lives in Indianapolis? IU athletic director Fred Glass.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Three days ago, Glass fired IU coach Tom Crean. You heard, probably.
You’ve heard a lot more than that. For a search that has been quiet on the IU side — if Fred Glass were any deeper underground, he’d be magma — it has been incredibly loud on the periphery. That’s how these searches tend to go, fans and media filling the vacuum of information with rumors and guesswork, but this search has been different. Louder. All signs pointing to, maybe even from, the same direction.
Steve Alford, I’m saying.
Well, no. Steve Alford, everyone’s saying.
Sorry for the Gregg Marshall reference. He's just a patsy, a smoke screen hiding my real target: the deafening noise about IU and Alford. And up to a point, it makes sense. Alford is one of the last connections to Bob Knight and the good old days: high school IndyStar Mr. Basketball winner, college All-American, Olympic gold medalist on a U.S. team coached by Knight. To a certain part of the IU fan base, an older part, he’s Moby Dick.
To another part of the fan base, he’s, um, well. Put it this way: Alford isn’t just old news. He’s bad news. To them, the only thing on Alford’s coaching resume that even whispers “IU candidate” is his playing career. Which isn’t on his coaching resume at all.
More than that, the Pierre Pierce scandal when Alford was at Iowa — Alford’s defense of Pierce, his best player in 2002, went beyond loyalty and crossed into victim intimidation — is a horrible look. It was 15 years ago, and UCLA was willing to look past it, but there are IU fans urging Glass and the board of trustees not to do the same.
For every text or email I have from an IU grad in favor of Alford — one IU manager for Knight told me “the 20-plus former players/managers that I stay in touch with really want Alford!!!” — I can show you another one like this from an IU Law grad now working as a district attorney out west:
To the Board of Trustees of Indiana University:
I write to you today as an alumnus urging you all to exert your enormous influence at Indiana University to discourage and prevent the potential hiring of Steve Alford. … I base this plea not on Mr. Alford’s lackluster coaching record, but rather on his off-the-court record. …His transgressions at the University of Iowa are not fitting with our values and priorities as a university.
And that noise, while ugly, isn’t even the Alford noise I was referencing earlier. It’s the noise that started before Tom Crean was fired, noise originating from a sports website covering New Mexico — Alford coached at New Mexico from 2007-13; probably a coincidence — aggressively (and misleadingly) linking Crean to Missouri.
Since Glass fired Crean on Thursday, Alford has emerged as the hottest IU candidate. Glass fueled that by listing three candidate criteria, criteria that fit Alford and very few others, and saying all three factors deserve a “double check plus”: Being from Indiana. Being from IU. Being a head coach.
The Alford-to-IU noise is so loud, coaches around the country are telling me what they’re hearing: They expect Adidas — IU has a $54 million contract with Adidas through 2024 — to pay Alford’s $7.8 million buyout at UCLA. It too was an Adidas school when UCLA hired Alford in 2013, but the Bruins recently left Adidas for a 15-year, $280 million deal with Under Armour. Adidas would love to return the favor and help Alford leave UCLA. That’s what other coaches are hearing, and telling me.
How hot is Alford’s IU candidacy? So hot that WFNI's Dan Dakich told me in a text message Saturday — with Alford’s third-seeded Bruins preparing to play No. 6 Cincinnati on Sunday — that “the deal (with) Alford is done.” Dakich and Alford played together at IU. Another coincidence, maybe.
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So much noise. Too much noise. If I’m Fred Glass, I’m giving Alford the side eye. If I’m Fred Glass and I absolutely insist on an IU guy with head coaching experience and the demonstrated ability to recruit this state, I’m taking a look at Michigan State assistant Dane Fife (who helped recruit 2017 McDonald’s All American Jaren Jackson to East Lansing, Mich).
If I’m Fred Glass and I’m willing to look outside the Bob Knight family, I’m kicking the tires of big names like Tony Bennett and Billy Donovan and smaller names like Gregg Marshall and Archie Miller and then I’m zeroing in on two coaches destroying the Big East: Chris Holtmann of Butler, and Chris Mack of Xavier.
Both have recruited Indiana better than IU — Holtmann signed Joey Brunk (2016) and Cooper Neese (’17), while Mack signed Trevon Bluiett (2014) and Paul Scruggs (’17) — both have outperformed IU for years, and both are in the Sweet 16 right now.
And if I’m Steve Alford, I go to my people — whichever ones are responsible for making all this noise — and I start removing voice boxes. Because all that noise is just one more reason, and there are others, for Fred Glass to remove Alford from consideration.