IU gambled, lost on Archie Miller. No more gambles. Get a sure thing. You know his name.
IU didn’t fire Archie Miller just so it could repeat that mistake. A school in a pandemic, already devoting more capital than ever to its rising football program, does not spend $10.3 million of someone else’s money to rid itself of one bad gamble. Not if the next move is simply to roll the dice again.
No, IU has something big in mind. Whether it has someone big already lined up, we’ll see. But first-year IU athletic director Scott Dolson wouldn’t have fired someone who has had his back — when Fred Glass resigned as AD after the 2019-20 school year, Archie Miller backed Dolson to the IU administration — and done that at a cost of $10 million without a grand plan to fix this mess once and for all.
And make no mistake, IU basketball is a mess. Since firing Bob Knight in 2000, the school has been through four coaches — three gambles of varying degrees, one sure thing — and seen all three gambles fail: Mike Davis, Tom Crean, Archie Miller. And the sure thing was a complete and utter failure, because bona fide winner Kelvin Sampson, who’d been busted by the NCAA for cheating at Oklahoma, couldn’t stop cheating. He got caught at IU, he got fired, and 13 years later IU basketball remains a mess.
So what now? You know what now. IU has something big in mind.
Brad Stevens, IU dream hire
Brad Stevens would satisfy everybody. Young IU fans, old IU fans. Bob Knight diehards, and the analytic dudes the old-timers are ordering off their lawn. If you’re an IU fan and Brad Stevens wouldn’t satisfy you, well, keep that to yourself. Because that’s embarrassing. Brad Stevens would be perfect.
Is he coming? Don’t ask me. At this point we’re all in the same boat, looking for reasons to believe this guy would say yes or that guy would say no, and this seems like the time for Brad Stevens to say yes. He’s given the NBA a fair shot, this being his eighth season with the Boston Celtics, and no, you self-important blowhards in Boston, I’m not suggesting the IU job is a promotion. What I’m suggesting: Stevens has given the NBA a run, has had plenty of talent, and it just hasn’t worked out. Not at a level where you’d say: Clearly he’ll stay an NBA coach for the rest of his life.
Brad Stevens is an Indiana kid through and through, playing at Zionsville and DePauw, then rejecting a job making big bucks to work for literally nothing at Butler. You know the story. It’ll be a movie someday, if he comes back to Indiana and leads the Hoosiers to a national title.
Is this the day? Well, IU just spent $10 million it didn’t have — you wonder: which donors wrote those checks? — to get rid of a coach faster than it got rid of Mike Davis, who had six seasons in Bobby’s old chair, and Tom Crean, who had nine years. Sampson had just two years, but in those two years he set back IU a decade. Houston, meanwhile, is No. 2 seed in the 2021 NCAA tournament. Sampson coaches Houston. He’s a savant, I’m telling you.
IU needs a savant right now, but obviously a clean one. Brad Stevens is a savant — back-to-back NCAA titles games, at Butler — and he’s so clean, surgeons dry sanitized scalpels with his shirt. Seriously, he’s perfect.
IU has to hire perfect. It has tried the other way for too long, the other way being the way most schools make a hire: Do the research, vet the candidates, identify someone on the rise, roll the dice.
Surely you’ve been listening to me. IU cannot roll the dice anymore. You listening to me, Scott Dolson? DO NOT ROLL THE DICE.
You’re IU basketball, for God’s sake. Remember who you were, once. Be who you want to be, again. You listening, Scott? Hello?
Nah, he can’t hear me. Probably on the phone with the superstar coach he has lined up.
He better be. I hope the area code is 617. Don’t bother looking it up. That’s Boston.
Tony Bennett, John Beilein also work
It doesn’t have to be Brad Stevens, OK? He’s the guy, and by that I mean, he’s The Guy. He’s the hire, for this program in this state in this exact point in time, against whom any other hire would be measured. And whoever it is — no offense, new guy, if your name isn’t Brad Stevens — he won’t measure up.
But it doesn’t have to be Stevens. He might not want the job, or maybe the timing doesn’t work out, seeing how the NBA regular season doesn’t end for another two months, and then the playoffs, and Boston could hang around a while. Can IU have Brad Stevens lined up, and keep it quiet as it hires nobody into June? Hard to imagine.
Would Brad Stevens announce that he’s leaving the Celtics after their season is complete? Impossible to imagine.
So let’s say Dolson is on the phone with somebody else. He has someone good lined up, remember, someone whose name will be a shock. And by that I mean, not another Archie Miller-type name.
Hey, back in 2017, Archie made all the sense in the world. “A tape-measure shot,” I wrote in 2017, “a home run that is going to break windows all over the Big Ten.”
But Miller had won big at Dayton, he had the pedigree, the youth, the energy. In hindsight, you look at Dayton and you realize: Everyone wins big there. Oliver Purnell won big there, went to Clemson, then DePaul, never replicated his Dayton success. Brian Gregory won big there, went to Georgia Tech, got fired. Archie Miller was next. Now it’s Anthony Grant winning big at Dayton, but only after he was fired at Alabama.
IU didn’t fire Archie Miller to hire another Archie Miller. IU fired him to hire Brad Stevens or Tony Bennett of Virginia and be set for the next quarter-century, or to hire John Beilein and be set for the next five years. Beilein is 68 and has some warts I’ll get into later, if he does in fact get the job, but he’s a savant. He’d win here, and he’d leave a foundation for the next coach to use as a catapult, as Juwan Howard is doing at Michigan. Replacing John Beilein in five years would be easy for IU. The job would sell itself.
The IU job right now? Only a small fortune could sell this job now, with a fanbase that is equal parts hysterical and apathetic — and understandably so, I’d like to add — and a bully up the road in West Lafayette and the Big Ten looking as deep and dangerous as ever.
A great coach will come to IU only if Scott Dolson has lined up a lot more than the $10.3 million he needed to buy out Archie Miller. A great coach will cost a fortune, but this is IU basketball we’re talking about. Either this sport is what the school says it is, or it’s not. We’re about to discover the Hoosiers’ priorities, and see just how deeply Scott Dolson was able to dig into the pockets of IU’s richest boosters. The statement he put out Monday morning suggests there’s a lot more where that $10.3 million came from.
“Private philanthropic funding has been obtained for all transition costs and obligations related to the change in leadership,” Dolson said.
Interesting phrase there: philanthropic.
As if IU basketball is a charity case.
Well, for most of 20 years it has been. What does IU want to be going forward? A charity case pulling another lever on the “Rising Star Coach” slot machine?
Or a heavyweight that makes a big move like firing Archie Miller because it has something even bigger in mind next?