Who will be the next Indiana basketball coach?
Should it be an IU guy?
Those are among the questions buzzing throughout the college basketball world as Hoosier athletic director Fred Glass seeks to find his man. The search could take until next month depending on all the candidates and how long their teams stay alive in NCAA tourney play.
Here’s something to consider — there’s no reason why IU can’t be one of the nation’s top programs. It has everything it needs — facilities, resources, fan base, strong in-state talent and tradition.
The Hoosier problem — it’s been a generation since they’ve consistently played like a powerhouse. Why? Ultimately, it’s because of coaching.
Bob Knight was just going through the recruiting motions in his final six seasons. Mike Davis wasn’t ready for the job. Kelvin Sampson was an unbelievably bad choice.
Tom Crean came close, but couldn’t deliver the required Final Fours and national championships.
Glass has begun an open national search, and all options are open.
Here are some of the top possibilities, in no particular order:
BRAD STEVENS, Boston Celtics head coach: You could argue he’s the best coach, in any sport, in America. He led Butler to consecutive national title games. He’s resurrected the Celtics faster than anyone expected. He makes millions in perhaps the best coaching job in professional sports, and he doesn’t have to recruit. Chances of coming to IU approach zero, but Glass has to at least ask.
STEVE ALFORD, UCLA head coach: He’s wanted this job for years, but had no chance with Rick Greenspan as the athletic director when the job opened in 2005 and ’08. Greenspan is long gone.
Alford is a former Indiana Mr. Basketball and IU All-America who played on the 1987 national title team. He’s a proven winner, with success at Manchester, Southwest Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and now at one of the nation’s top programs. He can recruit the state, and has signed Indianapolis standout Kris Wilkes for next season. Asked about the IU job, he said, among other things, “I love UCLA. I love Los Angeles. You’re talking about arguably the greatest brand anywhere on the planet, and we got things going at a very high level now and we’re very excited about it.”
DANE FIFE, Michigan State assistant coach: He started out as Fort Wayne’s head coach, and built the foundation for what has become a solid mid-major program. He played for Knight and was on the Hoosiers’ last Final Four team, in 2002. He’s learned under Hall of Famer Tom Izzo, and is the Spartans’ main recruiting force in the state of Indiana. You can’t overstate that. The only concern is if he’s seasoned enough for the job.
BILLY DONOVAN, Oklahoma City head coach: He’s spent the last two years in the NBA after having tremendous success at Florida that included national titles in 2006 and ’07, four Final Four appearances and six SEC regular season championships. He was SEC coach of the year three times. Asked about the IU opening, he said, “My commitment is totally here and doing the best job I can while I’m here.”
SEAN MILLER, Arizona head coach: He’s won 339 games in 13 seasons at Xavier and Arizona. He’s one three Atlantic 10 titles and three more Pac-12 championship. He rates among the best recruiters in America.
ARCHIE MILLER, Dayton head coach: The younger brother of Sean has led Dayton to four straight NCAA tourney appearance, including at Elite Eight berth in 2014. He previously was an assistant coach at Ohio State. At 38, he’s considered one of the top young coaches in the country.
GREGG MARSHALL, Wichita State head coach: He makes $3.3 million a year, and runs a defense-strong program that always makes the NCAA tourney by virtue of dominating the Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers made the 2013 Final Four. The next season they opened 35-0 before falling to Kentucky in the NCAA tourney second round.
CHRIS HOLTMANN, Butler head coach: He’s led the Bulldogs to the NCAA tourney in all three of his seasons. He’s a strong defensive coach, an outstanding recruiter and a good tactician. Before Butler, he was the 2013 Big South coach of the year at Gardner-Webb. He was a standout at Taylor in the early 1990s.
FRED HOIBERG, Chicago Bulls head coach: He had a tremendous amount of success at Iowa State, which got him a shot to coach the Bulls, at $5 million a year. It hasn’t worked well, so he might be receptive to returning to college.
CHRIS MACK, Xavier head coach: He’s recruited the state of Indiana well, landing Trevon Bluiett and Paul Scruggs. He was the national coach of the year in 2016. He consistently wins at a high level, which is crucial for success at IU.
CHRIS COLLINS, Northwestern head coach: He just did what no Northwestern coach had done before — get the Wildcats into the NCAA tourney. It became even more special when their won their opener. Would he be willing to leave for a fellow Big Ten program, although one far more nationally prominent? Perhaps.
KEVIN KEATTS, UNC-Wilmington: He’s led the Seahawks to consecutive NCAA tourney appearances. Their four-year record before he took over in 2014 – 42-80. He was an assistant under Rick Pitino on Louisville’s 2013 national title squad.
RANDY WITTMAN, ex-NBA coach: At the moment, the former IU standout on the 1981 national title team doesn’t have a job. He’s never coached in college, but did lead the Washington Wizards to consecutive playoff appearances. He was fired after not making it three straight last spring. He’s also been a NBA head coach at Cleveland and Minnesota, and was an assistant at Indiana, Dallas, Orlando and Minnesota. He’s never recruited, so that could be a problem.