Will IU ever be IU again? Hoosiers need a coach who can re-establish basketball identity
In finding its next coach, Indiana needs to not only get someone who can win basketball games — that’s sort of a given in the job description, right? — but can also help the Hoosiers re-establish their identity.
And that latter point might be the biggest challenge of all.
The program, which has been mired in a revolving door of questionable coaching decisions since the firing of Bob Knight 20 years ago, needs to make the right move right now. And if it does that, then maybe it can win big again one day. But that day will not be tomorrow. Look around the country, and with very few exceptions, the teams that are winning at the highest level have established coaches, ones who have been at their programs for years and years, maybe even decades. We know the names: Coach K, Tony Bennett, Jay Wright, Roy Williams.
There’s not a quick fix, not when the goal — and it’s the only goal for many it seems — is to win a national championship. First, Indiana needs to settle on figuring out who it is.
So, let’s answer.
Indiana needs to re-establish its Midwest recruiting base, try to gather in the best in the state and the surrounding area. Chasing a 5-star out of the state, perhaps only because he has a number next to his name, has proven to be a worthless endeavor. Get back to solid, fundamental basketball, with players who can shoot — Indiana barely had even one on this year’s roster — and are willing to get after it on defense. Indiana fans know their basketball and have grown tired of offenses that make little sense and defenses that are lackadaisical, at best. The losses chased Archie Miller out of town, but so did poorly executed offenses and meh defenses.
There are good candidates who have shown the ability to mold programs (and they don’t all have the name Brad Stevens). A short list …
• John Beilein: The veteran coach’s track record speaks for itself. In his last go-around with a college program, he helped rebuild Michigan into a national power, taking the Wolverines to within a game of the national championship in 2018. He knows the Midwest, can recruit and has a system that works. But he is 68. How much does he have left to try to rebuild the Hoosiers?
• Chris Beard: It’s hard to argue with what Beard has done at Texas Tech and Little Rock in his last two coaching stops. The Red Raiders went to the Elite Eight and then title game in the last two NCAA Tournaments. And Little Rock stomped Purdue in the first round in 2016. He did once work for Bob Knight, so there’s that.
• Porter Moser: The veteran coach has been around the Midwest for most of his career, and has found his most success at Loyola-Chicago of all places. He took the Ramblers to the Final Four in 2018, 16 years after Indiana was last there, and is back in the tourney this season. Would Moser leave the comfort of low-pressure Loyola for high-pressure IU?
• Scott Drew: The Indiana native might be too comfortable at Baylor to be lured away, considering he’s built the Bears into a perennial NCAA qualifier. He’s been to the Elite Eight twice since 2004, but some might wonder whether that’s the ceiling, even though the Bears are a No. 1 seed this year. Historically, IU’s ceiling is where they hang banners.
Any of the above — and there are other good candidates, too — are strong enough to impose their will on a program still hesitant to move on from the bigger-than-life personalities of the past.
The time for chasing the ghosts of a bygone era need to end. That doesn’t mean that Indiana shouldn’t desire for national championships — every Power 5 school (aside from a few) should consider that an attainable goal — but IU’s obsession with wanting to be what it was is hampering its efforts to improve what it is.
And maybe this is a chance to, finally, solve that problem.