Coach Sampson is GONE... thank goodness. But IU chose to reach a "financial agreement" with him, rather than fire him, so for cheating, lying and generally being a unscrupulous person, he gets to walk away with $750,000. Sweet deal. What a joke.
I love IU... I have loved it since I was a kid and the Hoosiers were pretty much all I knew about basketball. But I think that this situation was just handled so poorly, starting with hiring someone who was on NCAA restrictions in the first place! This article, from Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News, says a lot about what I am afraid will be the fallout from this whole PR mess.
For Indiana basketball, there have been a few moments of glory during this decade. There was the remarkable win over Duke in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. There was the overtime win against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge the following season. There was Tuesday's home victory over Purdue to put the Hoosiers within striking distance of the 2008 Big Ten title and send Kelvin Sampson into "retirement" as a winner.
OK, so it's not a long, long list.
It'll have to do.
There will not be many more moments to cherish with Indiana basketball for a long time. The descent has only begun. The challenges will become greater, the solutions less accessible. It may be years before we again recognize this program, even if the Hoosiers stick to those candy-stripe warmup pants.
Indiana's decision to hire Sampson away from Oklahoma in the spring of 2006 despite a pending infractions case was costly. The failure to properly supervise him during a year in which he was under NCAA sanctions was devastating. The mishandling of his departure following charges of major recruiting rules violations will haunt the program for years.
Several players' decision to skip practice Friday likely will be resolved in time for the Hoosiers to face Northwestern in a Big Ten game Saturday. In most previous cases of this sort, the deposed coach steps in when aggrieved players suggest a walkout, and his wishes generally are followed.
But that's not going to fix anything. It probably won't even save this season, which likely will meet a less thrilling conclusion than earlier seemed possible.
The past two years at IU have been a symphony of administrative bungling. Even a relatively simple matter like which coach to place in charge of the program following Sampson's ouster was mishandled. The university had three former college coaches on its bench, but, mostly to placate fans affixed to the program's history, the administration chose to put former Bob Knight player and assistant Dan Dakich in charge of the team.
Dakich, former coach at Bowling Green, is a fine, principled man and a capable coach. But he'd also been around the players for the shortest period of time. He was hired as director of basketball operations less than a year ago and was not installed as an assistant coach until Rob Senderoff was removed in October.
Assistant Ray McCallum recruited many of the players on the roster. Those who'd been in the program in 2006-07 regularly worked with him in practice. So when Dakich was placed in charge, the players could see their concerns were being placed below PR considerations.
Given that their wishes already were being trampled in the rush to push Sampson out the door, they understandably felt a sense of betrayal.
Hoosiers fans should take a look at Cincinnati's program right now. That's what they'll have to look forward to in a couple of years -- but only if the administration that has fouled up so much in the past year were to hire precisely the correct coach. Cincinnati surprised many of us by getting it right in hiring Mick Cronin, and he built up the Bearcats from a roster with one remaining scholarship player into a capable Big East team within two seasons.
Such miracles are rare. And, even at that, we're still talking about a 13-12 team. It's easy to admire the accomplishment of achieving that record under such daunting circumstances. It's a little harder for a fan accustomed to excellence to enjoy the .500 neighborhood.
The coach who takes over the Hoosiers in the future probably won't be as gifted as Cronin, because few coaches are and because Indiana wouldn't recognize them if provided a list of names. (I'll try one, anyway: Tony Bennett, Washington State. Maybe he'll take the call.)
Whoever becomes coach probably will encounter a program nearly as empty as Cincinnati was a couple of springs ago. Players willing to consider walking out on a season will not hesitate to consider transferring when that season is done. The two best players, D.J. White and Eric Gordon, will be gone regardless. And IU can forget about the recruiting class promised last fall. Those guys will be asking for releases.
It will be years before we recognize Indiana basketball as the power with five national champions. If you think about it, maybe offering the job to Bob Knight wouldn't be such an awful idea. He might be the only qualified coach willing to take it.