Hi there, Archie Miller.
Congrats on the new job. The entire country was wondering who would get the Indiana job — seemed like every big name out there was connected in one way or the other — and the Hoosiers pegged youas the new leader of their historic basketball program, the program with five national championships and a billion trips to the NCAA Tournament (that second number is a rough estimate).
The Hoosiers made a darn good decision. You are an excellent coach, as your time at Dayton showed, and you made smart choices over the years, turning down very good jobs and waiting for a great one to open up. And now Bloomington is your new home.
It won’t be easy. Hoosiers fans are pretty demanding, but it’s not just about bottom line wins and losses. No, there’s a way things need to be done at Indiana. And for all the great successes your predecessor, Tom Crean, brought to the school, he didn’t always meet those expectations.
So we thought we’d offer a checklist of things that have to happen to keep IU fans happy.
1. Recruit the state
You know this, of course. This is priority No. 1, and it’s not particularly close. There are few things that bother Hoosiers fans more than watching a state-of-Indiana kid thrive at another big school. It’s one thing if the kid was a fringe-type project coming out of high school and developed into a star elsewhere; you only have so many roster spaces and can’t try and develop everyone. But the prep stars in the state? You have to bring a hefty portionof them to Bloomington.
It feels like a cliché, but it’s rooted in truth — basketball is everything in Indiana. And it’s not enough to just sign a couple of kids from the state. When Bobby Knight was coach there, pretty much every kid in the state dreamed of playing at Indiana. Is that the case now? Not so much. You have to spark that desire again, make the goal of every prep star in the state to play for the Hoosiers.
2. Don't miss the NCAA Tournament
Crean’s time at Indiana proved it’s not just about reaching peaks on a relatively regular basis. He won multiple Big Ten Championships — speaking of that, don’t cut down the nets after a loss, ever — was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and made the Sweet 16 three times. Crean’s Hoosiers spent plenty of time ranked in the top 15 of the polls, but he missed the NCAA Tournament twice in his final four years. The first couple times he missed don’t count; he was starting from a dirt floor after the Kelvin Sampson era, and that rebuilding took time.
But the roller coaster of win totals after that — 27, 29, 17, 20, 27, 18 — wasn’t acceptable. You have to win consistently (y'know, like you did at Dayton). A lot of this comes back to recruiting the state, too. You lose games with transfers and players from outside the state (James Blackmon, Jr. was the only regular from Indiana this year) and most every Hoosier fan is going to say, "You could make the tournament with only Indiana kids."And they’ll be right more often than not.
3. Never get embarrassed
I’m not sure Indiana fans ever truly forgave Crean for the way the Hoosiers lost to Syracuse in the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers spent most of the season atop the polls and earned a No. 1 seed in the East Region, but from there things went downhill quickly. They struggled against Temple in the Round of 32 (they won, 58-52) and then faced the fourth-seeded Orange in the Sweet 16.
With almost a week to prepare for the vaunted Syracuse zone, the Hoosiers looked befuddled the entire game. The Orange jumped out to a 29-11 lead, and Indiana had 12 turnovers by halftime. It was ugly, and not just offensively. Syracuse guards Michael-Carter Williams and Brandon Triche did whatever they wanted, combining for 38 points. Instead of competing for the national title, Hoosiers fans watched this team of stars — Victor Oladipo went No. 2 in that year’s NBA Draft, Cody Zeller went No. 4 and Christian Watford was a great college player — leave with barely a whimper.
You cannot let a team go out like that, Archie. That’s an unforgivable sin at Indiana.
4. Win Big Ten titles
Indiana fans take a great deal of pride in winning regular-season Big Ten championships. It’s not just about winning in the NCAA Tournament — though that’simportant, too — it’s about being better than those teams from Michigan,Ohio,Illinois and Wisconsin over the long haul of the season. From 1973-93, Knight’s teams won the regular-season title 11 times, never going more than three years without one in that stretch. You don't have to win quite that many, but if the drought reaches four or five years ... well, you probably won't survive that.
5. Play the right way
This isn’t about some unwritten rule about showing emotion or anything like that. It’s about doing the little things help teams win basketball games — play solid defense, make your free throws, take smart shots, box out under the basket, avoid stupid turnovers and things of that nature. Almost every Hoosiers fan who grew up playing basketball in the state had those fundamentals drilled into their brain from a young age, lessons that were reinforced at every level until they stopped playing.
So to watch sloppy Indiana teams lose games is kind of infuriating, and that happened far too often under Crean. A friend of mine who is an Indiana alum — he wasn’t on the "Crean must go"train, by the way— texted me this: "Indiana fans felt their teams won because of Coach Knight and in spite of Coach Crean."Is that fair? No, probably not. But is it accurate? Yeah, probably so. Such is basketball in Indiana.
Anyway, congrats on the new job.