As a wise Hoosier once sang, “…take it slow and things will be just fine, you and I’ll just use a little patience….take the time ’cause the lights are shining bright, you and I’ve got what it takes to make it.”
Do Archie Miller and Indiana have “what it takes to make it”? Only time will tell, but therein lies the difficulty. Will Indiana give him enough time to truly find out? In today’s instant gratification, social media driven society, who knows.
Let us be clear, we don’t suspect that Indiana is anywhere near an impasse with Miller. It sounds absurd to even think it. But then, when you look at the knee jerk decisions that other teams have made, and read the borderline insane social media posts of the #IUBB mob, it at least merits dishing out a large dose of perspective.
Take a look at the Tennessee Titans. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they won a playoff game with a quarterback who is underachieving. Head coach Mike Mularkey? Fired. It gets worse. In the NFL, at least one of the new coaches in each of the last 5 seasons has been fired after one season. Things are even worse in the NBA.
College programs tend to have more patience than the professional ranks. There seems to be an acknowledgement that coaches need time to recruit their own players and implement their own culture. But they don’t have that much patience. A 2013 study found that half of all Division I men’s basketball coaches had been on the job for 3 years or less, and one-quarter of all coaches had been on the job less than 15 months.
That’s dated research at this point, but do you really think things have gotten better? Enduring through sub-par seasons is difficult. No one wants to do it. While it seems reasonable to wait 3 or 4 years to give a coach a chance, those are some loooong years. Especially for a fan base like IU’s, and a basketball frenzied state like Indiana. Each loss is like dying a long, slow death.
When your arch rival gets its first votes for number 1 in 30 years and a #2 seed in the NCAA, and another in state program, Butler, continues to be nationally relevant, well, the water cooler talk for Hoosier fans can become downright miserable. No, no we didn’t forget about you either Indiana State and Fort Wayne.
The point here is that patience can be difficult. But the point here is also that making a change isn’t a panacea. We’re looking at you Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson and Tom Crean. That kind of coaching rollercoaster can go on forever, and destroy a program’s culture and mystique in the process.
This whole Archie Miler thing may or may not work out. We don’t claim to know what will happen. But ask yourself, what if these programs weren’t patient:
1980–81 Duke 17–13
1981–82 Duke 10–17
1982–83 Duke 11–17
1995–96 Michigan State 16–16
1996–97 Michigan State 17–12
1988–89 Kansas 19–12
2003–04 North Carolina 19–11
1961–62 North Carolina 8–9
1962–63 North Carolina 15–6
1963–64 North Carolina 12–12
1964–65 North Carolina 15–9
1965–66 North Carolina 16–11
1986–87 Connecticut 9–19
1987–88 Connecticut 20–14
1988–89 Connecticut 18–13
2001–02 Villanova 19–13
2002–03 Villanova 15–16
2003–04 Villanova 18–17
1996–97 Florida 13–17
1997–98 Florida 14–15
1983–84 Arizona 11–17
There are no doubt exceptions to this list. Coaches like John Calipari can take their one and done 5-star circus anywhere and be an immediate success. There have been plenty of well planned coaching successions as well.
We don’t claim to know if 2 years or 5 years is an appropriate time frame to expect success. We do know that whining about the first year is just petulant nonsense. Claiming that Indiana should have hired Chris Holtmann is short-sighted arm-chair quarterback silliness.
With highly ranked freshmen playing significant roles in modern college basketball, the timeline for implementing change is most certainly shorter than it was historically. It is reasonable to expect bigger things when a coach lands a top 20 recruiting class. And if they land a top 5 class? Look out.
What Indiana is attempting to do is different. At least this year. The transition from Tom Crean to Archie Miller is a sea change in terms of style and culture. The loss of 3 players to the NBA or other professional endeavors with an unheralded recruiting class behind it left the cupboards somewhat bare relative to the more established and stable programs. This thing is going to take time. And let’s be clear — it may never work. But you and I need just a little patience.
Originally published 1/20/18 and updated 3/12/18
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