Some ideas seemingly never die.
“Look, mister, these boys got a routine they’re used to. You throw a new coach with newfangled ideas at ’em, might get ’em all confused.”
When Norman Dale took over the Hickory Huskers, the locals were none to pleased with the new coach’s old school, militaristic style. They liked their run-n-gun offense and zone defense.
It is well documented that the Norman Dale character was at least in part based on former head coach Bob Knight.
And here’s the thing.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Knight actually faced similar sentiments when he took over at Indiana in 1971.
As an Ohio State graduate and head coach at Army, Knight was a complete outsider when it came to IU. His most notable connection to the school might have been that he played in the final game ever held at the Old Fieldhouse — for the Buckeyes.
From 1924 to 1971, Indiana had three, yes three, head coaches.
Everett Dean. Branch McCracken. Lou Watson. All former IU players, and McCracken and Watson each took over for their former coach.
The boys had a routine they were used to.
To be sure, there were a couple interim coaches during that 48 year span. Harry Good filled in for McCracken during World War II, and Jerry Oliver filled in for Watson when he dealt with health matters.
But to say that the boys had a way of doing things in Bloomington would be an understatement.
These were the two time national champion Hurryin’ Hoosiers, and some young coach with newfangled ideas doesn’t need to go and mess things up.
And then in walked Norman Dale. Or was it Bob Knight?
No ties to Indiana and nothing hurryin’ at all about his style of play, Knight has spoken about the challenges of changing the mindset of his players and the fans alike.
But just like Norman Dale — Knight started winning, and the natives got quiet. Real quiet.
Fast forward another 48 years — and five coaches.
The characters have changed, but the conversation hasn’t.
Seemingly every time a coaching vacancy come up, whether it be the head coaching job at IU or an assistant, the same voices seemingly come out of the woodwork singing the same tired refrains.
“We need to bring Steve home.”
“We need to get one of Bobby’s guys on the staff.”
“We need an IU guy.”
No. We. Don’t.
We didn’t need an IU guy in 1971, and we don’t need one to fill the assistant coach opening now.
What do we need?
First and foremost, we need someone that can recruit. Someone that can captivate the hearts and minds of today’s teenage basketball stars.
No, not a Duke or Kentucky one-and-done factory.
But Indiana needs to be able to get the guys it wants, to fit its style.
You might have heard about the in-state class of 2021. It’s going to be one of the best ever. It’s in our back yard. These are kids that IU should and in most cases does have an organic advantage with. But they aren’t going to just walk in the door.
More than just a talented recruiter, this staff needs someone that is deeply connected in-state and can deliver on the best per-capita basketball factory on the planet.
More than just recruiting skills and local connections, an NBA resume would go a long way. Today’s high school stars are all about the NBA. Every single one of them believes that they are destined to play professionally — and they just need to find the right guy to help them get there.
Lastly, Archie Miller needs some help on the offensive end of the floor. In essence, he needs to find his offensive version of Luke Yaklich.
You might be familiar with Yaklich, who has been credited with transforming the Michigan defense over the last two seasons.
During Yaklich’s debut 2017-18 season in Ann Arbor, Michigan won 33 games, the Big Ten Tournament, and made an appearance in the NCAA Championship game.
That was thanks in large part to a Michigan defense that ranked third in KenPom defensive efficiency (90.5) and eighth nationally in scoring defense (63.3 ppg).
Last season, the Wolverines managed to improve on those numbers, finishing second in both KenPom defensive efficiency (86.2) and scoring defense (57.7) while winning 30 games and reaching the Sweet 16.
Purdue experienced a similar turnaround on the offensive end of the floor with assistant coach Greg Gary. Calling Purdue’s offensive sets, Gary helped Purdue lead the Big Ten Conference in scoring in two of the last three seasons with the nation’s second-most efficient offense.
Miller hasn’t had an offense in the top 50 in KenPom adjusted efficiency in his last five seasons as a head coach. His staff could use a boost of fresh, innovative thinking on that end of the floor.
So who is the right guy to check all of those boxes?
To be honest, there are not many folks, if anyone that can check all of those boxes. Miller will have to decide which variables are the most important.
A guy like Jason Delaney, head coach of both Cathedral High School and the U17 AAU Indy Heat program comes to mind.
There are no doubt countless connections that Miller has through his playing days and while coaching at seven different locations. He likely has an offensive guru or two in mind.
Prep school coaches are well connected and experienced recruiters. Don’t count out a name like Arkell Bruce of Huntington Prep. Missouri hired their last head coach.
Those are just a few of the directions that Miller could go.
Hell it could even be an IU guy. And if so, fine.
But know this.
Just like Bob Knight and Norman Dale before (or was it after) him, only winning will quiet the masses.
Now that’s a routine the boys could get used to.
And as we’ve seen before, it doesn’t take an “IU guy” to do that.
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