A year ago Brian Walsh was busy trying to figure out his next move.
And that included a likely literal, packing up and leaving Bloomington, kind of move.
After his long-time boss Archie Miller was fired last March, Walsh, then the IU basketball program’s director of basketball operations, was one of the many unseen faces impacted by a coaching change.
“I was trying to figure it out,” Walsh said on Tuesday. “Arch got let go and I was kind of in limbo of what was going to happen, looking for other opportunities, trying to figure it out. Very uncertain time for myself and my wife at the time.”
The idea that a year later Walsh would be holding his first child, a two-week old, in his arm while new Indiana coach Mike Woodson offered him an assistant coaching position would have been difficult to imagine. To say the least.
But that’s exactly how it went down.
“It was really emotional just, you know, full circle, one year ago, the situation with the previous staff, and then having the opportunity to stay on with Coach Woodson, and it’s just been unbelievable,” Walsh said.
What made it possible was the work Walsh put in under Miller, and the impressions he made along the way.
One person who Walsh has known for 16 years ago had his back again last March.
Now fellow assistant coach Kenya Hunter was another holdover from the Miller era, and someone who has been speaking up on Walsh’s behalf since he was a high school prospect coming out of Moon Township, Pa.
“I’ve had a previous relationship with Kenya, having him recruit me at Xavier when he was on staff with Sean Miller, so I’ve known him for a really long time.
Hunter was just one of many who saw value in Walsh, a list that eventually grew to include Woodson.
“I had some people go to bat for me here at IU, and I was fortunate to get the opportunity to work for Coach Woodson and I feel like I was able to bring value to him in some areas that he needed, and they just let me run with my job and felt like I was able to bring really good value to this staff this year.”
Even in the days leading up to his promotion to assistant coach, something Walsh referred to as “absolute home run and Grand Slam for myself in my young career,” there was uncertainty.
Interest in Walsh extended beyond Bloomington. His phone was ringing.
“There was some other opportunities that were presenting themselves to me in the college basketball world and I wanted to be transparent with Coach (Woodson) and let him know the developments of what was going on,” Walsh said of the conversations that followed the season.
Was one of the opportunities at Rhode Island to reunite with Archie Miller? Walsh didn’t say that, but it seems like a good guess.
Meanwhile at IU, the program suddenly fired fan favorite Dane Fife last week, creating an opportunity for a promotion in Bloomington.
Programs like Indiana don’t often promote from within up to the coaching ranks. Walsh’s role in his first year under Woodson was director of recruiting. In that capacity he wasn’t able to coach the team on the floor, and he couldn’t travel for recruiting purposes. So there will be a learning curve, especially if Woodson continues to allocate game-planning assignment evenly between his three assistants.
But let’s face it. Recruiting comes first for the assistants. Walsh proved his recruiting chops when he was credited by class of 2023 commit Gabe Cupps for taking the leading role in his decision to play for IU. Several other recruits have mentioned to The Daily Hoosier the prominent role played by Walsh in their recruitment.
Walsh fits naturally into the IU staff from a recruiting geography standpoint. His relationships are largely in the Midwest, from Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana to Illinois. That complements Yasir Rosemond in the Southeast and Hunter on the East Coast.
In the end, Walsh’s wild 12-month journey had him in demand. His next move wasn’t certain, but his options looked a lot better than they did a year ago.
And then on Thursday of last week, Walsh got another call. This time it was Woodson.
“I was holding my daughter in my arms and my wife was sitting to my right,” Walsh recalled. “For whatever reason, I put the phone on speaker and listened to him (Woodson), and he offered me the job to bump me up.”
Walsh said his in-laws came through during the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments in the days after his daughter was born. He said he missed about five of the first seven days of her life.
He had better keep the in-laws on standby. Recruiting season is here. And Walsh has a new, more demanding role. But you could never convince him it’s a job.
“This is what I feel like I was born to do, and I just love it,” Walsh said. “It’s really not work for me.”
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