How do you replace a legend? A tougher question is how do you replace a legend that didn’t leave by his own volition? Yet, the toughest question may be, what do you do if you are a coaching legend and get fired?
The Bobby Knight era at Indiana University is now over. It was an era that covered 29 years and included 5 Final Fours, 3 National Titles, the only perfect season in NCAA history and quite arguably the cleanest big-time program in the country. It was an era – for the most part – during which the state of Indiana was united behind a single cause, a cause for which they truly could be proud. For that, most of the state of Indiana reveres Coach Knight. Many feel that the University owes Knight such a huge debt that any mistakes made by Coach Knight due to his incessant temper should be forgiven. Everyone saw the pictures of IU students demonstrating in Bloomington. Their love and passion for Coach Knight is real. Others feel like his termination was long overdue and the university has sullied its reputation by allowing such a bully to represent the institution. It is truly a state divided.
How do you ease the pain of the Indiana faithful and make both Knight haters and Knight supporters happy? Alford. Steve Alford. The current coach of the University of Iowa is loved in Indiana. He was the winner of the prestigious Mr. Basketball Award for the best high school player in Indiana his senior year. He won a National Championship at IU. He even won a gold medal in the 84 Olympics. He is Indiana’s Golden Child.
Forget the fact that he is coaching at a rival Big-Ten school. Forget the fact that he has yet to win a conference championship on the Division I level. Forget the fact that in five years of Division I coaching that he has only led one team into the NCAA Tourney. He is the only person that can bridge the gap between the people who are happy to see Knight leave and the ones that are sad to see him go. His hiring will appease Knight supporters by bringing a Knight protégé back into the fold. Knight haters will see him as a young up-and-coming coach that has all of Knight’s good qualities and none of his bad.
Indiana has said that they will begin their search for a new coach immediately. President Brand said in his press conference that they would name a coach on an interim basis soon and then name a permanent successor at the end of the year. Don’t look for a current IU assistant to be offered the job. Do you really think they’re going to offer it to Knight’s son?
Midnight Madness and the start of practice is only a little over a month away and finding a coach quickly is very important. Would Alford take the job? He has said that Iowa is a place that he could retire but people would be foolish to think that he wouldn’t want to go home.
What about Knight? What does he do now? That answer is not as simple. Although he is approaching 60, one would have to think that he still has plenty of coaching years left in him. How many presidents and athletic directors would be willing to stake their reputation on brining Knight to their institution? After all, everyone has seen Knight’s tirades. To say that his reputation precedes him is a huge understatement. Someone would have to take a chance and that someone probably doesn’t work at an institution that has the type of basketball program for which Knight has grown accustomed. It could be a bad situation. Knight belongs on the Indiana sideline and nowhere else. We’ve seen other coaches try moving to other schools after being dismissed. Does anyone remember Lefty Driessell? The results are usually not good.
Knight can be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time if he walks off into the sunset. Going somewhere else and struggling could change the way people view his legacy. Then again, don’t put it past Knight to resurface somewhere, lead a team to the tournament and remind Myles Brand in every press conference why Indiana shouldn’t have let him go.