2002-04-06 / Sports

In Losing, Indiana Coach Turns Out A Winner

By Elio Velez

By Elio Velez

By the end of last Monday’s NCAA championship game, Maryland won an ugly looking championship game 64-52. Maryland coach Gary Williams won his first title in 13 years as coach. For this year, Williams will not be playing second fiddle to ACC powers such as Duke and North Carolina, who annually dominate this tournament. Maryland Senior Guard Juan Dixon, solidified his first round pick status as a big time player even if he still looks like a string bean.

While the nets were taken down and the court was stormed, Indiana Coach Mike Davis believed this game was a steppingstone for his program to go on to greater things. For Davis to even reach that game is not only a great accomplishment, it was even more remarkable that he would still be head coach of this team after the rocky road he has gone through.

Coach Davis was taking over a job that was held by Bob Knight, who was an Indiana tradition and brought 3 national championships to the hoops crazy state of Indiana. Those accomplishments were a bit overshadowed by the fact that Knight threw temper tantrums at referees, media, and school administration and choked his players. But the faithful of Indiana held so a high regard for Knight that the next person to take over the job would feel the pressure of winning the big game because he would be taking over for a legend.

Before his remarkable run to the championship, Davis has been stating publicly that he felt the pressure of being intensely scrutinized by the fans and administration. "You guys have no idea the things I have to go through," he said. He was just being honest and who could blame him after years of coaching in the CBA and being an assistant coach at Indiana to temper tantrum Knight. Maybe he was a little too honest when he said wants a new contract with more money. Even as Davis led Indiana to the Final Four, he does feel there is still distrust and resentment towards him for taking over after Knight.

Indiana this season was barely in the top 25 and at one point this year, they were considered on the bubble to make the tournament. Davis did not have the outstanding talent of teams such as Oklahoma and Duke but he beat them both in the tournament. He gave players such as Jared Jeffries and Damon Fife to freedom to be comfortable in their styles of play to be successful. Davis is a runner-up when many people thought Indiana would be eliminated in the second round.

Does Davis want to stay at a place that might never truly embrace his coaching style? Can people see him as ungrateful for asking for a new contract and walking away from what they believe is the best coaching job in college hoops? Davis is being honest and not guarded or cynical, as most coaches seem to be in college or the NBA scene. He knows there are other jobs out there that would take him with open arms.

He is frustrated with the nonsupport of the Indiana administration, which begrudgingly gave him the job after no one else would accept it. Davis said, "The frustrating thing is, they say, 'Well, you've got to prove yourself, you've got to prove yourself.' We're in the national championship game. I think I've proven myself. What questions should be left now?"

What happened to Bob Knight by the way? He was eliminated in the first round with his Texas Tech squad. With Indiana and Texas Tech, he has been eliminated by the second round the last 9 seasons. Nice coaching there Mad Hatter.

The answer is to extend his contract and give him the security he needs. Future recruits must see that Davis has a long term contract in place so they will go to Indiana. Some fans will start to see Davis as just a coach who will be judged by his own record and not judged as Knight’s replacement.

Davis just wants respect and a new contract. Just because he is honest with the media about his situation doesn’t mean he will be played for a sucker by IU administration. He may be grateful to be head coach but it doesn’t mean he will be taken advantage of. So good luck coach Davis, if you’re not at Indiana next year, someone wanting to win in college or the NBA will heavily recruit you. Count on it. Until next week, peace.

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