Thursday, March 30, 2006

I'm really excited about Kelvin Sampson now

I think Kelvin Sampson is a good choice for Indiana. I understand why some folks aren't very excited about his hiring, but I'm quite happy about it.

First, one of the main things I wanted Indiana to do was minimize risk with this hire. There were a lot of mid-major coaches out there who look like they might be the Next Big Thing, but it's really hard to predict that. They could just as easily be the Next Dan Monson. While I wouldn't have been disappointed by hiring a young gun, I was hoping we'd find someone who was more of a proven commodity.

On the other hand, outside of Majerus I really didn't like the idea of hiring a "transition coach". Proven commodities are great, but if they're 60 years old, then everyone knows they're just coming in to right the ship and then (probably) promote an assistant. Yech.

Finding a proven commodity who a) isn't too old, b) has had significant success in a major conference, c) isn't ridiculously expensive, and d) would prefer Indiana over their current job is not an easy task.

And I had no interest whatsoever in keeping it within the "Indiana family".

To me, there were 2 candidates that fit the profile - Sampson and Barnes. Montgomery was close as well (a little too old but fit every other criteria). Of the two, I like Sampson more than Barnes.

Part of that is just selfishness. As a fan, there are a couple things that drive me completely crazy. The first is I hate to watch my team lose because the other team plays harder than we do. The other thing I can't stand is watching teams that try to win by outscoring the other team. I've tried to watch Wake Forest for years now, and I just can't get into it because there's just no emphasis on defense at all. This is also why guys like Few and Beilein didn't get me all that excited - neither have proven they can field teams that play great defense. I know lots of fans love to watch those 95-88 type games. Not me.

Obviously, the two things that define Oklahoma under Sampson were effort and defense. Those are not the things that define Texas under Barnes.

Don't get me wrong, I long to see a more attractive offense than we've seen under Davis recently. I don't know if Sampson is the guy to give us that. But I don't want to see that at the expense of good defense.

The other thing I like about Sampson is how involved he is in the coaching organizations. That's exactly the type of thing I expect from an Indiana basketball coach. He's a guy who is respected by coaches nationwide, who is entrenched in the coaching fraternity. He's a leader, even among high-profile coaches. And nearly everything I've heard about Sampson indicates that he's a good man - a man of integrity who works hard and demands excellence from his players on the court.

Obviously there's the two question marks - the NCAA violations and the graduation rates. For me, those are just table stakes. Running a completely clean program with real student-athletes is not even worthy of comment - it's expected. But the thing is - Indiana is different than Oklahoma. I think Sampson understands the expectations here and we won't have any issues. It bugs me that it even needs to be a discussion, but until he has an issue at Indiana, I'm not going to worry about it. If there are violations, fire him (and Greenspan). If players don't graduate, fire him (and Greenspan). I doubt either is an issue here though.

So basically Indiana got a proven major conference coach whose teams are defined by defense and toughness and who could easily coach at Indiana for another 15+ years. That's a really good thing, IMO.

On a side note, I was really impressed by Herbert yesterday. Dang, he didn't duck any of the tough questions - he didn't even wait for them to get asked. And I loved the bitchslapping he gave Ted Kitchell, who desparately needed it. I thought Greenspan and Sampson both looked tired and spent.

Bottom line - I think I'm going to enjoy watching Indiana play under Sampson, including the amount of wins, the style of play, and the type of kids he'll bring in. While I don't like the baggage, I think the good far outweighs the bad, and I'm going to give Coach Sampson a blank slate at Indiana and expect him to run the Indiana program in the manner we require. If there comes a time when that trust is shown to be misplaced, I'll get in a snoot about it. But not until then.

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