Saturday, March 25, 2017

That river in Egypt

It's called Denial, ha-ha. And sometimes it is just a river in Egypt.

Which is the Blob's needlessly cryptic way of saying that what Steve Alford said last night in the wake of UCLA's loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen is maybe not the last word on the issue.

The issue being, whether or not he and Indiana University have struck a deal to bring him home to Bloomington.

What Alford said about that is this: "I'm absolutely, 100 percent not going to Indiana. I am happy here. I love it here. We have a great recruiting class coming in and a brand-new practice facility ...
Obviously, I love my alma mater. But I'm committed to UCLA. I am not going to talk to Indiana. I am staying a Bruin."

That would seem to close the book on the matter, at least until Alford shows up in Bloomington for the introductory news conference. And it probably does close the book on it, all joking aside.

However ...

However, just because a guy says he's happy where he is and he's got no reason to leave doesn't mean he's not gonna leave. Not always, anyway.

Nick Saban, after all, said there was no way he was leaving the Miami Dolphins for Alabama. And I remember a certain day 20 years ago, when, during a sitdown with Rick Pitino, he looked me square in the eye and said why in the world would he want to leave Kentucky to take the Boston Celtics job, because the Wildcats had just won a national title and it was the greatest place in the world to coach hoops.

The next day he took the Celtics job.

And so, yes, sometimes denial is denial. And sometimes it isn't.

What you can say is that, other than goo-gobs of dough and the pull of home, there really is little reason for Alford to leave UCLA. It's a more iconic program, for one thing. There are a bunch more blue-chippers in the recruiting pipeline. And Alford wouldn't be the first Hoosier to lift the school to greatness.

Some guy named John Wooden did a pretty fair job of that, too, as I recall.

From Indiana's standpoint, meanwhile, what would you be getting from Alford, other than the legendary native son? UCLA's loss last night was, after all, consistent with Alford's record in the Madness -- i.e., he's still never gotten a team past the Sweet Sixteen in 22 years as a Division I head coach. And his teams at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA have made the NCAA Tournament just 10 times in that span.

On the other hand, his teams have also won 20 or more games 14 times, including all six years he was at New Mexico.

He's a good coach. But so was Tom Crean -- whose record sounds remarkably similar, and whom Indiana just fired.

The argument in Alford's favor, of course, is that he'd own the state in recruiting, something Crean couldn't do and which contributed mightily to his downfall. Alford, conversely, would be a god in Bloomington. And he "gets" Indiana basketball -- as if Indiana basketball were some mystic rubric only the especially enlightened could unlock.

Of course, people say that about UCLA, too. And Kentucky. And Duke. And North Carolina. And Kansas. And on and on and on.

Anyway, this is likely all pointless speculation. I mean, Alford laid this to rest last night, right?



Update: OK, so no maybe about it. Archie Miller of Dayton has confirmed he's been hired as Indiana's next head basketball coach. Good choice.

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