Five banners hang from the Cathedral known as Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987. Kentucky, North Carolina, and Indiana are the only schools that have won a championship across 4 different decades. The 5 NCAA championships are good enough to be tied with Duke for 4th most all-time. Go back just 150 days and IU was tied for 3rd most. Go back just 8 years and IU had more championships than both Duke and North Carolina. Go back 22 years and Indiana was tied with Kentucky for 2nd most championships in the nation. Go back 41 years and Indiana had the last undefeated national championship team.
Imagine 1986-87. The movie Hoosiers was released. Damon Bailey was entering his freshman year of high school. A Season On the Brink was published. The Indiana Hoosiers were about to win their 5th NCAA championship led by Bob Knight, Steve Alford, and Keith Smart.
Now imagine 2017. It’s been 30 years since IU won its last national championship. It’s been 15 years since IU last made the NCAA championship game. IU is now on its 5th coach in the last 15 years. And now people are beginning to question how much longer until Indiana basketball is no longer a blue blood.
It takes more than tradition to win a national championship. And that is something that Indiana basketball has had to learn harshly over the past 20 years. It takes a perfect storm of variables to win the championship, but none are more important than the head coach.
To put it simple, you must have a top 5 or top 10 head coach to win the national championship in today’s age. Since the year 2000, only one team has won the national championship without having an arguably-top-5, certainly-top-10 head coach. That team was the 2014 UConn team led by Kevin Ollie. Krzyzewski, Izzo, Roy and Gary Williams, Boeheim, Calhoun, Donovan, Self, Calipari, Pitino, and Wright round out the rest.
Since the year 2000 IU has had zero coaches that were top 10 head coaches. In 2000 Bob Knight was well past his prime, refusing to even hit the recruiting trail anymore. In 2001, Mike Davis was handed the keys to a car he never had the skills to drive. In 2006, Kelvin Sampson was hired after losing to IU/Mike Davis in the Final Four just five years prior. In just 2 years Sampson would be fired, decimating the IU program with violations, and leaving IU with only 1 returning scholarship player. In 2009, Tom Crean was hired and eventually made the #8 highest paid coach in college basketball. But Tom Crean couldn’t even top ESPN’s top 50 best college basketball coaches list.
Five banners are no longer good enough for Indiana basketball.
But Indiana basketball is not dead. Indiana basketball is a sleeping giant waiting to be awoken. The resources, fans, and support are there.
- Recruiting Grounds: The state of Indiana has long been hailed as one of the top states for producing quantity and quality basketball recruits. Since 2008, Indiana produced 40 four & five star recruits. Tom Crean landed just 4 of them. The last GREAT Indiana basketball team (1992-1994) had 8 out of 11 players from Indiana. The 3 that were not Indiana natives were from states that bordered Indiana. New head coach Archie Miller has stated that his recruiting philosophy will be “inside-out” and he has already impressed five star Indiana natives Romeo Langford, Darius Garland, and Keon Brooks Jr. 2019 recruit Brooks Jr said “I didn’t really have a relationship at IU with the previous staff…now I really like Archie..I really like IU”.
- Resources: Assembly Hall is considered one of the toughest places to play and one of the meccas of college basketball gymnasiums. And in 2016 Assembly Hall received $45 million dollars worth of upgrades. Indiana also has a new, state-of-the-art practice and training facility in Cook Hall.
- Program Value: The Wall Street Journal Ranked IU as the 3rd most valuable basketball program behind only Kentucky and Louisville. Not bad for a school that hasn’t won a championship since 1987.
- Fan Base: Hoosier Hysteria is a real thing. Indiana has 13 of the nations 14 largest high school basketball gyms. Over 40,000 people attended the high school state championship game in 1990. Bleacher Report ranked Hoosier fans as the #2 best college basketball fans behind only Kansas. When IU basketball is good, there is a palpable buzz in the air in the Hoosier state.
But as IU has seen over the past 30 years – resources, fans, and support are not enough to win a championship. It will take a top 10 coach to awaken the program and bring its 6th national championship. When IU named Archie Miller the 29th head basketball coach at IU in late March, they made him the 8th highest paid coach in the nation. At just 38 years of age, Archie is considered one the top up-and-coming head coaches in the nation and turned down at least 7 offers before finally accepting the Indiana coaching position.
The question everyone wants to know is if Archie can coach as well as IU will pay him. Can Archie be the guy that wakes up the Hoosier program and brings the 6th banner to Assembly Hall? Only time will tell and the clock has already started ticking. One thing is for sure; Five banners are no longer good enough for Indiana basketball.