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Under the Shadow of a Knight

Under the Shadow of a Knight
New IU men's basketball head coach Archie Miller addresses the media in a press conference on Monday. Miller will take over for former coach Tom Crean. Photo: Greg Gottfried / Indiana Daily Student

NCAA Men’s Basketball Finals! What an absolutely great time of year. And so interesting! The story lines go on and on…How cool is that! Anything is possible, this time of year, right?


There are some things that are just not possible. These things are beyond us.

They cannot happen – simply – Can. Not. Happen. No matter how hard one might try, or how oddly talented one might be, some things are just not possible – no matter even, what kind of assistance one has…

For example, things like –

Running a 2-minute mile, or…

As a human, traveling the speed of light, or…

Counting to infinity, or…

Actually comprehending how difficult it is to coach men’s basketball at Indiana University – in the shadow of Robert Montgomery Knight.

Former Indiana University head men’s basketball coach Bob Knight. Photo: LM Otero/AP

Dear Archie Miller…just a couple of quick questions – first, where is Dayton? No, nevermind that. But, that’s where you were, right? Ok, so – mmmmmmm, can you tell me – Is it possible to stand in front of thousands of rabidly hungry Indiana basketball fanatics and say…

“Hiya! I actually have no idea what I’m getting into here – but I hear Indiana is a cool place for basketball, and I’m just going to do my sparky hopeful best to win us some games.”

Is that possible? Because that would most precisely be the truth. And, because, no matter what you stand up in front of people and say – that, dear Archie, is what people hear – almost word-for-word. Might as well be blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.

And, Us? Who is us? Who – is – us?!!? Who, are you!?!

“A cool place for basketball?” Are you for real? Do you have any idea about the avalanche of stress and pressure that you just invited into your life!!!??!! We’re talking Indiana, here man. Indiana. IU. Go IU. Go get ‘em, Hoosierboys!

Oh wait – let’s give a shout out for that movie, “Hoosiers,” Great flick, yeah?. We loved it. And an extra special shout out to my boy Scott Summers, whose character in that movie, “Strap,” was a young lad of prayer.  Interestingly, as an aside – Scott Summers and I played high school basketball together – guess where? Yup. Brownsburg, Indiana.

But for sure, our dear Archie must start praying now, and he’ll likely need to keep praying…

But – the only people who seem to have any idea how hard it would be to coach men’s basketball at Indiana University, now – still in the shadow of Bobby Knight – are the guys who turn down the job.

Now see, here’s the thing – for years, people have been wishing for Steve Alford to take the job. For years. Decades, even. When I was there as an Associate Instructor, from 1997 – 2002, even then the buzz was to get Alford and usher him right in. But let’s give Steve Alford some credit. He’s a smart guy. It’s not about money for a guy like Alford.  If he ever does take the job coaching at Indiana University, it will be because, for whatever reason, he can do so without being under the shadow of a Knight.

By Dr. Rodney J. Blackman

Dr. Rodney J. Blackman is the Chair of Recreation Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at rblackman@ussa.edu.


  1. There are two reasons for hope in this new coach. According to ESPN, “New Indiana coach Archie Miller brings a strong track record to Bloomington. In six seasons at Dayton, his Flyers posted a better overall record than the Hoosiers and also made a run to the Elite Eight, a stage Indiana hasn’t reached since 2002.” Also a quote from Tom Izzo of Michigan State”I was personally sad to lose Tom Crean but I have always watched and respected the job Archie has done as an assistant and then the head coach at Dayton. This league has some of the best coaches in the country and it will be another great addition.” I might also mention Indiana hiring Bill lynch as football coach in 2007. I questioned then the wisdom of hiring a guy with a 37-53 record at Ball State to take the reins of a school in a more competitive conference than the MAC. His record at Indiana was 19-30. Archie Miller has a winning record in a basketball conference that ranks in the top ten toughest conferences in the country. Indiana could do worse (like another Bill Lynch).

    • Thanks for your note. I am sincerely hopeful that you took my meaning as it was intended – that Mr. Archie Miller’s new job at IU is far tougher than one might casually guess. I agree with you – that there is some measure of promise in him – and I am right there with you – hoping that he is, in fact, successful – to bring another few title banners to Assembly Hall. But the task, given the “shadow” of which the article title suggests, may actually be more difficult than anyone can fairly comprehend, yeah!?!

  2. Thanks for your comments and observations! I really like, and agree with your thoughts about how Coach Knight himself couldn’t handle living in the shadow of Bobby Knight. Recruiting was certainly an issue then, and it will continue to be – so I agree on that score as well. However, I am reluctant to call someone the greatest recruiter college sports has ever seen – especially in light of all the good recruiting that so many coaches do. Recruiting has certainly changed in certain ways – and I expect it will continue to change. Do you expect that as well?

  3. Coaching at Indiana was easy when Bobby Knight was there. The school let him run wild as long as he won a
    lot of games. But when he got stuck in
    a long rut of what the fans considered
    mediocrity, he himself couldn’t handle
    living in the shadow of Bobby Knight. He stopped getting as many blue chip recruits and he stopped winning championships. Players started to transfer away. The program went downhill with him there, and his anger got him fired. Now, the coach at
    IU will have to live in the shadow of
    John Calipari, who seems to be one of the
    greatest recruiters college sports has ever seen. No one can recruit against Calipari. He relates to the best high school players anywhere in the country, as if he were an 18 year-old with dreams of NBA big money himself. It doesn’t matter who Indiana hires: no one will be able to recruit against
    Calipari. Maybe in 20 years, Calipari will

    • Please consider that since Bobby Knight’s last NCAA Championship in 1987, he coached for twenty more seasons. Fifteen of those years, his teams won twenty or more games, and seventeen seasons his teams went to the NCAA tournament. To me that doesn’t seem like a long rut of mediocrity.


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