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Sports Business

Stevens to IU not as farfetched as Hoosier fans think

March 17, 2017
KEYWORDS Sports Business

It’s fun to look back on old articles—to see how much of what you wrote was smart. And how much wasn’t.

Let’s be clear, much more of what I’ve written on the sports prediction front over the years has looked more dumb than smart.

But two things I wrote years ago look pretty keen today.

First, check out what I wrote about Steve Alford back in 2013, shortly after he took the UCLA job. Could that prediction be coming true?

(It should be noted that I wrote this in the small hours of the morning on an iPhone 4 while on vacation.)

I also would like to refer you to what I wrote about Brad Stevens in 2008—before either of Butler’s Final Four runs. It’s also important to note just how much is wrong in that blog post. You will notice, Tom Crean’s name is nowhere to be found despite the fact that not too long after that post, he was hired as Indiana’s head basketball coach.

I point out in this 2010 blog post—when the world was still trying to figure out if the baby-faced Stevens was a true hoops savant—that I was almost laughed off the air when I suggested to a local radio host in 2008 that IU officials should take a hard look at Stevens despite his lack of experience at the time. Of course, he has no such lack of experience now.

So to answer the question: Do I think Alford would be interested in coming back to Bloomington? In a Westwood minute.

Now Stevens, that’s a bit trickier. You don’t easily pry basketball coaches out from under the Boston Celtics, one of the most storied NBA franchises.

But I do think there’s a pretty good chance that both of these guys at least listen to IU Athletic Director Fred Glass if he calls them—or their agents. Glass is a fool if he doesn’t do at least that much.

I know the prevailing thought is there is NO WAY Stevens would consider the IU job. I don't believe that. He and Alford have dreamed of the IU job for years. And dreams like that don't just fade away.

Let’s get this much straight. If Alford and Stevens decide not to at least consider the job or to take it, it shouldn’t be because of money. IU has plenty of that. If school officials wanted to, they could pay its basketball coach $8 million to $10 million a year—really without much of a sweat.

IU already pays its head coach more than UCLA. Crean was making $3.16 million annually, Alford is scoring $2.6 million.

IU’s athletic department budget is expected to exceed $100 million next year thanks in large part to the Big Ten Network. As the conference moves into new markets, that revenue is only going to continue to grow.

Should IU pay up to $10 million for a basketball coach? That’s a question for IU President Michael McRobbie and the school’s trustees. But ask any corporate executive if they’d be willing to spend 7 percent to 10 percent of its revenue on a guy who can really move the company’s sales and marketing needle.

Two things to consider. IU regularly makes more money from its basketball program than any NCAA Division I school in the country except Louisville, Kansas and Kentucky. IU relies on its basketball team more than twice as much to drive revenue to the athletic department than most other Division I schools. Read this story for more interesting facts on IU's financials.

Would Alford or Stevens take the IU job if offered? I don’t know.

Opinions vary on whether IU should pursue Alford, who led IU to the 1987 national championship—its last—as a player.

There’s no such debate about Stevens, who took Butler to two NCAA championship games and currently has the Celtics in second place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

But before you dismiss the idea of Stevens at least giving the IU job some serious thought, answer these questions. Does Brad Stevens like living in Boston? Does his wife like living in Boston? Do they want to raise their young children there? Does Brad Stevens want to coach 90-100 games a year and spend a fourth or more of every year on the road and away from his wife and kids? Or does he want to coach 35-40 games a year near where he grew up?

I know Stevens left a nice gig at Butler to coach the Celtics. But now he’s had nearly four years to let the reality of life in the NBA sink in. Maybe he loves it. Maybe he doesn’t.

I don’t know the answer to any of those things. And I don't think many other people purporting to know are sure of those things either. If a reporter asked Stevens and his wife, I’m not sure you get an honest answer at this point.

But I do know this much about Alford and Stevens. The fans who cheer for them and the teams they now coach will never love them the way the throngs of Hoosier faithful would in their native land. The cheers in the Garden or Pauley Pavilion will never ring as loud or true for Stevens and Alford as they would at Assembly Hall. Heck, a year ago there was talk of running Alford out of Westwood.

If either one of those guys took the IU job, fans from Fort Wayne to Evansville would blow the roof off Assembly Hall. Woodstock would pale compared to the lovefest they would have in Bloomington.

So now you’re getting to a very philosophical question. What’s love and adoration worth?

Beats me. As we’ve established, I’m no good at predictions.

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