“Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?” – from the song “Charlie Brown,” by The Coasters
I count myself among many, many Indiana University alumni, supporters and basketball fans in general who wanted to see Mike Davis succeed as the Hoosiers’ coach.
I admired his demeanor, humility and honesty. I respected the incredibly difficult situation he inherited, first as the interim coach, then as the man designated to sustain IU’s tradition in the wake of Bob Knight’s firing.
And certainly, no one with a pulse or a brain could ignore the issue of race. I’m a member of the Indianapolis-based Black Coaches Association, and serve on its local advisory board. I consider Floyd Keith, the BCA’s executive director, one of the sharpest knives in the drawer of intercollegiate athletics. I believe in the goals of the BCA and certainly knew that if Davis could prosper at IU, another door would be knocked down, symbolically at the very least.
Perhaps you have noticed that I’ve been writing in past tense.
Which soon also will characterize Davis’ coaching career in Bloomington.
More than his teams losing games, Davis has lost me-and literally thousands of others who wanted him to do well-because he simply doesn’t get it.
It’s not the media’s fault. It’s not the fans’ fault. It’s not the fault of Internet chat rooms and the no-life numbskulls who go there to vent. It’s not the fault of the Knight sycophants. And it’s not the bigotry of a bunch of Big Rednecks.
The responsibility-and culpability-rests with one person: Mike Davis.
What IU fans want to see is a team that is well-coached and plays hard, both in Assembly Hall and on the road. They want to see a team able to compete both for a Big Ten championship and at the highest level nationally. It’s not about playing with the Dukes and UConns. It’s about defeating them.
Falling short has nothing to do with Davis’ race, the situation he came into, or the lack of support from either fans or the IU administration. And it certainly has nothing to do with that nonsense he put out about IU fans needing “one of their own” to coach the Hoosiers.
For the vast majority, it has everything-everything-to do with the onfloor product, and the failure to live up to expectations not produced by media or fans, but by Davis himself.
After all, it wasn’t the media who declared “help is on the way” a few seasons back, just before IU missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons. And it wasn’t the fans who proclaimed the current Hoosier squad to be Davis’ deepest and most talented yet. Even UConn coach Jim Calhoun said Indiana has the most talent of any team the Huskies have faced this year. So perhaps Davis should blame Calhoun.
And it’s not the fans or the media or the bigots who have made IU basketball-especially on the offensive end-excruciatingly painful and frustrating to watch. I’d be the last to advocate bringing back Bob Knight. But please, bring back some motion to that offense, instead of the Five Fighting Statues.
And while we’re at it, bring back some discipline, starting with Marco Killingsworth, the intentional foul waiting to happen. One year of that young man’s disgracing the IU uniform will be plenty.
Davis wants everyone to think that rollover-and-play-dead losses, playing .500 ball in the Big Ten, and a low top-25 ranking (which is now gone) are acceptable. At Penn State, maybe. But not at Indiana.
Davis leads the Big Ten in three categories. Unfortunately, they are justifications, excuses and alibis.
There’s one more thing that burns my behind-Davis’ assertion that he has no interest in seeing the Big Ten tournament in Conseco Fieldhouse. That’s a slap in the face to the staffs of the Fieldhouse and Indiana Sports Corp., as well as to the hundreds of volunteers who have worked to make that tournament a success … even with lackluster IU teams participating in it.
It would seem that Davis, in his unrelenting search to assign fault, has looked everywhere but in the mirror. At a compensation of nearly $1 million per year, in charge of one of America’s most storied collegiate programs, he wants us to feel sorry for his sorry situation.
Well, sorry. I’m fresh out of sympathy.
Why is everybody always pickin’ on Mike Davis? Sadly, because he deserves it.
Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column,go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to [email protected]