After dropping to Wisconsin on Friday night in the Big Ten Tournament, the Indiana Hoosiers missed the NCAA Tournament this season. It is the second time in four years the Hoosiers have missed the Big Dance and the fifth time in head coach Tom Crean’s nine-year tenure in Bloomington.
Since taking over, Crean has seen a mix of success and failure. His first three years were abysmal, resulting in a dreadful 28-66 overall record. Indiana’s performance has improved considerably since then, but the program’s inconsistency has maintained.
All told, Crean has a 166-135 (.551) overall record with Indiana and a 71-91 (.438) record in Big Ten play. The early years of his tenure certainly weigh down those statistics, but it’s hard to rectify those numbers with a program that has five national champions and 39 NCAA Tournament appearances to its name.
And following Indiana’s most recent struggles, speculation has built to a fever pitch regarding Crean’s future with the program. On Thursday, just as the NCAA tournament tipped off, the Hoosiers made the call to fire the longtime head coach.
NOTE: This is simply speculation and is not a report of considered candidates.
Indiana Head Coaching Candidates:
1. Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)
-Background: Stevens currently serves as the head coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. He has a 113-133 (.459) record since joining the league, but has built the Celtics into a prime contender in the Eastern Conference. Stevens is also well known for building Butler into one of college basketball’s most consistent programs of the last decade.
Likeliness of happening: Look, as badly as Hoosier fans would like to see this happen and as great of a fit as it would be for both sides, this is not happening. Stevens has a top five job in the NBA and has no cognizable reason to leave. Outside of a move for the heart, there is no logical reason for Stevens to leave Boston for Bloomington.
And that’s why I wanted to put Stevens at No. 1 on this list. Before we can talk about real candidates, we need to get the whale out of the way. Stevens will not be coaching Indiana next season. Could he come back at some point? Yes, but not anytime soon, so let’s stop talking about him as a realistic option.
2. Gregg Marshall (Wichita State)
-Background: Marshall was the architect behind Wichita State’s explosion onto the college basketball scene in the past decade. Despite going 11-20 during his first season, the Shockers have won at least 25 games in each of the last eight seasons and 30 games in four of the last five seasons.
-Likeliness of happening: Marshall would be a home run hire for Indiana. However, Marshall has been on these lists for years and still hasn’t left Wichita. In other words, it’s hard to speculate regarding his interest in this job. A phone call from Fred Glass would certainly be significant enough to get him to pick up the other end, but it’s unclear whether this job would be big enough to get him to finally leave.
3. Archie Miller (Dayton)
-Background: Miller is another mid-major coach that has been rumored for major job openings in recent years. Since Miller took over at Dayton prior to the 2011-’12 season, Dayton has won at least 20 games in five of the last six years and has made each of the last three NCAA Tournaments. Notably, his 2014-’15 team made the Elite Eight after beating Ohio State, Syracuse, and Stanford.
-Likeliness of happening: Many believe that this is the year Miller will finally make the jump from Dayton. At just 38 years old, Miller will have more than his fair share of opportunities and the conventional wisdom is that he’s been waiting for the perfect opportunity to make his long awaited jump to a bigger program.
Miller would be a great fit in Bloomington, but how does he view the Indiana job? And more importantly, what other opportunities are out there? Indiana is regarded by most as a blue blood program, but Miller’s phone is going to ring from a lot of places this offseason and who knows how highly he regards the Hoosiers.
4. Steve Alford (UCLA)
Background: Soon after Indiana’s loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament, reports surfaced that UCLA head coach Steve Alford was interested in returning to Bloomington to take over as head coach. Of course, Alford was one of Indiana’s best players of all-time, earning All-Big Ten honors three times with the program.
As a coach, Alford has spent (roughly) 20 years coaching at Iowa, New Mexico, and UCLA. Alford led the Hawkeyes to three NCAA Tournaments in his eight year tenure and New Mexico to three NCAA Tournaments in his last four years with the Lobos. Since arriving at UCLA, he made the Tournament in three of his four seasons and the Sweet 16 in each of his first two seasons.
Likeliness of happening: Alford is an unusual candidate for a variety of reasons. To start, he’s already coaching at a college basketball blue blood. A potential move to Bloomington would be a lateral move (at best) for Alford, at least on paper.
Additionally, Alford has a bit of a mixed resume. He’s won some conference titles and made two Sweet 16 appearances, but, generally speaking, his teams have varied widely from year-to-year. Alford was also involved in a significant off court scandal at Iowa, which resulted in him apologizing for his handling of a rape case.
However, Alford has still piloted some successful programs and his recent recruiting at UCLA has been impressive. He’s also a legend in Bloomington.
5. Chris Mack (Xavier)
Background: Since taking over at Xavier in 2009, the Musketeers have become one of college basketball’s most consistent programs. Xavier has made the NCAA Tournament in seven of Mack’s eight seasons at the helm and received a six seed or higher on four separate occasions. Mack has also done a great job of recruiting the midwest.
Likeliness of happening: On paper, Mack appears to be a good fit. He’s a midwestern guy that has shown the ability to build a consistent program in a good conference. That’s a good hunk of what Hoosiers fans should be looking for in a new head coach.
However, there are some road blocks to a Mack to Indiana jump happening. To start, Mack wouldn’t be a splashy hire for Indiana fans. That’s because he’s never won a major conference title or made it past the Sweet 16. In fact, one could make a pretty strong argument that Crean’s resume is better.
On the other side, Mack is from Ohio and has been with Xavier’s program since 2004. Prying him away from the Musketeers wouldn’t be an easy task.
Others To Watch:
6. Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City Thunder)
For most, this will look like a crazy addition to the list. Like Stevens, Donovan is coaching in the NBA and has a great gig. He also doesn’t have the same in-state connections that Stevens had while at Butler.
However, one has to wonder what the departure of Kevin Durant means for Donovan in Oklahoma City and what a potential Russell Westbrook departure down the line could mean as well. Of course, the biggest concern here would be the financial cost, if Donovan even had serious interest.
7. Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington)
After putting together two straight NCAA Tournament bids at UNC Wilmington, Keatts is this year’s rising head coaching candidate. This season was particularly impressive with a 29-5 overall record. However, Keatts is typically a candidate for smaller Power Five programs. This would be a major reach for Indiana.
8. Chris Collins (Northwestern)
It’s rare for coaches to switch jobs within the same conference, but why shouldn’t Collins be considered a candidate? He turned Northwestern into an NCAA Tournament team and built it almost exclusively on midwestern talent. In fact, his development of Bryant McIntosh, recruited out of Indiana, has been particularly impressive. There’s no reason to think he couldn’t be even more successful in Bloomington.
9. Andy Enfield (USC)
This is a bit of a wildcard. Enfield doesn’t have an obvious connections to Indiana, but he’s a proven coach that has turned two programs (Florida Gulf Coast and USC) into legitimate teams on the national stage. He’s also a young coach and his teams play a really exciting style of basketball. It’s not likely, but it wouldn’t be a bad hire.
10. Ben Jacobson (Northern Iowa)
Despite an underwhelming 14-16 performance for Northern Iowa this season, Jacobson still remains one of the best mid-major candidates on the market. He took Northern Iowa to two straight NCAA Tournaments and built the Panthers into a top 20 KenPom team and pulled off some impressive wins in March. Of course, the biggest concern would be that he hasn’t shown sustained success, or done it in a major conference.
11. Chris Holtmann (Butler)
Indiana let one Butler coach slip through their fingers, so, perhaps this time, the Hoosiers could move in before it’s too late. Holtmann took over for Stevens in 2014 and has taken Butler to three straight NCAA Tournaments. Unfortunately, he has yet to make a deep NCAA Tournament run as a head coach.