Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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They’re hailing the hiring of Archie Miller as basketball coach, as they always do at Indiana – like this time it’s the “sure” thing. But they have short memories in Bloomington, and a case of entitlement…when it comes to basketball.

I read Hal’s (McCoy) piece this week on Dayton fans being upset with Archie Miller leaving after six seasons to take the Indiana job.  Well done, well said, and properly stated.  There isn’t a one of us that would turn down a better opportunity for that kind of money at that stage of life.

It was only a matter of time where Miller was concerned.  The grass is always greener for the gifted, and there are precious few Don Donohers left in the world.

And in Indiana they’re talking now as they always have, post-Bobby Knight.  They’ve hired the right coach.  They’ve hired the one that’s going to return them to their rightful place in the pecking order of NCAA basketball.  They’ve hired the one that’s going to fix and replace all the chipped-out stucco in the Hoosier basketball estate called Assembly Hall.

Well for Archie’s sake I hope they have.  He’s a great coach, he’s a good guy, and he was very, very gracious during his six-year relationship with this website.

But he’s going to a place that reminds me that perspectives and expectation are strange bed-fellows when it comes to winning.  And yes, there is a great legacy of basketball at Indiana University, and in the entire state, for that matter.  But I’ve always chuckled when Indiana people make the claims they make about their rightful place.

Want to do some comparison?

OK, they do have five national titles, along with the five that Duke has, and North Carolina.  But two came before the modern era of college basketball (’40 and ’53).

Kentucky has eight;  and need I remind anyone, UCLA has 11, and seven of them came consecutively between 1967 and 1973.  Now that’s a legacy, but it’s been 22 years since their last title.  The landscape ‘has’ changed.

The fact is…that Indiana has not won now since 1987, not for 30 years.  And for whom back then?  Bob Knight, who won in ’81 and ’76, as well.  IU alums became a bit spoiled at that success, which even Knight proclaimed at the time to be unsustainable – that the landscape of college basketball was changing, and changing fast, with the adoption of the three-point shot in 1986…and with cultural change.

For his 29 years at Indiana there’s little doubt that Knight simply ‘willed’ the Hoosiers to many of the 662 wins he amassed, a .735 percentage (he lost 239).  He was an intimidating factor on the court, in public, and in the living rooms of those he sought to recruit.  Knight got the select people he wanted as players for Indiana and IU fans proudly boasted of that fact.  And yet, he only won three titles in 29 years.  He left after the 2000 season.

He was replaced by former player, and assistant, Mike Davis.  But in six seasons Davis’s record, while good, never satisfied the hunger for more.

Kelvin Sampson was hired away from Oklahoma for two seasons, despite a spotted history of NCAA violations and allegations about others that didn’t stick.  He left under a cloud following the 2008 season with the program under a 3-year probation imposed by the NCAA.

They then hired Tom Crean away from Marquette, with optimism that the success he had enjoyed in Milwaukee would help him restore a thoroughly depleted program.  It took him four years but Crean led IU back to the NCAA tournament and the Sweet Sixteen by 2011-12, and again to the tourney in 2015-16, where they lost to Michigan in the second round.  The following year they returned to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to North Carolina.  But two weeks ago, IU grew impatient with the process and fired Crean after losing to Georgia Tech in the opening round of the NIT.  There are some who say it wouldn’t have made a difference if he’d won.  He was on the way out.

“Bunkers” is proud to sponsor coverage of the UD Flyers on PressPros Magazine.com.

“Bunkers” is proud to sponsor coverage of the UD Flyers on PressPros Magazine.com.

The point is, basketball at Indiana is like football at Ohio State, or basketball at Kentucky.  It’s the attraction, the money-maker, and it’s the sensitive nerve when you talk to Indiana people about what have you done lately.  And to many of those same people, there really isn’t much patience on how to compete with what Knight called back then the changing landscape, now a quarter century removed.  Crean’s record would have sufficed at many places (2 Big Ten titles and Coach of The Year), but not in Bloomington.

They don’t get everyone they want at IU anymore, just because it’s IU.  Now it’s like Notre Dame football.  And while Archie did an admirable job of bringing talent to Dayton, the stakes are going to be higher in competing for those who will have their choice between Miller and the rest of the Big Ten – between IU and the rest of the landscape, including Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, and not to mention all the mid-major ‘Davids’ that routinely knock off the ‘Goliaths’.

They hired him for seven years and gave him 28 million dollars.  But unless he follows John Calipari’s example at Kentucky, of bringing in one-and-done freshmen who move on to the NBA after one season, nothing is guaranteed under Miller, as nothing was guaranteed with Crean.  And that’s not gonna’ happen at IU because they’re also very proud of the school’s institutional legacy – for serving the state in more than just basketball.  They want it both ways at Indiana.

Sonny_thumb0216For Archie Miller’s sake, my concern is that he’s just the ‘next’ coach at Indiana…and not ‘the’ coach at Indiana.  That if basketball was indeed the school’s legacy they would have gotten it right by now, post-Knight – with either Davis,  Sampson or Crean.  Careful what you trust, Arch.  And read up on the feeding habits of pirhanas.

Maybe he should have talked to Earle Bruce, or John Cooper, instead of Calipari before taking the job.  They both won 75% of their games at Ohio State…and it wasn’t near good enough.

But for $28 million?  What the hey…it’s their money, and their legacy.

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