Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mike Davis, Bob Knight, and the future

One thing that is important to remember is:

Go Hoosiers.

I am a Hoosier fan, and always will be, I imagine. I followed the team intensely after Knight got fired, because I was a fan of the program and not the coach. I also was tired of defending someone who wasn't winning, and didn't seem to care about anything except"loyalty management." As for the games, Bobby was over-controlling the players, destroying homegrown midwest talent (see Michael Lewis, Dane Fife) and unable to reach/motivate big recruits (Charlie Miller, Jason Collier, Andre Patterson). And Knight's supposed "big heart" when it came to former players was nowhere to be found when Luke Recker suffered a horrible car accident. Given that Luke ended up coming back to the midwest, that was an opportunity wasted to not only take the high road, but also to get a star to return. But Knight felt personally betrayed, his ego was out of control, and so I really thought that it was best that he was let go.

My major problem with Knight the coach was that he wouldn't let his players play. Dane Fife wasn't allowed to get his shooting touch back. Charlie Miller was on a one -foul/-missed shot/-turnover leash. It was horrible to watch. That's why Davis was such a welcome change. Guys like Fife and Tom Coverdale and Jared Jeffries were allowed to make mistakes and still play, put stuff behind them, and try to win the game.

Now, my problem with Mike Davis is that the same thing is happening. Davis is not as good as Knight at the X-and-O's and is, frankly, terrible at offensive in-game adjustments. Without a strong personality like Coverdale or Jeffries to take control on the floor, Davis can't call plays to out-smart other Big Ten coaches. So when Davis allows his guys to play, the players can often overcome Davis' shortcomings as a coach because of his trust in them. They have in the past figured out how to use their own talent along with Davis' spacing to get good shots and win games. Now, the Bracey Wright years were not good, and Davis couldn't reach Bracey, or for that matter, George Leach. But he gave them chances to succeed.

But somewhere over the last 2-3 years, Davis has changed. He doesn't seem to trust his players any more. Despite all the talk about turning his guys loose this year, I haven't seen it. When the chips are down, IU still gets tight, runs a painfully long halfcourt game that often relies on Marco's ability to stay out of foul trouble and score every time he touches the ball. Which just isn't possible, especially on the road and against Big Ten opponents. And Davis leaves Marco, Marshall, Lewis Monroe, and Robert Vaden on the floor long after games have been decided. Where's the trust in the hyped bench? Where's the running game to increase possessions, giving IU a better chance to outscore its foes? Why do Monroe, Strickland, and Calloway all stop on almost every possession to get the play from Davis, when they're all way better on the run? Did this all go out the window with DJ's injury?

Now, I hope the Hoosiers start winning, Davis gets his trust back and turns his point guards loose to move the tempo up. I honestly don't want to be calling for Davis' head. I just want to be rooting for IU. Maybe all of this is fixable if the Hoosiers hit the defensive boards and AJ Ratliff starts getting his shots to drop. Here's hoping.

Go Hoosiers.


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