BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Mike Davis' departure from Indiana was
as sudden as his ascent to the top of Hoosiers basketball.
Just a couple dozen yards from where he became Bob Knight's
successor in 2000, Davis walked into in a crowded room and
announced he would resign at the end of the season. He was still
wearing a crimson Hoosiers' sweater as he urged fans to unite
behind the program.
"Don't be sad for me. Please don't be sad for me," Davis said
as his wife watched from the side. "This is like the MasterCard
commercial. You know, it's priceless what God has given me to be
the head basketball coach here."
The embattled heir to one of college basketball's signature
programs made his decision public with five games left before the
Big Ten tournament. In six seasons, he was 109-76.
But Indiana (13-9, 5-6) has been slumping lately. The Hoosiers
have lost four straight games and are just 3-7 since a promising
10-2 start that put the team in the top 10.
Indiana president Adam Herbert said he had planned to wait until
after the season ended to evaluate whether the 45-year-old Davis
would return as coach next year, but Davis wouldn't wait.
Herbert said Davis initiated discussions before the Connecticut
game on Feb. 4. They met again afterward and eventually agreed on
an $800,000 buyout -- a hefty price for an athletics department that
has run a multimillion dollar deficit in recent years. Davis was
scheduled to earn about $800,000 with outside income over the final
two years of his contract.
At the news conference, Herbert and athletic director Rick
Greenspan extolled Davis' successes -- becoming the first coach in
school history to win 20 games and reach the NCAA Tournament in
each of his first three seasons, leading the Hoosiers to the
national championship game in 2002 and producing one of the
nation's finest recruiting classes two years ago.
But fan unrest, unfinished business and incessant pressure led
to Davis' decision.
"Every year there's been a rumor that coach Davis would not be
here and every year I'm back," Davis said. "I wanted it to be on
He has long had a troubled relationship with Indiana's fans,
many of whom felt Knight should never have been fired.
Less than two months after becoming the coach, Davis drew
attention by saying after a loss to Kentucky that he "wasn't the
right man for job." The next season, some fans were upset that
Davis said he wanted to coach in the NBA one day. On Monday, he
said he believed that IU fans needed a former Indiana player to
coach the team so they could embrace him.
Stephen Backer, who was on Indiana's Board of Trustees when
Davis was hired, said high expectations might have doomed Davis,
who spent three years as an assistant to Knight. In 29 seasons
under Knight, Indiana won three NCAA championships.
"It was almost a no-win situation for him -- unless he won three
straight national titles," Backer said. "Poor Mike was thrown
into his first head coaching job, and we put him in a very tough
And it only got tougher when the Hoosiers went 29-29 and with no
NCAA Tournament bids the last two seasons.
Some fans were already pushing Thursday for Iowa coach Steve
Alford's return to Bloomington.
Alford, an Indiana high school star and former All-American who
led the Hoosiers to their last national title in 1987, declined
Thursday to discuss Indiana's situation.
Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association
and a former assistant football coach with the Hoosiers, suggested
some Indiana supporters never accepted the school's first black
"I coached in southern Indiana for nine years and I understand
the culture of southern Indiana," Keith said. "I know there's
always going to be a pocket of folks who don't quite think like
other folks do. ... I wouldn't be honest if I said there wasn't a
little bit of that that exists. It did, and Mike had to deal with
Davis urged fans to unite behind the players and program.
The question now is which players. Sophomore swingman Robert Vaden, an Indianapolis native, said he would likely transfer.
Sophomore forward D.J. White, last year's Big Ten freshman of the
year, was more direct.
"I came all the way from Alabama to play for coach Davis. With
him not here, I feel like it will be tough to play," he said. "I
don't think I'm coming back next year."
NCAA president Myles Brand, who was IU's president when Davis
took over for Knight, declined comment through a spokesman. Knight,
now the coach at Texas Tech, also declined comment through a
Greenspan said he would begin the search for a replacement
immediately but was unlikely to name a coach until after the NCAA
tournament ends April 3.