When Mike Davis steps back out onto Branch McCracken Court tonight, stand and cheer, Indiana fans. He deserves it.
Yes, I know he's not Bob Knight, and I understand that. But Davis should be appreciated by IU fans for what he did during his years in Bloomington.
Davis was tasked with the impossible job of replacing Knight in 2000, even though he'd never been a head coach at any level. Davis' task was a daunting one: Keep a team of young men together at a time when everybody's first instinct was to run away.
IU fans were mad. The beloved Knight was dismissed from the program after so much success, and people needed somebody to blame. Many assigned that blame to AD Myles Brand, sure, but he was hardly the visible figure Davis quickly became. If Davis failed to keep the program upright, he would have been made the scapegoat by many fans.
And while Davis certainly had his shortcomings as a coach, he managed to keep the basketball team together and lead them to the national championship game in 2002. That hasn't been done since. Davis did it with Knight's players, but he's the one responsible for unifying the group during a rough time.
I've read several interviews Davis has done with IU media outlets this week -- including with our Terry Hutchens -- and Davis knows the Indiana job became too big for him at the time. How could it not? Your first coaching job should be at a place like Texas Southern, not Indiana.
But Davis played the hand he was dealt, and he did so as well as anybody could given the circumstances. Plus, he did it the right way. Look at the next guy who roamed the IU sidelines.
Davis did great things for Indiana University, and he deserves to be recognized for those things on Monday night at Assembly Hall. So stand and cheer, Indiana fans. Let Davis know how much you appreciate the efforts he made to keep the Indiana tradition alive and well.