BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – As it turns out, it wasn't just the jeers but also the cheers that led Mike Davis to believe it might be time to part ways with Indiana University.
In announcing his resignation Wednesday, the sixth-year Hoosier coach said that it wasn't just the struggles of the last three seasons that convinced him it was time to move on, but also the raucous crowd that Indiana had for its Nov. 30 matchup with No. 1 Duke in Assembly Hall. While Duke eventually came away with a 74-66 win in the matchup of top-10 teams, it was an atmosphere that was electric, and one that Davis felt that Indiana deserved to have on a regular basis.
"Walking out the night we played Duke was definitely a sign to me that this is where this program should be every night," Davis said Wednesday. "The Duke game (atmosphere) is something we need every night.
"I just feel like I can't get that done."
Six weeks later, Davis said he had all but made up his mind that he wouldn't be returning as the Hoosiers' head coach. He said he came to that conclusion before the Jan. 17 game against Illinois, and he eventually shared his thoughts with IU President Dr. Adam Herbert and IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan Feb. 4 after the UConn game.
"We talked about it after the UConn game, and that's when I said, ‘this is definitely it for me as the coach here,'" Davis said.
More than anything, Davis said his decision was motivated by a desire to unite the Indiana fan base behind the program, and more specifically behind the players that he's brought to Bloomington. During his four years as an assistant coach at IU Davis said he witnessed the tremendous loyalty that passion that Indiana fans once had for the program and he wants that to once again be the case.
"I just feel like it was time for this program to be united," Davis said. "I just felt like it was time for the former players, the fans, the alumni and anyone who loves Indiana basketball to be a part of Indiana basketball again. I feel like over the last six years, the healing process of Coach (Bob) Knight not being here should definitely be closed. It is a great opportunity for Indiana basketball to come back together."
Both Greenspan and Herbert said Wednesday that the decision was one that Davis made. Herbert said that Indiana maintains a policy of evaluating its coaches and its programs at season's end and not before, so the decision to depart was one that was initiated by Davis. The Hoosiers' head coach, meanwhile, said that he wanted to make the decision himself and not put it in the hands of his two superiors.
"I wanted it to be on my terms," Davis said. "I didn't want to put President Herbert and Rick in any tough situation."
Despite rumors to the contrary, the Hoosier players said they first heard about Davis' decision to resign on Wednesday night on the bus trip to the airport following the Hoosiers' 71-68 loss at Penn State.
"It was becoming a distraction," said Marshall Strickland. "We were aware with all the buzz around here. I just think it's good to get it out there. Now you guys have it, we can move on, and we can play five games and try to win and go to the (NCAA) Tournament."
Davis will depart after a stormy six-year run in Bloomington. He guide the Hoosiers to NCAA Tournament berths in each of his first three seasons, including an appearance in the 2002 NCAA Championship game. But all of the successes of those first three seasons have given way to struggles during the last three campaigns. Indiana went 14-15 in 2004 and missed out on the postseason entirely, ending a run of 18 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Indiana went 15-14 in 2005 and earned a berth in the NIT, but was quickly bounced by Vanderbilt in the first round.
This season started off with plenty of promise and a top-10 national ranking to boot, but the team has been in a nosedive in recent weeks. After getting off to a 12-3 start the Hoosiers have dropped six out of their last seven, including all five of its Big Ten road contests. Suddenly it appears likely that Indiana won't hear its name called again when Selection Sunday rolls around.
While there were always a small contingent of IU fans who weren't going to accept Davis because he followed Bob Knight, the large majority of IU fans eventually turned on him because Indiana was no longer a factor nationally.
And Davis knows as well as anyone else that's where the IU program belongs.
"Indiana is one of the top five programs in the history of college basketball," Davis said. "And I want it to get back to that point, and these guys need it to be at that point."
Davis departs with two years remaining on his contract. An Indiana University press release said Davis will be paid $800,000 as part of his negotiated resignation.
Davis, IU To Part Ways
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