Bloomington, Ind. – As he stepped away from what he believes is one of the greatest opportunities of his life, Indiana head coach Mike Davis was not concerned about himself.
Instead, he thanked the university and God for the chance to be the head coach of such a storied program, talked about how much he loved the players he brought to Bloomington and told all his friends and colleagues not to cry for him, his time at Indiana is up.
"I never felt like I would be the basketball coach here for the rest of my career," said Davis. "I just feel like it's time for me to step aside. When you love something and you know it's better without you, stepping aside is the best thing to do. That's what I'm doing."
Davis took over the Indiana basketball program six seasons ago in a hail storm of controversy. After seeing his predecessor, Bob Knight, fired under national scrutiny and having to convince every player to return to the program, Davis quickly found he also had a daily job of convincing the fans to stay, too.
"I was here when as an assistant coach when you would go play a game and there would be 50 people sending us off," said Davis. "When you walked out of the hotel lobby, the lobby was packed with Indiana fans. Some games, the band would be there playing. Since I have been here, that hasn't been the case and that should be the case. It should be where Indiana basketball is loved the way it is supposed to be loved."
As the wins dwindled away each season, so did the support. Fans no longer saw the Indiana Hoosiers as their players, they slowly made the transition from Coach Knight players to Coach Davis players. Davis said he wanted his players to have the loyalty of all Hoosier fans.
"(The players) deserve the love and support of the fans of Indiana," said Davis. "If it takes me stepping aside, I told them last year after we played Northwestern and lost in the first game of the Big Ten season. We lost and everyone was down on the program. I told them that I would walk away from this job if it meant for them not being happy and not being supported. We have a lot of fans that support this program. I want everyone that has ever been a part of this program to come back and be a part of this program."
As each season passed with Davis at the helm of Indiana basketball, the speculation always seemed to get worse. For a man thrown in an extraordinary situation, he was often treated like the cause of the troubles that gave him his first head coaching position. That is what makes it so hard to believe that a man who has been through so much can take so many positives out of a negative situation.
"I was the assistant basketball coach that has never been a head basketball coach, and my first job is Indiana University," said Davis. "I've said before, it is unbelievable. If you wrote a movie and that happened, there is no way that an assistant coach could do all of those things and be a head coach at this type of program. I appreciate the opportunity. I could never feel bad. I got a fair shake."
Davis stood there as a man not weakened by the pressure, but as man who knew he had to pass the job on to someone else. While he feels he can do no more for Indiana, Davis showed no ounce of regret. No remorse for taking on the pressure. He pointed no fingers, just a thumb.
"It was a situation for me where I feel it is best for my family and best for the players," said Davis. "They are the ones that I really care a lot about. I really love these guys like they are my own. As a matter of fact, I really appreciate their parents for allowing me to coach them under the circumstances.
"This is a great day for Indiana basketball. Trust me. It is. I understand the passion that the fans have for the basketball program. I am disappointed that I couldn't continue to take this team to a national championship game every year."
As the head coach of Indiana, Davis has won a share of the Big Ten title, played in the national championship game and had three seasons of 20 or more wins. He also recruited some of the top-ranked players in the nation, he has beaten 21 nationally-ranked teams and made post season play in four of the last fives years.
But instead of looking for thanks for those accomplishments, Davis would rather thank Indiana basketball his opportunities.
"I can't thank you enough for being here and being the head basketball coach here at Indiana," said Davis. "At the end of the season, I am stepping down as the head basketball coach at Indiana. I am proud of the graduation rate I have had at Indiana. I am proud of the academic achievement of some of the players I have had here at Indiana.
"Please, be happy. If you support me, don't be sad. Be happy and be excited about the direction that this program is headed in. Let's try to unite Indiana Basketball again."
Davis: "A Great Day for Indiana Basketball"
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