Steve Alford might sound like a broken record when it comes to questions about the Indiana coaching position, but he's hoping everyone is at least listening to his tune.
As soon as Mike Davis announced his decision last Thursday to step down as IU's head basketball coach at the end of the season, speculation quickly turned to who will replace him. First in hearts of many in the Hoosier state is Alford, the former IU All-American and Mr. Basketball from New Castle, Ind., who is in his seventh-year as the head coach at Iowa.
The problem for Alford, though, is that he's not really in a position to either express or deny interest in the Indiana job. That's what prompted him to come up with a standard non-answer whenever the subject comes up again. And again. And again…
"My only focus is on our team," Alford said Monday when asked about the IU job and if it is a distraction. "All my efforts and my passion and enthusiasm is on this basketball team."
The day Davis stepped down Alford was asked in a variety of ways about the IU job and he recited that statement seven different times. He's hoping that eventually people will come to the conclusion that whatever his interest might be, he's not going to keep it to himself for the time being.
"The one thing I've learned over the years as a player and now in particular being in the coaching profession, it seems like I have to answer it maybe seven to 70 times the same way for it to really sink in with some," Alford said.
One thing Alford doesn't want is for the coaching speculation to become a distraction to his Iowa team, which is currently 9-4 and sitting atop the Big Ten standings. With three league games left Iowa has a chance to win its first Big Ten title since 1979.
"We've done some things that haven't been done in the history of this school, and we're trying to build on this special season," Alford said.
This isn't the first time Alford has been in this situation. After Iowa knocked off IU in the Big Ten Tournament championship game in 2001, many thought IU officials might decide to hire Alford to replace Mike Davis after his season as interim coach. Alford was asked about the issue after his team's Big Ten Tournament win in Chicago, and again during many of his team's NCAA Tournament press conferences.
Those questions prompted a couple of outbursts from Alford, who grew frustrated with the fact that there was so much attention about his coaching future, and so little on his team's tournament championship and subsequent NCAA appearance.
Alford has steered clear of emotional outbursts this time around, but it's clear that there will continue to be a newspaper reporter here or a television cameraman there who either hasn't heard his standard response to the IU issue, or one who thinks they can phrase the question in such a way that they'll get him to be a little more definitive in his interest in returning to Bloomington.
As hard as Alford might try to turn the IU question into a non-issue, it's one that will follow him and his team around during the final three games of the regular season and into the postseason. Whether it's a distraction or not remains to be seen.
But as for a better answer? Don't count on it.
Alford Fields IU Question...Again
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