Bloomington, Ind. – Just six weeks after Mike Davis resigned as the head coach of the Indiana basketball program, the Hoosiers announced their 26th head coach as Kelvin Sampson, former head coach of Oklahoma.
Just one problem for Hoosiers fans – what did Davis say as he left his throne?
"I just feel like it was time for this program to be united," said Davis. "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."
"They need an Indiana guy," he said during a Big Ten weekly teleconference.
IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan doesn't seem to agree. Instead, Indiana went a completely different route with the hiring of Sampson, a 23-year Division I head coaching veteran. With that decision, the pressure to win – on both Sampson and Greenspan - may have increased ten fold.
He may not be under the pressure Davis was when he took over the program from legendary coach Bob Knight, but Sampson will have an uphill battle to win over all of the fans of Indiana basketball.
"This is a tremendous honor to be your basketball coach," said Sampson to the fans at the conference announcing his hiring. "I think, together, we can do some special things here at IU. I am really looking forward to it.
"How do I follow tradition? By creating a niche with the team and coming up with our own identity and being the best we can be. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself."
Bringing back the fans of Indiana basketball starts with Sampson bringing back Indiana's two best players – Robert Vaden and D.J. White. Without those two, Sampson could be staring at the end of a long season a year from now. And if watching Mike Davis' career can teach him anything, even taking the school to a national title game does not take away the sting of losing.
"I met with the team, and I talked to a group of kids," said Sampson. "I think I talked to a group of kids that desperately want a coach and need a coach right now. I think it was therapeutic for both of us right now. I need them right now, because I left behind an incredible group of kids. I need to coach a team, and I think they need me. We will proceed from there."
Not only does he need a team, so does Indiana University. Athletic Director Rick Greenspan and Indiana President Adam Herbert both know that hiring a coach with past NCAA violations was a gamble and gambles only look good if they win.
"After reviewing all of this information and considering the totality of his high levels of performance over an entire professional career, and after engaging in several hours of candid and thorough conversations with him, we are convinced that our new coach understands fully and is determined to meet Indiana University's high overall expectations," said Herbert.
"We are very impressed with his core values. We are equally impressed with the record of student achievement at his basketball program at OU. This record has received far too little attention. We are convinced that he is committed to building on IU's great traditions of athletic and academic excellence."
As Sampson begins his journey into life as a Hoosier, he should make sure to read the signs along the way. He is entering a land where winning is a tradition and that tradition is fading. Only winning can bring it back.
"I think back to being an outsider looking in and when you think about Indiana, you think about a place that has not just won championships, but has a championship tradition," said Sampson. "Tradition is important. You can't create it. It just can't happen. It is something that has to happen over time. You go back to all the years and all the national championships that Indiana has had, those people that paved the way."
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