Bloomington – As the most riveting time of the college basketball season arrives, IU's message to the basketball program is clear.
Let the search (oops, I mean games) begin!
On Monday, IU President Michael McRobbie announced the formation of a 10-member "blue ribbon" panel entrusted with finding the Hoosiers' next basketball coach. Whether the group is worthy of a blue ribbon or a booby prize is for someone else to decide, but the timing of the announcement is about as appropriate as a laughing fit at a funeral.
It comes one day after the NCAA Tournament field was announced, and two days before the team departs for Raleigh, N.C., for its Friday night match-up with Arkansas. Instead of giving the current coaching staff and team a collective pat on the back as they begin their postseason march, this seems to be serving notice they're about to get kicked to the curb.
Former IU trustee and Indianapolis lawyer Harry Gonso has been selected to head the panel, which is made of a diverse group of long-time Hoosier backers who figure to give this coaching search the kind of attention and scrutiny it demands. But I'm amazed that no one in the group would scream from the high heavens that they should have put the kibosh on this announcement until after the Hoosiers' postseason journey is complete.
This whole search was made necessary 3 ½ weeks ago when former coach Kelvin Sampson resigned in the wake of NCAA allegations of both cheating and lying. That's a double dose of don't dos when you're a coach who's already been told to go stand in the corner for past transgressions. Indiana had no choice but to let him go in an effort to get some leniency from the NCAA Infractions Committee, which will have gavel in hand later this spring.
But IU's decision to announce this panel on the eve of the NCAA Tournament is befuddling.
If it was so critical to get this search underway quickly (which it is), then make the announcement in the days following Sampson's resignation. If IU can work out a $750,000 buyout in a matter of days with Sampson, surely it doesn't need 3 ½ weeks to convince legendary soccer coach Jerry Yeagley and former IU Alumni Association President Ken Beckley to help pick the program's next basketball coach.
If it was so important to get this search underway quickly, then start working the back channels to judge the availability of some of the coaching possibilities, and wait until IU's season is complete to make the search committee announcement. It's virtually unfathomable to think that hasn't already been going on, but Monday's announcement gives me reason to question that assumption.
Just don't do it now.
Indiana made a big mistake with its last basketball hire, and it can ill-afford to make the wrong call (no pun intended) again. But the university's first public step in this process has been a giant misstep, and I'm hoping it's not a sign of things to come.
It's all enough to make you laugh.
Just not at a funeral.
DECKER: IU's Timing Stinks on Coach Committee
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