BLOOMINGTON – Rick Greenspan is in search of a rabbit and a top hat right about now.
After IU officials found out Sunday that Tony Bennett wasn't interested in coming to its supposedly elite program from Washington State…let me repeat that, WASHINGTON STATE…he's going to need to perform a magic act to appease an unruly fan base with the eventual full-time hire.
"Bennett Ball" was presumably headed Bloomington's way after reports surfaced of IU's courtship of the 38-year-old Cougar coach over the weekend. But Indiana and Bennett never made it to first base, as the second-year Pac-10 coach decided he was better off staying in Pullman.
In declining IU's offer (err…interest), Bennett did more than simply disappoint Hoosier fans. He left skid marks all over the Hoosier program's mighty ego.
Forget about whether you wanted him or you didn't. The bottom line is he didn't want Indiana. And that's a kick straight to the cohunes if you're an IU basketball fan.
Remember what happened to Kentucky last spring? Remember how everyone mocked the Wildcat brass as being too full of themselves when they were unable to lure Texas' Rick Barnes or two-time defending national champion coach Billy Donovan from Florida to town?
Those were big-name coaches from marquee programs who would have been home-run hires. Indiana got turned down by a second-year coach who is setting up shop at a school that last won a conference title (1941) one season after IU won the first of its five national championships.
How is that possible? There are a plethora of possibilities.
There's that "Welcome Aboard" trip to Seattle in June to appear before the NCAA Infractions Committee, a parting gift left by Kelvin Sampson before he skipped town with a $750,000 check in his back pocket. The possibility of additional sanctions isn't the sort of perk most coaches are looking for;
There's that '08 IU recruiting class which is coming apart at the seams. Devin Ebanks and Terrell Holloway have both requested and been granted their release from their Indiana letters of intent, and the odds are long that either will re-commit to play in Bloomington;
There's that IU locker room, which has better resembled a smoldering cauldron since Sampson departed last month. Jealousy and bickering were commonplace, and the heavy-handed approach of interim Coach Dan Dakich probably only fanned the flames of discontent among the malcontents.
It's a tough spot for Greenspan, who rightly or wrongly will shoulder the blame for Bennett's snub and IU's coaching predicament. Sure there are those nine other members of that "blue ribbon" search committee that's supposedly in charge of this process, but with no one on the committee offering a voice to what's going on, Greenspan is going to get the lion's share of the blame.
With that in mind, Greenspan needs to figure out a way to lure someone to town who will excite a disgruntled fan base. If it takes $2 million to buy out Sean Miller's Xavier contract then find it. If it takes a Tony Robbins' style inspirational speech to sway another skeptical big-name coach, then deliver it.
After Sunday's disappointing news, it's clear Greenspan has to work some magic before he steps to the podium to introduce IU's next coach.
Because right now, the only magic act that a lot of IU fans want to see is for him to disappear.
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