Davis bows out

Davis bows out

It’s official: Mike Davis resigns as IU men’s basketball coach, effective at the end of this season

By Stan Sutton, H-T Sports Editor

February 17, 2006

IU men’s basketball coach Mike Davis hugs Athletics Director Rick Greenspan after a press conference at Assembly Hall Thursday announcing Davis’ resignation. President Adam Herbert is at left. Monty Howell | Herald-Times
From the Feb. 17, 2006 Bloomington Herald-Times

Besieged by recent criticism from Indiana University basketball fans, Mike Davis resigned the head coaching job Thursday with a smile on his face.

“Please, be happy. If you support me, don’t be sad,” he told an overcrowded press room occupied not only by a large media corps but dozens of others. “Be excited about the direction that this program is in, and let’s try to unite Indiana basketball again.”

The sixth-year IU men’s coach – who faced the undesirable task of succeeding fired Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight – pushed the unity theme heavily as he repeatedly urged the divided factions surrounding IU basketball to mend fences.

While loved by many who admire his character and demeanor, Davis has been verbally assaulted by many others who refused to let the Knight years die. Clothing supporting Knight’s present university, Texas Tech, continues to be seen around the state.

“Over six years, the healing process of Coach Knight not being here should definitely be closed,” said Davis, who took his first head coaching job at IU at age 40. “It’s a great opportunity for Indiana basketball to come back together. It is a situation for me that I think is best for my family, best for the players. They are the ones that I really care about.”

The IU players stood at the side of the room, mostly appearing melancholy. Two of them, D.J. White and Robert Vaden, indicated they might not play for the Hoosiers next season.

Indiana, 13-9 after a fast start, lost its fourth straight game Wednesday night at unheralded Penn State as reports that Davis had resigned emerged nationwide. IU has a mere 5-6 record in the Big Ten and will have to struggle to avoid missing the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament for the third straight season.

Davis said he will continue to coach through the season’s end, which includes five more regular season games and at least the Big Ten Tournament.

“This is my basketball team. We still have a chance to make it to the tournament. My guys are going to fight,” he said.

Davis’ critics gained center stage as Indiana lost six of its past seven games. They have bobbed and weaved on various Internet sites since midway through the 2002-03 season.

Davis’ greatest moment as a Hoosier was leading IU to the national title game in 2002, which it lost to Maryland. Indiana then opened the following season with eight straight victories before stumbling to a modest 21-13 record.

Still, Davis is the only IU coach to win 20 or more games in his first three seasons.

Davis said he made up his mind to step down before the Illinois game on Jan. 17, a 62-60 victory that may be the highlight of Indiana’s season.

“In a conversation a few days prior to the IU-Connecticut game (Feb. 4) and again on the afternoon following that event, Coach Davis initiated a discussion with me regarding his future as our basketball coach,” IU President Adam Herbert said Thursday. “Although Coach Davis reaffirmed his belief that he can take our program to the levels to which we aspire, he nevertheless expressed his view that this is an appropriate time for the athletic director and me to consider a coaching change for next year.”

Davis said he and Herbert discussed a possible resignation on several occasions.

Davis said the IU program traditionally has been one of the top five in the nation. A native of Alabama who played at the University of Alabama, he said the atmosphere in Assembly Hall for the Duke game Nov. 30 was what IU players deserve at every game.

Davis gave no indication of whether or where he might coach again, saying, “The future will take care of itself.”

“I’m sad, from a standpoint of leaving this community,” he said, “but at the same time I’m happy for the community because the healing process should be over. It’s time for closure,” he said.

Athletics Director Rick Greenspan said Thursday he didn’t expect to name a new coach until after the Final Four in early April.

“I will begin to turn my attention to identifying the strongest possible candidates to serve as the next head basketball coach at IU,” Greenspan said. “I will seek the advice and counsel of a great many, scour the country and eventually bring recommended candidates forward to the president.”

“What I want is for this program to be united. I don’t want it to be Mike Davis’ players. I don’t want it to be Bobby Knight’s players, or Branch McCracken’s players,” Davis said, naming two of IU’s most revered former coaches. “Me being here six years should have healed all the wounds of everything.”

Davis said he told his players last year after a tough loss at Northwestern, “I will walk away from this job if it meant them being happy.”

Although one of his players, Sean Kline, said he isn’t sure Davis was given a fair shake, the coach denied the idea.

“I got a fair shake. Every game we lined up it was zero-zero. I didn’t get it done,” he said.