The Morning After: Michigan State

  • 02/17/2008 4:05 pm in

sampson_armon1.jpgWe’ve all been guilty of it. We are finished with Kelvin Sampson, done, finito, that’s it. As you read this, Sampson could win the Big Ten, blow out Purdue by 40, capture a national title, and cure lupus (does lupus have a cure already?) and everyone would still monolithically demand Sampson’s head on a silver platter. And rightfully so.

But for all the unanimous consent to fire on this site, and among ESPN’s chosen local interviewees, last night’s game showcased an atmosphere, and a fanbase, still totally confused and weirded out by what’s happening right in front of them. I watched on TV last night, and it was clear from the Dolby 5.1 that the pregame crowd hadn’t made up its mind to boo Kelvin Sampson, nor had they decided to show solidarity with the embattled coach. Sampson was just sort of there most of the game — drawing angry comments from myself, PostmanR, and my girlfriend, all the while coaching IU to its best win of the season in front of an emotional and raucous home crowd.

Just how the hell are we supposed to feel about that?

I still don’t know. And it was clear from the Kel-vin Samp-son cheer last night — clear from friends on campus who say opinion on KS is split — that I’m not alone. No one who loves IU basketball is totally sure how to feel about all this.

For me, it’s a mixture of sadness, anger, doubt, excitement, revenge, righteousness, forgiveness. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who knows he needs to leave. It’s hard to force him out when you watch him hug his kids. It breaks the heart to see him cling for dear life in the face of certain failure. And then you remember what he did in the first place — the stupidity and arrogance — and it brings you back to the angry, vengeful thoughts you first had.

And that’s what it is right now. That mixture. That confusion. We’re on the tail end of something, and if the above paragraph was any indication, things aren’t going to be easy to synthesize anytime soon.

— What would have made things simpler was if IU would have played all 40 minutes last night like they played the first five. When it was 15-6 and Michigan State showed no signs of slowing down (and IU showed no signs of offensive potential), the assembled audience in my living room had all but given up. Credit goes to the girlfriend for dropping the old “it’s not over” as a means of encouragement, and wow, was she right. We could have been blatantly angry there, could have sworn at Sampson for not only besmurching the program, but for being a bad coach too. Turns out, last night might have been Sampson’s crowning achievement at IU: a dominating win by a coherent, improving team.

Have we seen a more complete performance all season? A better shooting night? A more varied group of contributions? A harder effort? I’m not sure how much of any performance that involves college students you can credit to outside factors. Anyone that has ever played a sport, competitively or not, knows that one of the true beauties of constant motion is the numb sensation it affords. You don’t have to think about anything else to play basketball; you merely think about ball, hoop, spacing, and technique, and the rest floats away happily until you step off the court. So maybe we can parse what IU did last night away from their coach’s troubles, and hope that that’s the kind of thing we can expect to see when Dan Dakich is (presumably) roaming the sidelines in a week.

Wasn’t it beautiful, though? The screens, the spacing, the power of Eric Gordon? Though Wisconsin was a loss, it was a loss not because of IU’s regression but in spite of their progression. Last night, we saw yet another step in that progression. It was what happens when an entire group of kids — stars or not — figures things out at precisely the same moment. It was great.

— What wasn’t so beautiful was D.J. White’s injury. I won’t lie — when I saw the awkward landing, and the D.J. clutching at the back of his knee, I was sure that his luck had once again caught up with him. Torn ACL? It wasn’t beyond my line of thinking, I’ll admit. But a few minutes and one giant roll of ice later, it looked like D.J. was going to be OK, something confirmed today by this Peegs poster. Good for D.J. — he deserves to finish this season at the peak of his performance.

— A quick note about this Scott Skiles rumor: If you think this has any basis in reality, may God have mercy on your soul. It’s not that I necessarily have a problem with a Skiles hire (though I do), but rather the idea that anyone credible at IU would drop a name this early in the process. They’re hiring an interim coach, at which point they have about six or seven months to hire a new guy. You really think they’re going to settle on the pugnacious, what-the-hell-is-with-this-lineup-oh-God-please-play-Tyrus-Thomas Skiles this early? IU’s search process may be irrevocably effed, but no one’s that stupid.

— Everyone caught that Adam Herbert-Kelvin Sampson embrace, which was funny not only because Kelvin is about to join Herbert in unemployment, but because it reflected something most IU fans are just now figuring out: Sampson was Herbert’s hire.

That was reflected in President Michael McRobbie’s press conference, where he refused to chide Greenspan for the hire, instead saying the AD and his compliance office “did their job.” To me, that smacks of the fact that Greenspan heard the rumors about Sampson more often, and for many more years, than Herbert did, and that Sampson impressed the president and won him as a vital supporter in the search process. This is just speculation, of course. If Sampson was Greenspan’s hire, he deserves to take the fall … but if the dialogue keeps up the way it has been, it seems that Greenspan won’t take the fall for Adam Herbert’s boy. Considering Greenpan’s record, that’s only fair.

— One of the more suprising things, at least to me, about the Sampson sanctions fallout has been the reaction of the national media. I know that media people like to high-horse it from time to time — as my friends will tell you, I enjoy a comfy ride on the back of self-righteousness myself from time to time — but the national outrage and calls for firing have been beyond even the normal mainstream’s call-to-arms. What Kelvin Sampson did was bad, and he deserves to be fired, but with the exception of Hubert Davis last night, nary an opinion to the contrary was heard. Digger Phelps, old Bob Knight tagalong, was especially vehement, as though he’s never done anything nebulously wrong in recruiting in his entire life. (Right.) What’s worse is that I agree with Digger — Kelvin deserves to lose his job! — but Phelps’ anger, and the way apparently every IU fan ESPN interviewed last night wanted Sampson fired, made it seem like this fanbase is unanimous in its discontent. After hearing the chants last night, it seems safe to say that’s not true.

Which is to say: Did anyone expect media to be so harsh? These aren’t die-hards; these are the jaded columnists covering the corruption of the NCAA for years and years. Do they really think Sampson’s crimes are worthy of Barry Bonds-esque scorn? (Does Dick Vitale really deem it necessary to bring up Bob Knight every two seconds, who, it can be argued, did things in Bloomington far more morally reprehensible than overuse his phone line?)

And so here we are again, not sure what to think, afraid to not be angry, confused as ever. That’s the damage here. Sports are supposed to be simple. Black and white. Good vs. evil.

Kelvin Sampson has made them pretty damn confusing.

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  • Tom

    good article.

  • Tom

    Good summary. Phelps has his head so far up Knight's ass, I am surprised he is still breathing. Vitale is so repetitive and ass kissing for Knight. He hates IU and uses Sampson as his fall guy. He never once analyzed the game. If he ever sets foot in AH again-boo him relentlessly and egg him. Sampson-why? its just phone calls but why? Bilas was spot on- the 7 day investigation is for the sole purpose to suspend/fire Sampson early. If they do it early(mind you I think he should be fired once the process has run its course and if he is found in violation) then, I'd like to see the players walk out because CKS wasn't given the full time the NCAA allows. Pray to God the DJ is O.K. He deserves nothing but the best.

  • PMK

    Tremendous assessment here PostmanE, and my thoughts exactly.

    I feel as though I have the emotional intelligence of a 14 year-old girl who didn't get asked to the first big dance in high school as it relates to this whole situation. Unfortunate.

  • mini

    i concur that many fans are confused about how to feel. i have gone back and forth many times myself. i was at the game last night and as far and the Kel-vin Samp-son chant that took place goes, it came only from the students. i started looking around when it started and couldn't see anyone on the bench side of AH chanting along.

  • Nick

    I'm with you. Why couldn't something like this have happened during one of the mediocre seasons that Mike Davis had? I want to so badly to be able to focus on the great season and just enjoy the success which has obviously not been the norm as of late, but it's hard with all that's going on!

    By the way, has anyone heard or seen anything about D.J.'s MRI? I know he was supposed to get it done before the 3PM practice, but it's starting to worry me that nobody has came out and said yes he's fine. You know that they had a doctor sitting right there to read it. I've had a couple MRI's on my knee and shoulder and they handed me the pictures 15 minutes after it was done. I thought if it was good news they would release it right away, but I could be wrong. Either way, I'm starting to get nervous even with all the good reports from people who saw him this morning or last night!

  • Timmy

    I was at the game last night. If anyone remembers, when knight was fired Phelps begged for IU to let him coach the team as the interim coach…fast forward to last night, my seats were near the Gameday set and while the other commentators sat and watched the game Digger was standing and you could see the look on his face just daydreaming what it would be like to coach here.

    As for the crowd support for Coach, there is definitely a generation gap as the students led the chant for coach while you old folks that won't stand up sat in silent contempt. Personally, I think the violations that were minor in the fall that we all had no problem with and now we want to fire our coach because the NCAA labels them major (including an f'n t-shirt) then throws in the lying allegation as part of their vendetta shows more about our 'fans' character flaws than Coach's.

    Knight, Davis, and now Sampson shows how full of crap our fanbase is.

  • Sherron Wilkerson

    Its about time this site got back good writing.

  • kelin

    If you think some of us are torn………I wonder what his players feel. They either don't read the papers or they do….they either don't watch sports center or they do….They knew coach had some baggage coming in but they gave him a chance…..they built a bond, some father figure type but BOOM…..again….and now deep down inside their guy, their coach, their dad is about to be fired…………..there reason for coming to IU.

    I think the Purdue game we will see emotions higher than they have ever been before at IU. I believe you WILL see tears and I also believe PURDUE is coming in to IU at the wrong time……

    It is a team fighting for a Big Ten title as a secondary goal, they are fighting for their coach……maybe for the last time!

  • jgongora

    very good article

  • ZachH

    You f*cking nailed that opening. If I had any writing ability, that is exactly what I would say about what I'm feeling.

    Sampson has to go, and I'm completely for and ready for that to happen. However, it hurts, because it really screws the players–who have nothing to do with this. Sampson's a hell of a coach, but we can't tolerate lying and violating rules at a program that's been commended for being so reputable in the past. He dug his own grave and we have to part ways. It's really a shame though; I'd love to see more of what we saw last night–that Bassett/Sampson bear hug was one of the coolest moments I've had in my four years here.

  • L rubes

    On a side note, there was a rumour that a san antonio spurs scout was at the game

  • Hoosier_Hound

    Winning doesn't make cheating and then lying about it okay.

  • bubbacj

    Again, great piece. AH was the loudest I have heard it since Duke came two seasons ago. Remember that jam from Killingsworth to tie the game? Loudest moment of my life. Now? Not so sure. The Stripe Out was a great idea, and the place looked fantastic.

    The last thing I want to do is start any rumors ala Scott Skiles, but I will tell you what I heard yesterday from a legitimate ESPN personality (A good friend was on the floor during Gameday and introduced me.) He said that a dark horse in this coaching search is Jeff Van Gundy. Obviously, this is a long shot considering he has no college head coaching experience and has never seemed eager to coach at this level. That being said, I was immediately intrigued at the notion.

    Purdue will be running into a buzzsaw on Tuesday night. High Emotion, Increased level of confidence, crazy home crowd. The Hall will be rocking again. Can't wait.

  • kelin

    Van Gundy………could you seem him in “Deshaun Thomas” living room saying hey come play for me……I sure as hell hope not……….

    After OSU loss today it wouldn't surprise me he becomes IU coach. The recruits he has coming in easily compare to what IU has ……..and he has the keys to the next lebron in Fort Wayne……

    Tuesday night……WILL BE SICK. I think last night DT got some confidence going on also and Painter may get the Weber treatment

  • Jerry

    Does anyone know how we get the NCAA report ? Is it not part of the freedom of Info act ?

    For all the analysts BS last night I thought Hubert Davis made the only smart comments about “proportion” in assessing the violations and potential actions.

    AND PLEEEAASSSEEE lets not keep trying to find a storybook Indiana connected coach. Thats about as smart as ND hiring Gerry Faust because he's catholic ,a great fan and gives a good tour of the vatican

    We need the best coach ……….period.

  • Timmy

    lying & cheating – many here in illinois accuse IDKWTI of being a liar and cheater yet 100% of hoosier nation supports him. Why don't we support our coach who is ACCUSED of lying and cheating?

  • Mikey M

    Well done E.

  • JamesHardy

    As a guy who lives in fort wayne, I've seen Diesel play no less than a dozen times over the past 2 seasons. He's a decent talent, but don't believe the hype…he's a ball hog, he's normally 5+ inches taller than any high school kid in our city…and he's L-A-Z_Y!!!! If bringing Matta to bloomington brings D. Thomas, I'd rather Mike Davis come north and recruit him to play @ UAB.

  • kelin

    Jameshardy….I saw Deshaun Thomas play against Howe here in Indy…i was extremely unimpressed…they ran his ass up and down the court, and the Howe soph. (Jordan Manuel…IU recruit) out played him…..I chalked it up to being a bad game.

  • tberry
  • Thank you once again for putting into words what I feel. Now you're part of the strange bedfellows of me, Dicky V (in part), and Bob Kravitz.

  • Dale

    Good job, PostmanE, first good article you've written

  • Hoosier_Hound

    Because changing your mind about what school you want to attend and play basketball at in no way equates to repeatedly violating NCAA rules and sanctions and then lying about it to your school and the NCAA.

  • Dale

    And on a side note I heard from a legitimate source that Norman Dale is going to be hired as IU's next coach.

  • Timmy

    Allegedly lying about it; point is we’ve never 100% supported a coach as a fan base.

  • Hoosier_Hound

    If you don't mind I'll take the words of the dozen or so recruits who contradicted Sampson. After all they are not repetitive rule violators and aren't trying to save their asses.

  • Hoosier_Hound

    No! We're trying to get away from coaches with off-the-court problems!

  • Wow, um … thanks Dale. I'm glad to have finally won your approval.

    Now I can die in peace.

  • Chuck

    I know that I was just happy for the IU players on Saturday night and I in no way wanted to see Sampson in the TV picture, why? Because he lied! I don't think the phone calls were that big of a deal, but lying about them IS! If skirting the rules does not convince you of the character of a coach, then being a liar MUST! I truly believe the remaining staff after Sampson is gone can keep this team playing well.
    On another note, I am liking Kevin Stallings more and more for the next coach. JMV had him on Friday and Kevin said that he thought there were too many IU faithful who would not allow an x-Purdue assistant to coach the Hoosiers. Sorry guys, but if the guy is a good coach, runs a nice offense, defense, and a clean program… WHO CARES WHERE HE COMES FROM! Bob Knight was an x-Ohio State player and while that is not our arch rival Purdue, it is a fellow Big Ten competitor. I am looking for a good coach with some national name recognition… if an x-Purdue assistant fits the bill, let's bring him in.

  • Timmy

    lol

  • JamesHardy

    I work in a city where Diesel played this weekend…and this city is now GOO-GOO GAA-GAA over him b/c he hit 6 threes in a row and 8 for the game and finished with 40+ points. What they fail to realize is that he is 6 inches taller than anyone else on the opposing team…and when he took the ball inside, he got destroyed by a 5'10 point guard (who's a FRESHMAN by the way!). The first time he runs into a team that has any length or height…and they throw a 2-3 zone at him…he's cooked if he's not hitting from the outside.

    Speaking of the 5'10 freshman point guard…his name is Nic Moore. You'll see him on the Indiana Elite AAU squad with D. Thomas next year. If there is a better frosh high school player in the state of Indiana, I have yet to see him. What a stud! Keep him on your IU radar for 2012. There's also another outstanding frosh out of Fort Wayne that plays for Bishop Dwenger…he's 6'7″ and is agile, coordinated, and works his BUTT off! Big Red Tony Springmann…the best part is…he's not done growing! His mom's a Notre Dame alum but I don't think he has any allegiances to the Irish…he'd be a great signing down the road.

  • Ugh, don't get me started again on how lousy a hire Kevin Stallings would be.

    One decent win does not a great coach make. He would have lost at home against a Florida team that in turn was blown out on their home court by a craptacular LSU team were it not for Kalekas' brain fart with the back court violation (arguably, not his fault, as the pass came to him). Still. Stallings is not a good coach and Vanderbilt is not a great program by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Requests have been made under the FIOA and probably the Indiana Open Records Act as well. If copies of the reports are not out already, they should be out soon, probably by the end of the week.

  • If Kevin Stallings is the coach of IU next year, I'll be willing to bet that NC State and Arkansas will be laughing at how many people turned us down first.

  • Wow.

    I had to put my jacket on, because it got real cold in here real fast (and I love it).

    As for the NC State reference…let's hope that IU can hire a coach that doesn't need to finish his degree via correspondence courses before he can be hired.

  • MultiSpork

    Great post.

  • JamesHardy

    I work in a city where Diesel played this weekend…and this city is now GOO-GOO GAA-GAA over him b/c he hit 6 threes in a row and 8 for the game and finished with 40+ points. What they fail to realize is that he is 6 inches taller than anyone else on the opposing team…and when he took the ball inside, he got destroyed by a 5'10 point guard (who's a FRESHMAN by the way!). The first time he runs into a team that has any length or height…and they throw a 2-3 zone at him…he's cooked if he's not hitting from the outside.

    Speaking of the 5'10 freshman point guard…his name is Nic Moore. You'll see him on the Indiana Elite AAU squad with D. Thomas next year. If there is a better frosh high school player in the state of Indiana, I have yet to see him. What a stud! Keep him on your IU radar for 2012. There's also another outstanding frosh out of Fort Wayne that plays for Bishop Dwenger…he's 6'7″ and is agile, coordinated, and works his BUTT off! Big Red Tony Springmann…the best part is…he's not done growing! His mom's a Notre Dame alum but I don't think he has any allegiances to the Irish…he'd be a great signing down the road.

  • Ugh, don't get me started again on how lousy a hire Kevin Stallings would be.

    One decent win does not a great coach make. He would have lost at home against a Florida team that in turn was blown out on their home court by a craptacular LSU team were it not for Kalekas' brain fart with the back court violation (arguably, not his fault, as the pass came to him). Still. Stallings is not a good coach and Vanderbilt is not a great program by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Requests have been made under the FIOA and probably the Indiana Open Records Act as well. If copies of the reports are not out already, they should be out soon, probably by the end of the week.

  • If Kevin Stallings is the coach of IU next year, I'll be willing to bet that NC State and Arkansas will be laughing at how many people turned us down first.

  • Wow.

    I had to put my jacket on, because it got real cold in here real fast (and I love it).

    As for the NC State reference…let's hope that IU can hire a coach that doesn't need to finish his degree via correspondence courses before he can be hired.

  • MultiSpork

    Great post.