Coaching search profile: Dane Fife

  • 03/21/2017 10:30 am in

After nine seasons in Bloomington, Tom Crean is out as Indiana’s head coach and the search for his replacement is underway.

Inside the Hall will profile some of the candidates who are being discussed for the job over the coming days. Our sixth profile takes a closer look at Michigan State assistant coach Dane Fife.

Is Dane Fife interested in the Indiana job? He answered that question emphatically earlier this week.

Fife is a candidate with some intrigue, for a variety of reasons. First, he played at Indiana. Fife was recruited by Bob Knight and stayed in Bloomington through the transition to Mike Davis. He was a key member of Indiana’s 2002 national runner-up team. There’s no doubt that, like Steve Alford, Fife loves Indiana. And Indiana fans love Fife.

His coaching career has been interesting in that his first job was at IPFW as a head coach. Fife did spend two years as an administrative assistant under Davis at Indiana, but in 2005 at 25 years old, he became the youngest Division I head coach in Fort Wayne.

Fife spent six seasons at IPFW and compiled an 82-97 record and led the program’s transition to Division I. Over his final two seasons at IPFW, the Mastadons were 34-27. In his final season, IPFW finished 18-12 and earned a No. 4 seed in the Summit League conference tournament, which was the program’s highest seed at that point in its four years of league membership.

In 2012, Fife left IPFW for the opportunity to work under Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, which has groomed him well for whatever is next in his career. In East Lansing, Fife has been a major part of Michigan State’s success from his strong recruiting to his work with perimeter players.

If you watch Michigan State games, it’s clear that Izzo gives his assistants the freedom to make a mark on the program and Fife has done just that. He’s animated on the sidelines, but seems to be very well liked and respected by his peers and players. Among the perimeter players that Fife has helped guide during his time at Michigan State: Keith Appling, Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Travis Trice and Gary Harris.

The question with Fife remains: Is he ready for the stage of Indiana basketball?

He’s only 37 years old and has never held a head coaching position above the low major level. It would be a bold move for Fred Glass to go with Fife, but it could also be a move with tremendous upside.

Final Analysis: Based on comments from Fred Glass in last Thursday’s press conference, it would seem Fife that will at least get a chance to speak with Indiana about the position. Glass said he’s open to talking to former IU players about the position and Fife has publicly expressed interest in the opening.

While he might not be a splashy hire from a name perspective, Fife knows the Big Ten, he knows the midwest and he knows Indiana. And he’s only 37, which means he would be a long term solution. For those reasons, he deserves a hard look and evaluation in the process.

Filed to:

  • Koko

    Saban said he was happy at Miami just before he bolted to Alabama. Everything is on the table until a hire has occurred.

  • IllinoisHoosier

    I’m not a huge fan of fife as head coach. He could be an assistant but is not ready for this level yet. Mike Davis said in an interview recently that Indiana should be someone’s last job, not their 1st job. And I’m not counting ipfw. I don’t want any more experiments.

  • Koko

    Glass said he was going to consult coaches and former players. He should just talk
    with Izzo and get his opinion of Fife’s coaching abilities and if he is ready for the big stage. I’d go with what Izzo says. And yes I think Izzo would tell the truth.

  • IllinoisHoosier

    I think Alford would be a better hire for a number of reasons. Also could be a bad hire for a few reasons. Positives are his success has been fairly consistent. I think this year he has a chance to go even further, but we’ll see. Plus he’s an iu guy. Negatives are that his success has not been much better than creans. And it could tarnish his image. But at least we could all answer “what if?”

  • IllinoisHoosier

    Honestly, one reason certain coaches may pass on iu is the demanding fan base. I am one of them, but some coaches may think they can stay where they are, get 20 wins and a few sweet 16s and everything is good. Fans will love him. They know at Indiana that’s not good enough for the fans. We want final fours and another championship before the turn of the century.

  • Kyl470

    If I’m Fred Glass no way I put my job on the line with a guy who is currently an assistant coach. Much like Alford if Dane Fife didn’t play for IU no one would want him to be the coach and he wouldn’t even be considered.

  • vicbert caladipo

    A little news on OKC. I was wrong. They aren’t a 5th seed currently, actually tied for 6th with Memphis at 40-30. If the season ended today they would have a first round matchup with the Spurs. I don’t think they have a prayer advancing. They could draw Houston, but Houston is currently 8.5 games better than OKC and a far better team. Also next season Westbrook will be filing for free agency. If Donovan wants to win, his best bet is to come here. 7th best behind the likes of GS and SA doesn’t bode well for any playoff success and that’s not even counting Cleveland and Boston in the East to win a title. He also has to be upset about losing Durant cuz he was quoted as saying he took the job to coach 2 of his favorite players, Durant and Westbrook. He’s lost one and could likely lose the other if Westbrook does like Durant and decides to play for a contender. OKC is a team on the decline whereas Boston is a team on the rise. If he came to IU, he certainly would be with a team on the rise. Gives us some hope as slim as it may be.

  • pcantidote

    I don’t have until the turn of the century.

  • pcantidote

    What coaches, that do not have a team still playing, have turned us down?

  • Koko

    I think you are right….no guarantee Westbrook will be there next season. Billy should get out while the gettin’ is good.

  • pcantidote

    Stevens didn’t turn us down. He gave an absolutely necessary sound bite for the media. I mean seriously, if he was 100 percent fully committed in his head to coming to IU, but also wanted to give 100 percent of his attention to the Celtics until the season was over and not create any distractions….what would he have said different?

  • pcantidote

    I mean that’s what Izzo was right? A career assistant? You can’t just write someone off merely because they haven’t had a long coaching history. Fife did a nice job with IPFW anyway.

  • Creanhater

    He made less than $100,000/year as IPFW head coach. His assistants made less than $30,000. This past year, he made $192,000 as a MSU assistant. I would have to say he made a pretty smart decision…as a then-32 year old. I agree, that he is a gamble. However, he is the main recruiter at MSU, is the associate head coach, and performs all of the scouting/walkthroughs before games. He, at least, deserves an interview!

  • vicbert caladipo

    Even if they keep Westbrook, OKC has almost no chance of winning a Western Conference title much less an NBA title. Unless LeBum takes his “talents” and his “brand” to OKC next year, they have no shot. Although OKC does have my 2 favorite players, Nads of Steel Steven Adams and my main man Victor.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    If we are to hire an “Indiana guy,” please let it be Fife instead of Alford. Fife has very little resume, but I’d rather try with a projectable, young coach than a mediocre older one.

  • AssemblyBall

    Tom Izzo’s first job as a head coach was, wait for it, Michigan State. Dean Smith’s first job as a head coach was, wait for it, North Carolina. John Wooden’s first job as a head coach was, wait for it, UCLA (I don’t count 2 years at Indiana St in 1947). Pretty good experiments. Look, he has earned the right for an interview and Glass will know right away if he is the guy. The great coaches have the IT factor. Don’t even compare it to Mike Davis situation – that was a 3 ring circus.

  • Arch Puddington

    Your name alone makes your comment irrelevant. The fact that nothing you said relates to anything I said makes it even more irrelevant.

  • Arch Puddington

    Right. Glass has to know he is on the hot seat, too. Having run Kevin Wilson off in favor of a guy with no head coaching experience, Fife would not seem like a safe pick politically. Both major programs are now in transition, and he can’t afford to take an unnecessary risk. Even a guy form a mid-major with success as a head coach could be worth a gamble, but two hires with little or no head coaching experience does not seem likely.

  • vicbert caladipo

    More info on OKC and possibly landing Donovan. Playoffs start SAT 4/15. Best case scenario is OKC getting swept which is a good possibility if they play SA who they are currently pitted against. If that were to occur, then Billy is done April 22nd. Most likely he would be done by April 24th or 25th. Now none of this matters if A) he doesn’t care to come to Indiana or B) Glass wants a hire before that. On a side note, does anyone have any idea on when players normally start making their decisions to transfer or turn pro?

  • IULore

    That is interesting. His situation isn’t nearly as good as Stevens. I wish the Celtics sucked, btw.

  • pcantidote

    I think I’ve figured out why I have a good feeling about Dane. I’ve been a Steelers fan since I was 7. I know I just lost most of you right there but hear me out. The Steelers have only had 3 coaches in the last 48 years. Each of them was young (in their 30s) with no head coaching experience. Each of them was a “leader of men” type that the players looked up to and wanted to play for. I know coaching football doesn’t necessarily translate to basketball, but something to think about.

    Oh, and being in his 30s with no coaching experience worked for Brad Stevens too. You knew I had to get that in there, right?

    Also, wasn’t Dane’s dad a coach?

  • Neil Dixon

    What kind of resume did Bob Knight have? He coached at Army and had some moderate success but outside the east coast and seeing him sit the bench at Ohio State in the early sixties he was pretty much unknown. It would be a gamble but he may have just the hunger that it takes to succeed at this level and at Indiana.

  • Simmertime2

    The replacement for Knight was Alford, period. Yet the mixed up IU administration went with several other candidates, i.e. Davis, Crean, etc. It is to late for Alford. The best available is Fife–ties to IU and familiarity with State of Indiana basketball is key. Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Take it from an old (old) fan who had season tickets to the 1953 Champion season. The spirit of Indiana basketball is important. An outsider has no idea:)

  • Simmertime2

    Why do you want a journeyman coach? If winning NCAA at Florida is not good enough for him, then why do you think he would be happy at IU for the long run?

  • Creanhater

    Hey Genius, you asked why Dane would take a position as an assistant vs coaching at a D1 level…for twice the salary

  • Arch Puddington

    You don’t read well, do you? Let me help you:

    1. I didn’t ask why Fife left Fort Wayne.
    2. I DID speculate as to why he hasn’t left MSU to take one of the head coaching jobs that have opened up since he went to MSU. Ball State, for example, where the coach makes $275,000 year plus camps and endorsements, and could be considered for an even higher paying job (IU, for example) if he does well.
    3. I specifically said “I understand” why he might prefer being an assistant — good pay, low stress.

    I guess you missed all that. But by all means keep up the attack. Cause, you know, basketball is worth saying you “hate” a man because of his coaching and worth calling people names when you disagree with them.

  • Bnkepner00

    The article itself lists a number of kids that Fife has been the lead recruiter with. He just landed an Indiana kid at MSU for 17′

  • amazedinaz

    I would hope his reason for wanting to come here is not because he wants a head coaching job. Any head coaching job. I love that he loves his alma mater and wants to contribute. But being an assistant for Izzo is not the precursor for taking the IU job. At least CTC proved himself at Marquette. And the reason others are not all throwing their hat in the ring is this is a pressure cooker here. Remember when we all thought how much Mark Few would love this job. He seems to have done just fine without the “Top 10” program job. Mack & Marshall, why would they leave where they are? Have similar circumstances to Few. As much as i don’t want Alford to tarnish his legacy, does he really want to deal with the arrogance of Papa Ball? Will be curious

  • IMO Stevens is more realistic than donovan despite what they say to media. Stevens makes $2.67m/yr. Donovan makes $6m. If we raise the stakes to $7.5m, it goes a lot further for Stevens from Boston metro to Midwest.

  • Missing Moye

    Yep, lost me at Steelers. 😉

  • pcantidote

    I really don’t think it is about money for Stevens. He’s going to be paid very well no matter what he does. It just comes down to one simple question. Does he see himself as the IU coach or the Celtics coach for the next 25 years. Unfortunately for him, the time to answer that question is now.

  • MarkHoltzHoosier

    Fife is my #1 choice among IU alumns. I’d of course be excited and supportive…
    However, I think there are several names I’d rather see:
    Brad, Billy, Marshall, Collins, Miller, Holtmann, and maybe Mack.

    So uh, my 8th choice?

  • pcantidote

    Roy Williams’ first job was Kansas.

  • Lance76

    Thanks for your common sense comment. None of us really know the details

  • Lance76

    Great comment, I have thought of him often as a Greg Gard in waiting and I sense that Izzo has a lot of fatherly type respect for him. His father was a coach which to me is a plus and he is tough minded and known for defense, also a plus. There is a reason he played for Knight.

  • Lance76

    Good comments. A great thing about Dane is when he would say “it’s Indiana” I feel he would know fully what that means.

  • Lance76

    Who ever is our next coach, we all need to support 100%. Also if Dane is 37 I am feeling older now!

  • Lance76

    Yes, dad was a coach in Clarkston, Michigan and brother played for U of M in late 90’s.

  • Doug Wilson

    If Glass is not happy with what high profile Coaches are available he could quit possibly name Fife as an “Interm Coach”. Creans system was very similiar to MSU. So current IU players could relate to Fife. Fife went through what players at Indiana are currently going through. Fife did understand a Bob Knight system that Indiana Fans can all relate too.. a One year tag as an Interm Coach would give Glass time; Fife would be given a chance to prove himself.
    I believe the current team can compete at a high level. I believe that Fife can recruit the state of Indiana. Fife does know how to play defence. Fife does understand the need to win with your back against the wall. 2002, while playing for Mike Davis says it all… Go Cream Blood here, Give Fife the chance… I think CTC would also support Fife… and that would go a long way with Current IU players such as Bryant and Robert Johnson, Devonte Green, etc.

    I excluded Blackmon, I am sorry. That dude is an Army of one. Blackmon has undermined Crean since his arrival…. And Crean paid the price. IMO. The ball should have went to Bryant more. Yogi had no problems finding Thomas… work it out. I think that if Blackmon came back, Fife would find a way to teach Bryant and Blackmon to play as a team.

  • Doug Wilson

    Crean will get another kickass job… He has padded his resume since coming to IU… Rebuilt the IU program, BIG Tittles, and three Sweet 16s. With a winning record at IU, and his record at Marquette, Crean is set…. Glass has the pressure to deliver, not Crean. The wrong hire by Glass, and everyone will be questioning why did IU fire Crean again…. I do believe the IU/ Crean relationship has went as high as it will ever go. but is there an answer to a replacement for Crean? Will it happen without loosing the momentum IU gained the last 9 years? Knight was’t winning when he got fired. So nothing lost really under Crean…. But nothing changed either…. Let’s face it…. IU needs to think recruiting the State of Indiana first. With Butler, Purdue, ND, and all blue Bloods killing it. who can bring the kids from Indiana back to lining up to play Hoosier Basketball. Dane Fife sure found them, Look at MSU recruiting since 2012.

  • beppecolo

    Fife intrigues me. He’s got IN basketball in his blood, you know, passing the ball, cutting and picking, blocking out for boards, hands up and moving your feet on defense – that stuff – the part of the game that is the bottomline for Indiana basketball fans.

    And, quite honestly, Tom Izzo is perhaps my favorite B1G coach. Year in and year out, his teams show remarkable improvement from start to finish of the season; I think that must mean he’s a good teacher. If he’s taught Fife well, that alone makes Fife very appealing to me.

    I hope the decision on a new coach is made quickly. That would seem to provide the best chance for retaining the present, really talented, roster as well as offer the new coach the best opportunity for recruiting.

    BTW, any thoughts on which players are likely to leave?

  • myrddin

    If you’re not qualified except for having ties to IU, you’re not qualified. Especially with the solid candidate pool available.

  • Outoftheloop

    No, too inexperienced!

  • Doug Wilson

    I believe Dugan Fife played with the fab-5 at Michigan… He gave Indiana fits with his defence too. One of the main reasons Knight highly recruited Dane Fife in the years to follow.

  • IUMIKE1

    Your second sentence pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. Would kinda be like keeping 1 card and drawing 4 more knowing the whole time that the chances of drawing the cards you need are very, very slim, but hoping like hell you hit.

  • IUMIKE1

    lol…..that is all

  • Arch Puddington

    I think he will be a good coach, but there are just too many others with more established records. Donovan is the fantasy, but I’d take Mike White or Gregg Marshall in a heartbeat. Fife may be better than either of them, but there just isn’t enough to go on at this point to take him over them. As others have said, he needs to be the head guy at a mid-major somewhere if he wants to get one of the big jobs.

  • iubase

    Fife would be a long term answer. He is at the top of my realistic list. He would communicate well with the players, recruits well and is hungry to succeed. Glass would take some heat due to the lack of experience. However I like his experience Andrew energy. I think he is bright and knows IU.

  • iubase

    Arch- it is a risk for glass. But I look at fife as a similar guy to Collins. He is bright and has been recruiting here.