Don Harris was one man in one beat-up pickup truck. Yet, the words scrawled on his windows Thursday spoke for legions of Indiana University basketball fans: “Get Alford.”
The Associated Press reported the 56-year-old Harris was circling Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., sending a clear message to athletics director Rick Greenspan: Hire former Indiana All-American Steve Alford to replace lame duck coach Mike Davis, or pack your bags.
No need for a “search.” The guy you want, who you must have, is in Iowa City, coaching Big Ten Conference leader Iowa.
Question is, does Greenspan succumb to the pressure, and make Alford his only candidate, or does the former Illinois State AD allow for other possibilities?
Davis suggested this week Indiana fans need “one of their own” as coach. No one is more “Hoosier” than Alford, who grew up in New Castle, Ind., and as a senior led Indiana to the 1987 national championship.
Hiring him would make Greenspan “one of their own,” as much as a non-Indiana grad can be.
No slam dunk?
Yet, if memory serves, Greenspan wasn’t much for glad handing or cuddling up to boosters, fans and alumni. Public relations was not his primary concern, or even in the top five.
That might mean Greenspan turns a deaf ear to the masses and compiles his own list, which likely would include Alford, but not be limited to him.
It certainly would include Kevin Stallings, who Greenspan hired at ISU in 1993. The two were close throughout Stallings’ 123-63 six-year run with the Redbirds and remain so today.
Stallings has succeeded at Vanderbilt as well, building a 118-92 record at the Southeastern Conference’s version of Northwestern. But as much as Greenspan would love to hire him, it would be an extremely tough sell to the Board of Trustees and the donors with deep pockets.
Stallings has three strikes against him: he played at Purdue, earned two degrees there and was an assistant coach for nine years in West Lafayette. Nothing is further from “one of their own” than a Purdue guy, and Stallings would always be that in Bloomington (Ind.).
Meanwhile, the timing of Davis’ forced resignation is perfect for Alford, who is making a run at the Big Ten championship with a senior-laden team. He could head home to Indiana on top and leave the rebuilding in Iowa City to his successor.
While he would be greeted in Indiana with open arms, there would be some hands at his back in Iowa City, eager to push him out the door.
The Alford years have not been a love-fest with Hawkeye fans, in part because of his handling of former star guard Pierre Pierce. Pierce was charged with third-degree sexual abuse in 2002 and eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
Many of the Iowa faithful believed he should be dismissed from the team, but Alford allowed him to return after sitting out the 2002-03 season. It wasn’t until Pierce was implicated in a sexual assault and burglary as a junior that Alford severed ties with him. Pierce was convicted and currently is in prison.
Alford also has failed to elevate Iowa to national prominence the way most anticipated. The Hawkeyes have made the NCAA Tournament only twice in his 130-89 tenure and two of Alford’s teams went 16-13 and 17-14. Iowa fans expected better, and sellouts at Carver-Hawkeye Arena are more the exception than rule.
None of that matters to the folks who pack Assembly Hall and/or circle it in pickup trucks. They covet Alford because he is everything Davis is not a native son, an Indiana grad and a link to the Hoosiers’ storied past.
He is their man, and the heat is on Greenspan to deliver him. The guess here is Greenspan will at least look elsewhere before agreeing to “Get Alford.” After all, his responsibility is to “Get The Right Guy.”
Good luck finding that on a window.
Randy Kindred is a Pantagraph columnist. To leave him a voice mail, call 820-3402, By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.