In 2001, Jay Wright was hired as the head coach of Villanova basketball. He took over the program after an 18-13 season and a first round loss in the NIT under the leadership of Steve Lappas.
In the three years that followed, Wright took Villanova to three more NIT’s. In the 14 years that followed, Wright’s Wildcats made 13 NCAA Tournaments, three Final Fours, and won two National Championships.
In 2009, the University of Virginia hired Tony Bennett to be its head coach. In Bennett’s first two seasons, the Cavaliers went 31-31. In the seven years that followed, the Cavaliers made six NCAA Tournaments and won two ACC Tournaments.
In 2011, the University of Dayton hired Archie Miller to be the head coach of the school’s basketball team. In his first two years, the Flyers went 37-27. Four years later, the Flyers had made four NCAA Tournaments and won two Atlantic-10 titles.
In 2019, Miller sits at the helm of one of the most historic programs in college basketball. In his second season as the head coach, the Hoosiers appear to be meddling into mediocrity with five straight losses. With each loss more frustrating than the last, fans have noticeably grown agitated.
Entering the 2018-2019 season, there was a noticeable level of optimism surrounding Indiana Basketball. The expectations that surrounded the program were set from the very beginning by Indiana’s captain Juwan Morgan.
"I didn't think we played with near enough energy to compete in this league."
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 15, 2019
Morgan appeared on the March Madness 365 podcast with Andy Katz prior to the season. When asked what it will take for Indiana to make the NCAA tournament, Morgan answered simply.
“There is no if,” Morgan said. “We will.”
At the time, the expectation felt warranted. Now, it feels drastic.
The drastic feeling that surrounds this assertion comes with the understanding that it allowed fans to get their hopes up. It established a precedent for rash thinking. It established a reason to be frustrated with anything less than a tournament appearance without looking at the reality of a situation.
As easy as it might be to grow angry and project malice towards Indiana’s head coach, it is incredibly egregious to not consider the reality of the situation.
Right now, Indiana is currently hamstrung to a realistic rotation of six basketball players.
Indiana has one legitimate ball handler that comes in the form of freshman point guard Rob Phinisee.
Indiana has one true big man in Juwan Morgan.
Alongside those two, the Hoosiers have freshman Romeo Langford who is left to carry a majority of the offensive responsibility, sophomore Al Durham, unpredictable sophomore forward Justin Smith, and an offensive liability in senior walk-on Zach McRoberts.
That is it.
Devonte Green is suspended. Evan Fitzner lacks confidence to be effective. De’Ron Davis has rarely been healthy. Damezi Anderson isn’t ready for Big Ten basketball. Clifton Moore has been okay in short bursts. Jerome Hunter is out for the season. Race Thompson has missed the majority of the season and was just cleared for basketball activity.
How is that a roster that is expected to compete in the Big Ten?
It’s appalling to consider how quickly people are willing to throw out blame for a situation that isn’t a result of Miller’s actions. Indiana’s head coach didn’t intentionally hurt half his roster. Miller has only been left to work with a limited rotation of talent that only includes two players in which he recruited.
How can anyone reasonably expect a coach to win in this scenario?
When Miller was hired in 2017, it should have been obvious what fans were signing up for.
Miller runs a system that requires versatility and length. He runs a system that is focused on defensive output and without the athletes need to run that system, struggles are inevitable.
Hiring Miller meant signing up for patience. The same patience that was offered to Wright, Bennett, and Miller at Dayton.
Miller wasn’t hired for 2019. Miller was hired for 2021. Miller was hired to recruit top talent that fit his system, develop that talent, and find success. He wasn’t hired to turn water into wine.
Feel free to judge Indiana when it fields a lineup of Rob Phinisee with another year of experience, Keion Brooks, Jerome Hunter, Justin Smith, and Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Don’t judge Indiana now.