Maybe I should take it easy on Mike Davis. Perhaps I should adopt the media's conventional wisdom, and think of Davis as a nice, decent, shy, retiring man cruelly run out of town by pitchfork-wielding Hoosiers. Even if I don't adopt that line of thinking, perhaps I should just move on, give thanks for our current competent coach, and rubberneck as Davis drags UAB down to the cellar of C-USA. And then I remember the cost of Davis's last season. As I discussed during the NCAA Tournament, the indefensible decision to retain Davis in 2005, after he produced consecutively IU's two single worst seasons since the early 1970s, didn't just affect IU. That decision did, however, help create a monster in Columbus. In the summer of 2005, when IU's coach was a dead man walking, former Butler coach Thad Matta came back to his old town and obtained verbal commitments to attend Ohio State from Greg Oden and Mike Conley, probably the best set of teammates in the history of Indiana high school basketball. Would hiring a new coach in 2005, whether it would have been Kelvin Sampson or someone else, have guaranteed that Oden and Conley would come to Bloomington? Not at all. Thad Matta, by all indications, is a masterful recruiter, expert at the relationship-building part of the job. But at least IU would have been in the game. Instead, a probation-ravaged football school 150 miles to our west became the "it" school for college basketball recruits. Certainly, Matta would have succeeded at OSU in any event. But did we have to make it so easy for him? Lou Holtz used to say that "luck is where preparation meets opportunity." Matta's excellent recruiting skills demonstration that he provided the preparation, but the IU coaching situation enhanced the opportunity.
And that leads us to today's news. Deshaun Thomas, a freshman (sophomore to be) from Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne, perhaps the best player nationally in the high school class of 2010, verbally committed to Ohio State. It's also worth noting that Kelvin Sampson's sanctions may have played a role here, although if a player is going to commit as a freshman, what can you do? Again, I like Sampson. I think he's a very good coach. He is good enough to restore IU basketball to glory. But the monster on the eastern border makes it a much tougher job, and that monster was created in part by the IU administrators who coddled the incompetent ingrate Mike Davis.