All gas, no brakes.
Back when Indiana basketball had first returned to college basketball relevance, enjoying a #1 ranking for a large part of the season and playing an up-tempo, high-wire style of basketball that allowed players to push the pace at the expense of some mistakes. The transaction, despite complaints to the contrary, often resulted in overwhelmingly positive returns (four seasons ended in the top-10 for offensive efficiency) and it became Indiana's identity. The Hoosiers could rarely be stopped from scoring, but they consistently struggled to keep their opponents from doing the same (one top-25 defensive efficiency season).
Prior to that season, Indiana was making similar moves over on the gridiron. Gone was Bill Lynch at the helm of the football program, replaced by Kevin Wilson, the Oklahoma offensive coordinator who had directed several up-tempo, basketball-on-grass spread offenses for the Sooners and was regarded as one of the finest offensive minds in the game. His football teams fit that mold, as he eventually morphed the Hoosiers into an unstoppable offensive force but struggled even more than their basketball brethren to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard.
Despite the defensive deficiencies, both teams achieved reasonable success in 2016. Kevin Wilson led the football team to their second straight bowl berth (an incredibly rare thing in Bloomington) while Tom Crean won the Big Ten outright and vanquished Kentucky to return to the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in his tenure.
Kevin Wilson didn't make it to 2017, booted by the university before the bowl game for "philosophical differences" and replaced by his defensive coordinator, Tom Allen. He got the job without the interim label after engineering one of the most incredible one-year turnarounds in the sport. Allen took over a unit ranked 105th in S&P+ and finished 2016 just outside the top-30. He's already got one game as the Hoosiers' lead man, overseeing a close loss to Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl.
Meanwhile, Tom Crean made it through the end of his season before being dismissed for the more conventional reason of "not winning enough" and was replaced by Archie Miller, who became a household name on the back of an Elite Eight run with the Dayton Flyers and a brand of basketball known for its defensive tenacity.
All gas, no brakes -- no more.
It's rare for a high-major program to be replacing both football and basketball coaches in the same season, and even rarer to swing the pendulum as far as possible in the opposite direction of the predecessors. Wilson was a gruff, measured offensive genius while Allen often cites the hashtag #LEO (Love Each Other) and reacts to what happens on field with the same exuberance and despair as the players he's sharing that moment with. Allen's defensive mind is hard to doubt given what he managed to do at Indiana in just one year, but everything else is in question.
Tom Crean was a program-builder, an effortless promoter who saw the chance to build relationships and support his players in every presser and interview. His players were his sons and, not unlike Allen, he lived and died with them. He knew of every milestone long before it arrived so he would never be unprepared to celebrate it; going as far as taking timeouts solely to give a player the chance to receive an ovation from the crowd (Jordan Hulls' 1000th point, Yogi Ferrell setting the career assist record). His replacement said the right things behind the podium in his introductory press conference but possessed the body language of a man that wanted to be doing literally anything else. And much like his football counterpart, Archie Miller's arrival has a lot more questions than answers.
In the last three months, Indiana cast out two established offensive savants and replaced them with guys taking their first cracks as the head coach of a high-major program. There's significant risk here, no question. One or both of these guys could turn out to not have what it takes to extrapolate the success they had in smaller roles or smaller programs to the level necessary to retain employment at Indiana.
Or they could both be hits. Big hits. Archie Miller could become an institution, leading Indiana back to the promised land and being an entrenched figure at Assembly Hall for the next few decades. Tom Allen could take Indiana football to summits unseen before being paid disgusting amounts of money by some SEC school to go do the same thing there. Which illustrates the difference between between the Hoosier programs. If you make it with Indiana basketball, you're not leaving for another job. But if Tom Allen can make the Hoosiers a consistent winner? In that division? He'll have no shortage of suitors with much better football tradition and resources than the Hoosiers could provide.
I'm a gambler by nature, and the idea of taking an educated guess on who the next big thing in coaching is and locking them down is an appealing route to me because the payoff is so immense. Just because these guys haven't yet done it at a place like IU doesn't mean their résumés are devoid of evidence that they can.
Archie won at Dayton, and won a lot. The Big Ten is not the Atlantic 10, but the step up comes with an increase in resources and it's not like the game is any different. If Archie can get Big Ten caliber players to Bloomington, his coaching acumen can take him the rest of the way.
Tom Allen got the Hoosiers to play defense, and not just a little bit of defense, but borderline top-30 defense. A lot of defensive coordinators have come through here just hoping to field an average unit and couldn't pull it off. If Allen's assembled offensive staff can cobble together three or so touchdowns in a game, the sky is limit for the Hoosiers.
These aren't guarantees. Maybe Archie doesn't get the players, maybe Tom doesn't get the touchdowns and this whole experiment blows up in Indiana's face. These are some reasonably large "ifs" to be tackled, but I'm excited to see the answers. This new era of Indiana Hoosier athletics looks, at the start, to be completely different than the one that preceded it. But the tally of wins and losses will decide whether or not it's progress.