“The ceiling is the roof”-Michael Jordan
The common man can acknowledge that this statement makes little to no sense. Fortunately, I am no common man. A few months ago, Michael Jordan said “The ceiling is the roof” to a crowd of 21,000, and to a captive audience of over a million people.
After that statement, many questioned the logic of arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time.
The logic of his sentiment is flawed, to some. Individuals that look at it from a different perspective say otherwise.
Since that day a few months ago, I have had this moment sitting in my mind. I have been trying to decipher its true meaning for a long time, and my perspective on Jordan’s words only really gained traction once I realized that he wasn’t intending to address those of the University of North Carolina, rather, a different group of people.
Contrary to popular belief, Michael Jordan was not actually trying to come up with a good metaphor for the potential of UNC’s football program. Michael Jordan was talking about something greater.
Michael Jordan was talking about Indiana Basketball.
I know it seems irrational to think that a former UNC basketball player that was addressing the potential of UNC’s football program would actually be talking about Indiana basketball, but hear me out.
Telling someone that their ceiling is the roof means that there is seemingly a limit to their potential. That hypothetical ceiling could be pretty high or pretty low based upon the relative location of the hypothetical roof. Either way, there is a limit.
There is only one way for Michael Jordan’s metaphor to make sense. This roof he refers to must have something. This roof needs to have something indicative of greater glory. Something indicative of success. This roof needs...
Indiana basketball’s ceiling is and always will be almost irrational greatness. Greatness that can be symbolized by the everlasting cliché image of five banners hanging from the roof.
Indiana basketball has changed over the last 30 years. Everyone knows that. What hasn’t changed however, has been Indiana’s potential to be great. That is what will always keep Indiana in the national conversation, as Indiana is always one impressive domino away from ruling the college basketball landscape once again.
Not too long ago I wrote a piece on the branding mentality shift that needs to occur at the program. Many misinterpreted the message a bit, because they felt I was disregarding the incredible history and tradition of the program. What I intended to portray is this understanding that history is important, but it can’t dominate a brand. You can’t sell a recruit on history…but…you need to sell a fanbase on it.
Indiana University’s remarkable past set a precedent for expectations, and those expectations are completely justified.
As I already expressed before, on a national scale, individuals don’t find Indiana Basketball to be very “cool.”
On a national scale, most individuals believe that Indiana Basketball fans have unrealistic and unjustified expectations.
That’s completely inaccurate.
Indiana Basketball fans should always expect greatness. Greatness that is based upon a potential that 95% of college basketball teams don’t have. A potential which is fueled by History, Traditions, Resources, and Devout Fanaticism.
The reason I write this piece, isn’t actually because of Michael Jordan’s comments. The reason I write this is because of two questions from three months ago that peaked my frustration.
After the firing of Tom Crean, Fred Glass had to answer some rather pointed questions about the relevance of his program:
“Fred, Indiana hasn’t won a National Title in 30 years, and you talk about winning a National Championship, then the next one, multiple Big Ten Championships, what makes it so this program can erase the last three decades and become a perennial national title contender?”
“But at what point do three decades of results not match that kind of optimism you just showed? At a certain point your job is what you’ve done. You’re what your record says you are. At what point do you maybe have to accept reality that Indiana isn’t an elite job?”
The questions, although warranted, speak to the somewhat indolent national narrative that surrounds Indiana Basketball.
The national perception of Indiana Basketball is a program that expects too much and is drowned in previous glory. The national perception is one that believes the firing of Tom Crean was absurd. The national perception is absolutely and pitifully wrong, because that perception neglects this potential for Indiana to become great quicker and easier than most other programs.
After being asked those pointed questions prior to the hiring of Archie Miller, Fred Glass was passionate and clear with his response.
“I think this is one of the best jobs in college basketball and I think through a variety of situations, we haven’t been there since 1987 and I think sometimes those of us that were so close to it at Indiana don’t step back and recognize what an extraordinary job this is. Start out with the tradition and values of the team, those are obvious. We see the five banners all the time. I think that puts us in the top-5 nationally.”
“The rabid fan-base that has more people coming to a practice at Hoosier Hysteria than most teams average in a season. The recruiting base here at Indiana, we’re only the 17th-most popular state in the country but we produced the 4th-most NBA players in the country. Plus the resources we are willing to put in. We have dramatically increased the resources we put into Men’s basketball over the last nine years to where I think we have one of the most robust budgets in the country.”
“We have all the resources to get there, and I think looking forward we can be a powerhouse to be reckoned with, with the right leadership.”
“I look forward to sitting across the table from coaches and saying, here’s what your assistant coaches budget is. Here’s how we travel. Here’s our commitment to recruiting and so forth. That’s why I’m confident that we’ll get the attention of some first-class folks.”
Fred Glass said these words before he hired Archie Miller, and months after the fact the ideas haven’t changed.
Although the college basketball landscape has changed over the last 30 years, Indiana’s past success will never go away.
Indiana’s prior successes, well developed traditions, well touted resources, and its supportive fanbase allow for Indiana to develop into a top-10 program in the country much quicker than any other school. With that said, Indiana Basketball fans will always be justified in their lofty expectations.
With every component necessary for success, Indiana basketball fans are right to yearn for a coach that can connect all the dots and send this program to a Final Four.
Tom Crean took this program far, but with a success level that seemingly leveled out prior to potential, Fred Glass was right in taking a risk on a new man at the helm.
Fred Glass would also be right to take a risk again in six years, if Archie Miller doesn’t meet crucial goals such as reaching a Final Four. Glass would be right to take a risk six years after that, and six years after that, if he still fails to find someone to take Indiana to the top-tier level of college basketball programs.
That idea is based on the realistic understanding that “good” isn’t “good enough,” and that “greatness” is attainable.
Quite simply, Indiana’s ceiling is the roof, if the roof is a top-5 program in the country.
That ceiling will always be there, and the potential to get there will always loom over the heads of the fanbase until someone gets this program there.
The potential will always be there, and for that reason alone, Indiana Basketball fans will always be justified in their high expectations.