Indiana has fired Archie Miller, in a move that was expected but few thought would happen so quickly. After four years with no demonstrable growth or success, athletic director Scott Dolson called in donor favors and paid Miller's $10 million buyout. So who is next in Bloomington?
Rumors circulated that Dolson was already back-channeling on a potential hire for weeks, which means he's likely got a head start on things. Despite a lack of success over the past two decades, Indiana's basketball program is still a monster waiting to be awakened. The program has seemingly endless resources, incredible fan support and a wealthy donor base. Dolson should be aiming high for his next head coach and, based on rumors and reports, he's doing just that.
Here's a look at five top candidates to fill Indiana's now-vacant head coaching position.
This is Indiana's white whale. The big fish. The one who got away. It might finally be time for Stevens to realize his destiny and take over in Bloomington. While he'd never straight-up leave the Boston Celtics if things were going well, things are a bit different this season, which may line up well for Indiana.
Stevens is in his eighth season as the head coach of the Celtics and the season has been a struggle to this point. Despite having three All-Star-caliber players on the roster, Boston is 20-18 and sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are regressing despite tons of talent and in eight years Stevens has never gotten them to the NBA Finals despite three separate Eastern Conference Finals appearances. A new voice might be needed.
If Indiana offered to make him the highest-paid college basketball coach and gave him a long-term deal, would Stevens turn it down? Indiana can certainly do that; the school showed its financial prowess by getting donors to pony up the $10 million for Miller's buyout. A chance to get paid big money, go back home to Indiana and coach the program you grew up cheering for? That's not a bad deal if things are falling apart in Boston.
The 68-year-old head coach is currently sidelined without a job after a disastrous half-season leading the Cleveland Cavaliers. Beilein has told those around him he's ready to coach again and if Indiana is looking for a quick turnaround, this could be the right recipe.
Beilein was wildly successful during 12 seasons at Michigan, winning two Big Ten titles, two Conference Tournament titles, reached the tournament in nine season and twice reached the national championship game. He posted a record of 278-150 (.650) and showed a knack for rebuilding rosters quickly despite major losses. He also changed philosophies to create better sustained success in the Big Ten, switching from a wide-open offensive identity to one built on a swarming defense.
Given his age, Beilein would almost certainly have to come in with a "coach in waiting" alongside him to calm fears of a quick exit from the job. Indiana isn't trying to build for the next five years, it's trying to establish the next 20. In fact, that might be the only sticking point here.
If Dolson is aiming high and wants a current college basketball coach with in-state ties, this is his guy. Drew has been wildly successful at Baylor during his 18 years as the head coach there. He's compiled a stellar 366-215 (.630) record, just won his first Big 12 title and is 48-6 over the past two years. He's built a juggernaut in Waco.
The issue is that Baylor will always be a football-first school and Drew knows that. The Indiana native watched his dad Homer coach in the state for decades, including 22 years at Valparaiso. He knows just how basketball-mad Hoosiers are. And he knows Indiana rules the roost when it comes to the hardwood in the Hoosier state.
This would be a chance for Drew to move home as a conquering hero, secure a big, long-term deal and be given the chance atop a basketball-first athletic department. Would he take the job if offered? It would be tough to pass that all up, even though he's got a great thing going at Baylor.
What Nate Oats has done in two years at Alabama has been remarkable. The 46-year-old has turned a struggling program into the SEC regular season and conference champion while going 24-6 and finishing fifth in both polls. While the Crimson Tide are up-tempo and fun to watch they also play incredible defense, ranking second in KenPom's defensive efficiency ratings.
Oats has a track record of success after four years at Buffalo in which he reached the NCAA Tournament three times, winning the conference and tournament titles in his final two. Now he's turned everything around at Alabama and looks poised to challenge Kentucky for conference supremacy for the foreseeable future. That said, he might leave to get out from Nick Saban's shadow in Tuscaloosa. The Wisconsin native grew up in Big Ten country and even coached high school basketball in Detroit. He has deep ties to the region.
The one issue here is Oats just signed a three-year contract extension through 2027. Would Indiana really want to add more buyout cash to its ledger after paying Miller to leave? The money is certainly there to do so and Oats has been wildly impressive. If Stevens isn't coming, this might be the most attractive hire.
Chris Beard is another guy who has established a winning culture at a place where that's never really happened consistently before. Texas Tech went from a program trying to figure out where it stood to a national runner-up in three years with Beard at the helm. In his five years on campus he's reached the NCAA Tournament, went to the Elite Eight in 2018, and reached the final in 2019. His team went 17-10 this year but is ranked No. 21 and is a scary six seed out of the South Region.
The 48-year-old Beard has deep ties to Texas Tech after serving as an assistant there for 10 years. Much of that was spent coaching under (checks notes) ... some guy named Robert Montgomery Knight. Wonder where else that guy coached? Beard eventually took over at Arkansas-Little Rock and led them to a 30-5 season and steered his squad to an NCAA Tournament first-round upset over (checks notes) ... Purdue. Are you getting some hints on why he might appeal to Indiana fans?
Beard seems to have a pretty good thing going in Lubbock, but does anyone really ever have a good thing going in Lubbock? Indiana is to basketball what Texas is to football, and he could ascend to God-like status in the state if he turned IU's program around. In Texas, he'll always just be another guy.