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Thursday, January 2, 2003
Updated: January 3, 12:26 PM ET
Don't blow it, Mike

By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist

Dear Mike Davis:

It probably seems weird that I'd write you a letter for everyone to read. It might seem more appropriate for me to just pick up the phone and talk to you one on one or send this letter to your home or office. That's what friends do.

But what I have to say I think some of your friends need to read. They need to read it so they can better help you navigate your way through the most difficult stretch of being Bob Knight's successor as Indiana University's head basketball coach.

Mike Davis
Will Mike Davis and the Hoosiers have reason to complain when the brackets are announced?

When we talked days before the Kentucky game, we talked about how all the success and all the adulation and all the influence you experienced and gained as a result of a very successful 2001-02 season meant that you had to re-double your reliance on a higher power.

Mo' money, mo' problems.

We talked about how your run to the national championship game heightened the dangers of replacing coach Knight, tripled the number of damaging temptations that would be placed in your path and would make it necessary for you to constantly self-evaluate to maintain a humble spirit.

Success is the strongest intoxicant America legally supplies. It can change the content of a man's character overnight. A man bathed in the aroma of success needs to be skeptical of the advice of his supporters, fans and even his friends and loved ones. Success can change the behavior of the people around you, Mike.

I say all of this because I was shocked and disappointed by your behavior at the end of the Kentucky game. And I've been even more shocked and disappointed by people's reaction to the fallout from your meltdown.

Your blowup epitomized arrogance and ego out of control. It was Knight-like. Knight believed he was smarter, better and more ethical than everybody. He thought winning was his divine right. And when Knight's divine right wasn't granted, he often lost complete control. That's how you looked at the end of the Kentucky game, Mike. You looked like coach Knight.

Indiana University vice president Terry Clapacs, your staunchest supporter, should've announced your two-game suspension the next day. He should've suspended you because he believes in you, because he knows just how high the stakes are in your effort to replace Knight, because he understands that tough love is necessary when dealing with a talented, inexperienced head coach.

But IU did nothing. The Big Ten offices stepped in and threatened a six-game suspension. And from there, you and your supporters staged a week-long Mike Davis pity party. Big mistake. This is exactly the kind of crap that helped turn a high-strung, highly-emotional young Bobby Knight into a monster.

Mike Davis
Davis proved his brilliance last season in coaching an undertalented Indiana team to the national title game.

No one stood up to Knight. Blinded by his success, Knight's supporters offered an excuse for every misstep. And it didn't take long for Knight to believe he could do no wrong.

Mike, you can't trust the ass-kissers, not even the well-meaning ass-kissers, not even the well-meaning ass-kissers who are head coaches at schools such as Temple or write columns in the Indianapolis newspaper.

Anyone who told you that what you did wasn't a big deal and that the Big Ten was out of line for wanting to discipline you is one of five things: 1) a liar; 2) a coward; 3) a groupie; 4) a paranoid brotha who sees racism around every corner; 5) a friend/family member who is too loyal to tell you the truth.

It's silly for you and your supporters to claim that the Big Ten is hypocritical for treating Joe Paterno and Bobby Knight different than Mike Davis.

Get in where you fit in!

Paterno and Knight are legends. They're big-time money-makers. Of course, there's a different set of rules. I'm not saying it's fair. But in sports and in America the stars always play by a different set of rules. As a coach, you know that better than I do. Indiana freshman star Bracey Wright gets treated differently than reserve Sean Kline.

If this letter seems angry, it's because I am. Mike, you're a basketball genius. You have as much basketball intellect as Mike Kryzewski. Basketball fans have been slow to recognize your genius because your tenure at Indiana has been draped in controversy, oftentimes of your own making. There's been little time to just sit back and examine your work.

Mike, you blew me away last year during the tournament. You clearly had the least talented and least athletic team in the Final Four. Your preparation, the way you could visualize the game, the way you would tell me exactly how and why you would beat Duke and Oklahoma, the way your players responded to your coaching, the way you made your family, especially your two boys, feel a part of what you were doing made me believe I was watching a coach who would make all of Indiana wonder what was so special about coach Knight.

Don't blow it by becoming coach Knight. Don't blow it by wallowing in the fact that not everybody likes you or that some people would like to see you fail. Don't blow it by getting bogged down feeling sorry for yourself or feeling mistreated.

You have a great situation, a supportive administration, a good fan base, a great group of kids to coach, a rock-solid family and at least one friend who is going to tell you what you need to hear no matter how much it hurts.

Sincerely,
Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com), the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB (810whb.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at ballstate0@aol.com.