Indiana's Davis to step down after season

Updated: February 17, 2006, 11:09 AM ET
Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Mike Davis' departure from Indiana was as sudden as his ascent to the top of Hoosiers basketball.

Just a couple dozen yards from where he became Bob Knight's successor in 2000, Davis walked into in a crowded room and announced he would resign at the end of the season. He was still wearing a crimson Hoosiers' sweater as he urged fans to unite behind the program.

Mike Davis
AP Photo/Darron CummingsMike Davis has had his share of ups and downs in his tenure at IU.

"Don't be sad for me. Please don't be sad for me," Davis said as his wife watched from the side. "This is like the MasterCard commercial. You know, it's priceless what God has given me to be the head basketball coach here."

The embattled heir to one of college basketball's signature programs made his decision public with five games left before the Big Ten tournament. In six seasons, he was 109-76.

But Indiana (13-9, 5-6) has been slumping lately. The Hoosiers have lost four straight games and are just 3-7 since a promising 10-2 start that put the team in the top 10.

Indiana president Adam Herbert said he had planned to wait until after the season ended to evaluate whether the 45-year-old Davis would return as coach next year, but Davis wouldn't wait.

Herbert said Davis initiated discussions before the Connecticut game on Feb. 4. They met again afterward and eventually agreed on an $800,000 buyout -- a hefty price for an athletics department that has run a multimillion dollar deficit in recent years. Davis was scheduled to earn about $800,000 with outside income over the final two years of his contract.

At the news conference, Herbert and athletic director Rick Greenspan extolled Davis' successes -- becoming the first coach in school history to win 20 games and reach the NCAA Tournament in each of his first three seasons, leading the Hoosiers to the national championship game in 2002 and producing one of the nation's finest recruiting classes two years ago.

But fan unrest, unfinished business and incessant pressure led to Davis' decision.

Mike Davis: Career at IU
  '01-03 '04-06
W-L 67-38 42-38
NCAA App. 3 0
20-win seasons 3 0

"Every year there's been a rumor that coach Davis would not be here and every year I'm back," Davis said. "I wanted it to be on my terms."

He has long had a troubled relationship with Indiana's fans, many of whom felt Knight should never have been fired.

Less than two months after becoming the coach, Davis drew attention by saying after a loss to Kentucky that he "wasn't the right man for job." The next season, some fans were upset that Davis said he wanted to coach in the NBA one day. On Monday, he said he believed that IU fans needed a former Indiana player to coach the team so they could embrace him.

Stephen Backer, who was on Indiana's Board of Trustees when Davis was hired, said high expectations might have doomed Davis, who spent three years as an assistant to Knight. In 29 seasons under Knight, Indiana won three NCAA championships.

"It was almost a no-win situation for him -- unless he won three straight national titles," Backer said. "Poor Mike was thrown into his first head coaching job, and we put him in a very tough position."

And it only got tougher when the Hoosiers went 29-29 and with no NCAA Tournament bids the last two seasons.

Some fans were already pushing Thursday for Iowa coach Steve Alford's return to Bloomington.

Alford, an Indiana high school star and former All-American who led the Hoosiers to their last national title in 1987, declined Thursday to discuss Indiana's situation.

Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association and a former assistant football coach with the Hoosiers, suggested some Indiana supporters never accepted the school's first black head coach.

"I coached in southern Indiana for nine years and I understand the culture of southern Indiana," Keith said. "I know there's always going to be a pocket of folks who don't quite think like other folks do. ... I wouldn't be honest if I said there wasn't a little bit of that that exists. It did, and Mike had to deal with it."

Davis urged fans to unite behind the players and program.

The question now is which players. Sophomore swingman Robert Vaden, an Indianapolis native, said he would likely transfer. Sophomore forward D.J. White, last year's Big Ten freshman of the year, was more direct.

"I came all the way from Alabama to play for coach Davis. With him not here, I feel like it will be tough to play," he said. "I don't think I'm coming back next year."

NCAA president Myles Brand, who was IU's president when Davis took over for Knight, declined comment through a spokesman. Knight, now the coach at Texas Tech, also declined comment through a spokesman.

Greenspan said he would begin the search for a replacement immediately but was unlikely to name a coach until after the NCAA tournament ends April 3.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press