Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Steve Alford Stuff Gets Really Goofy -- Indiana Is Jilting Him, But Missouri Asks For and Gets Permission From Bowlsby To Talk To Him

Now things are really getting bizarre in the Steve Alford coaching scenario.

Well, maybe bizarre isn't the right word for it.

Let's try insane.

Just when I figured the Iowa basketball coach would be ready to be signed, sealed and delivered by and to Indiana, this happens.

Andy Katz of ESPN writes that Alford is being jilted by Indiana, his alma mater, and is tentatively scheduled to meet with Missouri officials about the job opening there.

I find two things hard to believe:

1. That Indiana is turning its back so quickly to Alford.

2. That Alford would want to talk to Missouri.

I figured Alford would at least be invited to Bloomington, Ind., for a courtesy interview with Hoosier officials.

Then he could think about it for a couple of days. Afterward, he could take the job and try to bring back the glory days of Bobby Knight, his coach at Indiana.

Or he could say, "I appreciate Indiana's interest in me, but I'm the coach at the University of Iowa, and I'm happy there."

To get no interview at Indiana is a bigtime slap in the face.

I mean, that's like Golden Boy taking a knee to the groin in the living room of his own home.

It's like Mr. Clean falling head-first into a mud puddle.

It's like the guy who has been named "The Man With the Sexiest Hair" going bald overnight.

One thing I can't see is Alford taking the Missouri job. He's well known there, of course, because he coached successfully at Southwest Missouri State [now Missouri State]. But, basically, he's a Big Ten guy, not a Big 12 guy.

Like I said, it's bizarre.

And maybe it ain't over.

When you're dealing with basketball coaches, it's never over, I guess.

Anyway, here's Katz's story from ESPN.com:

Iowa coach Steve Alford, on the verge of being jilted by alma mater Indiana, is tentatively scheduled to meet with Missouri for an interview this week that could land Alford in the Big 12, multiple sources close to the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday night.

Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby confirmed to ESPN.com that Missouri athletic director Mike Alden called Tuesday, seeking permission to speak with Alford. Bowlsby granted the wish. Alford's contract pays him $800,000 through June, 2009.

Meanwhile, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Indiana's search committee let Alford's representation know that the Hoosiers would only be bringing in two candidates and as of Tuesday Alford wasn't one of them.

Indiana is searching for a replacement for Mike Davis, who resigned last month but finished the season by coaching the Hoosiers into the NCAA Tournament second round before losing to Gonzaga in Salt Lake City. Missouri has been searching for a replacement for Quin Snyder since he was forced to resign last month. Snyder didn't finish the season and was replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach Melvin Watkins.

Alford coached the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten tournament title earlier this month. Iowa, seeded No. 3, lost to No. 14 Northwestern State on a corner 3-pointer with a second left in the NCAA tournament first round in Auburn Hills, Mich. Iowa finished 11-5 in the Big Ten, tied for second with Illinois (25-9 overall).

Alford led the Hawkeyes to the NCAA tournament in 2005 as well, losing to Cincinnati in the first round. Alford's Hawkeyes won the Big Ten tournament title in 2001, the other time the Hawkeyes went to the NCAA tournament under Alford, beating Creighton in the first round, losing to Kentucky in the second. Alford led Iowa to six straight winning seasons and six consecutive postseasons in his seven years at the school. Prior to Iowa, Alford coached Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) to the Sweet 16 in 1999. Alford won the national title as a player at Indiana in 1987. He grew up playing for his father, Sam, at New Castle High (Ind.) before going to IU. He got his coaching start at Manchester College (Ind.).

If Alford isn't one of the two finalists for Indiana, that could mean one of the other two is Orlando Magic assistant Randy Wittman if the Hoosiers are going to invite one coach with strong Hoosiers ties. Wittman has expressed interest in the job and there are plenty of IU alumni working hard for his hire.

Meanwhile, Missouri's search has been kept mum the past month. Multiple sources say there has been strong influential booster support for former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, but Alden isn't in favor of the hire. Sources confirmed that representatives for Missouri have contacted the intermediaries for LSU's John Brady and Pitt's Jamie Dixon to test their interest.

Another source said Creighton's Dana Altman is a strong choice for Missouri and might be interviewed as well. A source said Missouri has also had interest in UAB's Mike Anderson.

Missouri has been looking for a coach that has a clean record with the NCAA after the school had violations under Snyder.