ANALYSIS: Why <i>wouldn’t</i> Indiana want Stallings?

Monday, February 18, 2008 at 11:37pm

Trouble is brewing in the basketball program at Indiana University.

Meanwhile, at Vanderbilt, things couldn’t be better.

That combination has put Commodores coach Kevin Stallings in the center of national speculation that he might be the next Hoosiers coach if – and maybe when – current IU coach Kelvin Sampson is fired or resigns.

Sampson is under fire after the NCAA last week accused him and his coaching staff of five major recruiting violations. Such allegations at Indiana, which has a squeaky-clean image, are not sitting well among the Hoosier faithful.

According to reports, IU will decide on Sampson’s fate by the end of this week. Lists of potential replacements are surfacing, and Stallings’ name is on each one.

Asked Monday about the speculation, Stallings said, “Have they [Indiana] fired their coach? That’s probably not something we should be discussing.”

Stallings also had another response.

“I will say it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be the coach at Vanderbilt and to be 22-4,” he said.

The Stallings-to-Indiana talk isn’t likely to wane any time soon, however.

Last week, Stallings was asked about it while making an appearance on the Jim Rome Radio Show, which airs nationally. Former Vanderbilt coach Eddie Fogler, now a college basketball analyst, has said publicly he believes Stallings would be the first choice of Indiana athletics director Rick Greenspan should an opening at IU occur.

Greenspan, it should be noted, hired Stallings at Illinois State in 1993. They are known to have a good relationship and friendship, which will only fuel the flames of speculation if Sampson is dismissed.

In response to Rome’s question last week, Stallings said he didn’t believe Indiana would welcome a head coach with ties to Purdue. Stallings played at Purdue, IU’s main rival, and graduated from the school in 1982.

In addition, there apparently are some Indiana fans who feel the school, given its vast basketball tradition, could “do better” than Stallings. And perhaps they are right.

But ask yourself this: If UCLA hired Ben Howland, Kansas hired Bill Self and Kentucky hired Billy Gillispie, why wouldn’t Stallings be a viable and attractive candidate at Indiana?

Howland, Self and Gillispie had certainly accomplished no more in their careers than Stallings before landing plum jobs at some of the nation’s best basketball schools.

Stallings has guided Vanderbilt to two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances in the past four seasons and has the 22-4 Commodores ranked No. 20 nationally this week and on the doorstep of another nice seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

In addition, there has never even been a whiff of impropriety with Stallings when it comes to NCAA compliance.

Stallings, who grew up in Illinois, is considered a “Midwest guy” and seems to be linked to every job opening in the Big Ten each year.

Last spring, he was mentioned in connection with Michigan and Iowa, and one Iowa newspaper reported that a contract had actually been written up for him to be the Hawkeyes’ new coach before they hired Butler’s Todd Lickliter.

In 2004, Stallings had serious discussions at Ohio State before that job was given to Xavier’s Thad Matta.

Stallings has never said he’s unhappy at Vanderbilt, but then again, he’s never said he plans to be in Nashville until retirement. Perhaps wisely, he’s keeping his options open as all coaches do.

Bottom line, he survived some tough times at Vanderbilt when many were calling for his head and now has the program in the midst of one of its golden ages. The Commodores are winning games and graduating players. The last three recruits to sign or commit to VU are ranked among the top 100 nationally in their classes.

For those reasons, Stallings would be a logical choice to be on Indiana’s short list if that times comes – Purdue ties or not.

In just a few short weeks, the Vanderbilt administration might have a fight on its hands to keep Stallings in Nashville.

Brett Hait covers Vanderbilt athletics for The City Paper. He can be reached at bhait@nashvillecitypaper.com.

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By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I have written to the Athletic Director with copies to the President of Indiana University expressing my recommendation for Kevin Stallings. I went to graduate school there and it is a perfect setting for Kevin Stallings. I am told however tha it would be impossible for Stallings to get this job. I was not told why?

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I believe it's because Stallings is a Purdue grad. I think it's a lame reason to not take a look at someone but . . . college presidents and ADs do some awfully dumb things. One look at Vandy's football coaches before Bobby Johnson and anyone can see that.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

A REAL Vandy fan would not want Stallings to leave.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Some of those REAL Vandy fans wanted him fired just a couple of years ago, which was ridiculous, some of those fans had/have unreasonable expectations for Vandy basketball. Vandy is not a school that is going to go to the NCAA tournament every year, most teams don't go every year.

By: jamiecarroll on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Frank, G.F.Y.

By: OneTimer on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Some real Vandy fans think that Stallings isn't a good fit for Vandy, isn't a good fit for the type of player that comes to Vandy. He's not been to the Big Dance more times than he has gone. And that's what most coaches are judged by. If the NCAA tourney is unreasonable expectations for an SEC school, then Vandy needs to go to the Atlantic Sun.

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Jamiecarroll, I appreciate the abbreviated message "GOOD FOR YOU"
"14329

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

OT, the unreasonable expectation is that Vandy be in the tourney EVERY year, not make the tourney every few years.

By: fish2026 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Put this in perspective. Although Tenn and Memphis are having great years, Indiana is one of the pre-eminent programs in college basketball. It has never been on probation, was once rated by Sports Illustrated as an "A" and top public university for its athletic dept. The kids were good and graduated. Unlike Memphis , Louisville, Cincy and other area schools can you think of the last time an IU player was arrested? I believe 1977 Jay Edwards was in a car and they found half of a marijuana cigarette, not sure who it may have belonged to. 1977!If IU fires Sampson they should have a host of good coaches to choose from.IU could be down for a few years but its a great school both for basketball and academics. I live in Texas and deal with much sleazier programs.