03.26.06

Alford “As Popular As Influenza”

Posted in Basketball at 3:38 pm by

But still funnier than Paul Provenza? Hawkeye Central’s Ryan Suchomel considers the shakey relationship between Indiana product / Iowa head coach Steve Alford and Iowa City’s fan base.

Alford got everyone excited for “the next level” when he arrived in Iowa City. He had talked about having Iowa ranked in the top 10 nationally on a regular basis.

That first trip to the NIT was followed by two more. Iowa was 16-10 last year before rallying for five wins to earn one of the final at-large spots in the NCAA tournament.

And then this year: In time, people will remember all the good things, but for the moment, the lasting image is a 3-pointer at the buzzer that made Iowa the ugly step-sister of the tournament.

With rumors flying, people who have 100 percent of their support behind Alford say two things: One, the first five years were spent learning, and now we’re seeing the real coach Alford. Expect big things from here on out.

Or two, what coach Alford has done over seven years is pretty good. Everyone bashing his record should be ashamed — this isn’t UConn or Duke.

The first requires some faith, and a lot of people had their faith burned up after five years with Alford. But I can understand it. Alford could return to Iowa and contend for a Big Ten title again, serving a big plate of crow to all the haters.

The second idea is just foolish.

Why is there a segment of the fan base that thinks doing slightly better than mediocre is fine for Iowa basketball?

Wednesday’s press release — the one that said coach Alford may be sticking around — trumpeted the fact that Iowa has had six straight winning seasons, and six straight post-season appearances.

These are good things, but they are not worth holding up as proof of greatness.

Last year, Alford’s former coach and mentor Bob Knight was quoted, responding to criticism of Alford, as saying “I don’t know what Iowa people expect.”

It isn’t wrong for Hawkeye fans to expect more.

Indiana’s place in college basketball history is assured. It is one of the top programs of the NCAA Tournament era, along with Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, Louisville, Syracuse and Duke.

But I don’t think the University of Iowa has to settle for being a few games over .500 year after year.

George Mason University is leading UConn, 69-65 late in the 2nd half. GMU is about 3 minutes away from the most improbable Final Four entry since LSU in 1986, though this seems like a bigger surprise.

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