Dane Fife’s passionate plan to reinvigorate Indiana basketball culture

This wasn’t how Dane Fife remembered it. The power across the IU program was completely different.

Fife is aware of what successful basketball seems to be like. Throughout his senior yr at Indiana in 2002, Fife was part of probably the most profitable Hoosier workforce because the flip of the century once they made a nationwide championship sport look. Earlier in his profession, he was coached by Bob Knight, who gained three nationwide championships.

So Fife is aware of the fanbase and expectations. He is aware of Bloomington. Throughout his introductory press convention Tuesday, Fife mentioned he was disillusioned that Opie Taylor’s closed down.

However over the past decade, from throughout state traces, Fife has watched his alma mater wrestle to comprehend a constant stage of prosperity.

And when Indiana dropped its final six video games final season, morphing from an NCAA match squad to a hopeless afterthought, Fife had a front-row seat. Two of these losses got here towards Fife’s Michigan State workforce, together with a second-half meltdown that began Indiana’s dismal stretch.

From Fife’s perspective, although, it wasn’t simply the numbers within the win and loss column which have modified since he performed for IU. He seen one thing greater. And now, as an assistant coach below Mike Woodson, he bluntly known as it out on Tuesday.

“I feel that it is a tradition concern,” Fife mentioned. “Not solely with this system itself, however with the followers, the media, the entire state.”

By returning to Indiana, that is what Fife needs to assist change. He thinks again to his enjoying days at IU, the place he was a 6-foot 4-inch guard, to clarify the evolution of the IU program. Regardless of his workforce’s success at IU, there have been instances the place followers expressed their displeasure.

“We’ve been booed up 20, strolling off the court docket with coach Knight,” Fife mentioned. “…However those self same individuals confirmed up the subsequent time cheering their heads off. The balconies have been crammed to play a workforce that was out of a convention that they’d by no means heard of.”

The dynamic, nonetheless, in Indiana’s season-ending loss to Rutgers within the Massive Ten match, was completely different than what Fife was used to. Boos and chants of “hearth Archie” echoed down from the seats. There was a stressed toxicity across the program all through the season.

“What I noticed was simply individuals selecting and selecting and selecting at our program and everyone jumped on board and it simply created an enormous, a snowball of an avalanche that couldn’t be stopped,” Fife mentioned. “…It’s okay to get upset, however what’s occurring now’s fairly superficial.”

Throughout his prolonged tenure at Michigan State, even whereas he watched Indiana crumble final season, Fife at all times knew that he wished to return to Bloomington.

However these experiences with the Spartans, studying from Corridor of Famer Tom Izzo, might be invaluable to Indiana. Fife has labored with quite a lot of NBA gamers like Miles Bridges, Denzel Valentine and Jaren Jackson Jr. The Spartans reached the Ultimate 4 twice in his tenure at Michigan State.

This offseason, when Woodson got here calling, there have been loads of causes to show the job down. East Lansing is 45 minutes from Fife’s hometown. His brother lives in Ann Arbor and his mother and father are shut by. Fife’s two daughters have grown up there. Plus, Fife didn’t have a preexisting relationship with Woodson.

However Fife was nonetheless set on returning to IU, sharing the identical imaginative and prescient as Woodson of uniting generations of IU followers.

“I feel that we’ll mend a variety of fences simply by advantage of coach Woodson being right here, connecting the previous with the younger,” Fife mentioned. “…We bought to speak about how particular this place nonetheless is and needs to be.”

Fife has a plan to assist construct this system again. He needs to put money into his participant’s lives, understanding find out how to optimize their skillsets on and off the court docket.

“It’s really easy to get sidetracked, to get distracted with social media and other people simply continually pecking at you for those who don’t have your circle tight,” Fife mentioned. “However that’s on the workers, too. We’ve bought to search for indicators, we bought to be investigators. We gotta be nearly FBI to know what’s being thrown in these children’ faces and going of their ears.”

Fife additionally needs to embrace the Indiana neighborhood, having gamers signal autographs after video games as a substitute of posting footage on social media. He needs to go on excursions across the state, naming New Fortress, Kokomo and Fort Wayne amongst different cities, permitting followers to fulfill gamers.

“You acknowledged that Trayce Jackson-Davis was one of many nicest children you’ll ever meet,” Fife mentioned. “Race Thompson, unbelievable child. (Rob) Phinisee, unbelievable child. (Anthony) Leal, (Trey) Galloway, these are all children that grew up similar to you guys.”

And so, in his first look talking to the media as an assistant coach at Indiana, Fife made his level clear. He known as out everybody, together with the media, and never inserting the blame of Indiana’s current shortcomings on a single issue. But when something grew to become clear in his 45-minute press convention, it’s that Fife is doing this as a result of he cares.

“I’m not afraid to lecture a number of individuals as a result of that is my program,” Fife mentioned. “That is your program. That is coach Woodson’s program. And if anyone has a proper to criticize or stick up for it, it’s us.”

Filed to: Dane Fife

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