- "Around here, he was getting a bunch of slander and everything."
- "It boggled my mind. If they don't know him, then why would they want to judge him? I don't think it's fair."
- "Out there, they're big-time with basketball, whereas here, it's football - with some basketball. He's going to a school where basketball is the main sport."
- "I don't think anyone likes to hear that the coach that recruited you is taking another job. I'm really indifferent to it right now."
- Gorney said he doesn't have a preference on the next coach "as long as they know what they're doing," he said.
The date? October 26, 1999. Earlier in the year, Iowa hired two new coaches: the unknown Kirk Ferentz and the positively famous Steve Alford. In the prior year, Iowa football was 3-8, and Iowa basketball had made the Sweet 16. Every person on campus believed in Alford; nobody had ever heard of Ferentz. Alford even sold out a preseason lecture on basketball. In his first game, Ferentz was trounced by perennial powerhouse Nebraska, a team two years removed from half a national championship. On the other hand, in his first game, Alford beat the #1 UConn Huskies, the defending national champions. Both teams eventually sucked (football only won once; basketball went 14-16), but there was a hint of promise with the basketball program that simply didn't exist with football.
But football began to improve, and the (dare I say) magical 2002 season put Iowa football back on the national radar. In the meantime, Alford's basketball teams continued to languish in the middle of the Big Ten. Compare the year-by-year records of the two coaches:
FERENTZ vs. ALFORD
1999: 1-10 (0-8) / 14-16 (6-10)
2000: 3-8 (3-5) / 23-12 (7-9)
2001: 7-5 (4-4) / 19-16 (5-11)
2002: 11-1 (8-0) / 17-14 (7-9)
2003: 10-2 (6-2) / 16-13 (9-7)
2004: 10-3 (7-1) / 21-12 (7-9)
2005: 7-4 (5-3) / 25-9 (11-5)
2006: 6-7 (2-6) / 17-14 (9-7)
In all but two seasons, Ferentz's teams exceeded expectations; in all but two seasons, Alford's failed to meet theirs. The mediocrity and underachievement of the program, when combined with the Pierre Pierce fiasco, the constant wooing of Indiana, the arrogance (real or perceived), and the consistent success of football made it impossible for the Golden Boy. I've handed it to him all season; this team did far better than I ever thought it could. But when 17-14, with losses to UNI and Drake, is in excess of expectations, you realize how far you've fallen.
I'm glad Alford is gone (I even did a little jig around my office when I heard the news), but I don't think I'm glad for all the same reasons. Contrary to popular opinion, he did a pretty good job the last couple of years. But it is unquestionably the best move for all parties that he leaves now on his terms.
As for Gorney, someone needs to get him a tape of the Lute years. Or the Armstrong years. Or even the Settles years. Iowa isn't a football school with a little basketball. Iowa supports a program that wins with class. Too often in the past eight years, Iowa basketball has done neither.