Indiana coaching candidates: Nate Oats, Chris Beard among best options to replace Archie Miller

Indiana has cycled through four head coaches since the tenure of legendary coach Bob Knight ended in 2000, and now it’s set to hire a fifth following Monday’s news that the Hoosiers are parting with Archie Miller. This historically proud program has now missed the last four NCAA Tournaments and hasn’t advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2002.

But while the Hoosiers have dropped in prestige among their Big Ten peers, the Indiana basketball job is still an attractive gig. The program boasts five national championships, eight Final Four appearances and has a rabid fanbase.

Those historic accomplishments are great, but the present challenge is clear, as even proven head coaches like Kelvin Sampson, Tom Crean and Archie Miller have failed to stand the test of time for various reasons. Still, the right coach will jump at the opportunity to try and restore this program to its former glory. So who should Indiana target as the replacement for Miller? Here are five names to ponder:

Nate Oats, Alabama head coach

Oats was a high school coach less than a decade ago. Now he’s the top rising star in college basketball coaching. In just two seasons as Alabama’s head coach, Oats has morphed the Crimson Tide from a middling SEC program into a futuristic 3-point shooting machine. Alabama has no problem paying for good head coaches — see Nick Saban — and the school would surely fight to keep him. But for Oats, who is from Wisconsin, it’s worth wondering if the Indiana job, with all of its tradition and potential, might be a longterm fit. Oats has a big personality, as well, and at Indiana he would be the most-recognizable face on campus. At Alabama, he’ll always be in the football coach’s shadow.

Despite the potential fit, however, sources told CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander that Oats — who carries a $14.4 million buyout in his contract, according to USA TODAY — currently has no interest in taking over the Hoosiers program. 

Chris Beard, Texas Tech head coach

Beard took Texas Tech to the 2019 national title game, and now in Year 5 with the Red Raiders, it’s fair to wonder if he might be ready for a job that brings a better opportunity for sustained success. Recruiting at Indiana would be easier than recruiting at Texas Tech. But he’s already the highest-paid coach in the Big 12, according to a USA Today database, so it’s fair to wonder if the motivation would be there to make a jump.

The prospect of losing another coach to the Big Ten after Brad Underwood’s defection to Illinois would probably irk Oklahoma State fans. But consider this: Boynton is the lowest-paid coach in the Big 12. Yes, even Iowa State coach Steve Prohm, who went winless in the Big 12 this season, is paid more than Boynton. So if nothing else, there is an opportunity for Boynton to negotiate a massive raise here. Beyond the obvious of landing prized recruit Cade Cunningham and taking this team to the NCAA Tournament, Boynton has proven to be a great leader during a tough time for the Cowboys, who are in the midst of appealing an NCAA decision that could still result in a future postseason ban. With Cunningham headed to the draft, who would blame Boynton for jumping ship to perhaps double his salary at a place not currently in the NCAA’s crosshairs?

Mark Pope, BYU head coach

Pope stepped foot onto the BYU campus two years ago and immediately turned the Cougars into an exciting program and the clear second team behind Gonzaga in the WCC. The Cougars rose as high as No. 14 in the AP Top 25 last season and are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Pope is tall, charismatic and quite likable. That makes him the opposite of Miller. Though he’s been a head coach for just six seasons and the IU fanbase may scoff at the notion of hiring another “mid-major” guy, Pope is worth a look 

Scott Drew, Baylor head coach

Why would Drew leave a program he’s built from the ashes into one of the best in the nation? It seems like a long shot, but maybe spending a chunk of his life in Indiana during the Hoosiers’ heyday gave him a reverence for the IU job. Drew attended Butler, then spent a decade working for Valparaiso. The only way Drew comes is if he’s grappling with some inexplicable longing to see Indiana restored to the power it was when he was establishing himself as a young assistant in the state more than 20 years ago.