Meanwhile, in that other dance …

  The silly season began in earnest this week. Coaches were cashiered and the dance – the one involving the guys diagramming plays, not the NCAA-tournament bracket – continued. Gotta find the Next Big Thing, gotta keep feeding the monster.

  Pardon me, but I don’t know which is crazier: That Archie Miller never beat Purdue in four years, or that somehow his brother at Arizona outlasted him.

  Goofy stuff, this coaching business. Merciless standards (in some quarters, at least) and mega-buyouts. Archie Miller’s career arc is pretty much in the dumpster, but at least he walks off with $10 million to keep him in Pringles while he’s plotting his next move.

  Just as the Big Ten dictated terms this college basketball season, the league’s coaching roster pretty much reflects the state of the game. Nine programs made the tournament and five didn’t. Of those five, three got whacked – Miller, Richard Pitino at Minnesota, and before the season even began, Pat Chambers at Penn State, for making an inappropriate comment to a player.

  Pitino scarcely had time to stop by his office in Minneapolis to pick up a severance check before taking the vacant job at New Mexico on the same day. Penn State filled its position with Purdue assistant Micah Shrewsberry, who must not have known that Nittany history is so destitute in hoops that it’s been to the NCAA tournament exactly four times in the last 55 years. One of the coaches who discovered how difficult it is there was Dick Harter, whose adventures I documented in “Mad Hoops.” Harter coached at Penn State five years, and his only tournament appearance was the NIT in 1979-80, a bonanza brought about by the fact he scheduled wins against Indiana (of Pennsylvania), Muhlenberg, Colgate (a 38-37 victory), Ursinus, Johns Hopkins and Fairleigh Dickinson.

  But we digress. Miller’s buyout, albeit swallowed up by Hoosier faithful, isn’t a great look while the nation wrestles with a pandemic. But it’s symbolic of what I think is a trend even more pronounced than the escalation of salaries.

  Buyouts have gone mad, both in football and men’s basketball. For some reason, athletic directors are hitched to coaches by agents who convince them that even if our guy isn’t capable of drawing up an inbounds play, life would end as we know it if he wasn’t on our sideline.

  John Calipari just endured a bad season at Kentucky. Surely another one won’t follow. But if it did, would it be fantasy to think the Wildcats might think about a change? Well, maybe not if they consider Cal’s buyout, which today is $54 million.

  The recent experience of Washington is illustrative. The UW made an out-of-the-box hire after it canned Lorenzo Romar in 2017, taking on Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins. It seemed a home run the first two years, as Hopkins won a pair of Pac-12 coach-of-the-year awards and got the Huskies to the 2018 NCAA tournament. Right then, Washington got over its skis, giving Hopkins a six-year, $17.5-million extension – just in time for him to prove he couldn’t win with two one-and-done talents in 2020, and with a decimated roster in 2021.

  If you check USA Today’s annual database of coaching salaries, one of the preposterous factoids therein is that Hopkins’ buyout is $12.1 million, and of the publicly known coaches salary packages, only 13 have bigger ones.

  I’m convinced that 90 percent of athletic director hires have nothing to do with research or science or intuition. They’re just spitballing, hoping like hell this one makes them look good. And if it doesn’t, shake down the boosters to come up with the buyout.

  The Indiana job, in particular, intrigues. It’s drawing comparisons to Nebraska football, a once-monolithic brand that nobody recognizes anymore. You have to go back 19 years, to when Mike Davis took the Hoosiers to the national-title game, to find the last time Indiana got past the Sweet 16.

  In the grand historical picture of college hoops, Indiana is a colossus, one that’s won five national titles. But two coaches I’ve covered turned the job down years ago, when it was probably more attractive than it is now. For some reason, Tony Bennett knew better; he found the perfect place at Virginia, where the facilities and academics were good, in a league in which his style would be naggingly different. Up the road 80 miles, Mark Few recognized that the coaching climb-the-ladder handbook might be flawed, and that he had a good gig where he was.

  Seems to have worked out pretty well for both of them. That’s a cautionary tale that gets lost on a lot of coaches.