By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rampant rumors and constant speculation can only mean one thing at Indiana: Another coaching search.
With the basketball season over, the Hoosiers looking for a new coach and a 10-member search committee sworn to secrecy, guessing has become the favorite past-time of Indiana fans.
About the only certainty in the race to find Kelvin Sampson's replacement is that everyone wants to know who the Hoosiers are chasing.
"The speculation that's going on is amazing, and there's a lot of speculation that's not based on fact," Indiana University trustees president Stephen Ferguson said Monday.
Not surprising given the high-profile stakes of this hire.
Since firing Bob Knight in September 2000, a move that sharply divided Indiana fans, the Hoosiers have failed to find a suitable replacement. Mike Davis, Knight's successor, never won enough to satisfy Indiana's rabid fans, and it took Sampson, Davis' successor, less than two years to stain the university's once-impeccable reputation for playing by the rules.
Sampson left in February amid a phone-call scandal that brought five allegations of major infractions from the NCAA. Dan Dakich took over as the interim coach but lost four of seven games to close the season. He's repeatedly said he'd like the job permanently.
Not everyone is of the same mind-set as Dakich.
Washington State's Tony Bennett, long considered a front-runner, issued a statement Sunday saying he had talked with Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan but would not pursue the job.
Xavier's Sean Miller, another candidate believed to be on Indiana's short list, emphatically denied having any interest in the job after Saturday's regional final loss to UCLA.
"I will be at Xavier," Miller said. "I'm looking forward to coaching at Xavier and continuing on with what we've done for years behind me and what we've done this year. You know, we have the bar set high and we're anxious to recruit the very best we can -- to have the opportunity to get back here."
Still, there's no shortage of names to stoke message boards and blogs.
Familiar names such as Louisville's Rick Pitino and Michigan State's Tom Izzo, who have both won national championships, have made the rounds, as well as those of up-and-comers such as Butler's Brad Stevens and Wright State's Brad Brownell. Even ex-NBA coaches Mike Montgomery, Scott Skiles and Lon Kruger, now at UNLV, have been mentioned.
Spokesmen at Butler and Xavier would not say whether Indiana had sought permission to speak with Stevens or Miller. Wright State athletic director Michael Cusack said Monday he has not heard from Indiana officials.
"They've not talked to me," he said. "Whether there's something backdoor, I don't know. But we have a pretty good relationship, and I think Brad would probably say something to me."
Even the hiring timeline is generating speculation. Weekend reports said Indiana hoped to hire a coach by Thursday. Ferguson called that a target date, not a deadline, and said Monday the search will continue as long as it takes to find the right coach.
"I've not seen anything about a Thursday deadline, so I don't think there is one," he said. "I think it's more of an ideal. It will go until the right person is found."
As Indiana prepares for its infractions committee hearing, the most important quality in any new coach is a squeaky-clean reputation.
"Obviously, the university is looking at that very carefully and that was part of the instruction from the president to the committee," Ferguson said.
The right hire might not come soon enough.
An Indianapolis television station reported Sunday that at least two players would transfer, but A.J. Ratliff, who left the team during the season, said those players would likely wait to decide until a coach was hired. A team spokesman said Monday that Indiana's roster remained unchanged.
There are also questions about Eric Gordon's future in Bloomington. The freshman guard was named a third-team All-American on Monday and is expected to announce soon whether he will leave early for the NBA. Most believe he's gone.
None of that is likely to force the search committee to tip its hand.
"The committee will not have anything to discuss or report till the announcement of a coach," Harry Gonso, who is leading the committee, said through his secretary.
That means fans can brace for more twists and turns.
"It's interesting that people are going to these extents in trying to find out information," Ferguson said. "It shows the interest people have in Indiana and Indiana University. It's just a fact of life."