Sometimes a man's career arc simply dictates a thing. And so Dane Fife's announcement that he's taking an assistant's job at Michigan State should cause barely a ripple on the news-making Richter scale.
It is, frankly, dog-bites-man stuff, and for any number of reasons. To start with, Fife's close ties to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo are well-documented. For another, he's 31, just about the perfect target age for this sort of step. For yet another, he's leaving after six years as the head coach of a mid-to-lower tier Division I program -- again, just about the customary time frame for a young coach who clearly has ambitions that extend far beyond Fort Wayne.
That he leaves after his best season (18-12) also fits the profile, especially in light of how many key pieces IPFW loses from that team. Fife won more games every season he coached at IPFW. That wasn't likely to be the case next year. And no one stays at an entry-level position like IPFW to go backward.
So this was the logical time to go on to the Next Thing. The opportunity was right, the timing was right, the career arc was right. And off he goes, with the best wishes of all of us who ever worked or dealt with him.
And if you're IPFW?
Well, if you're IPFW, you send him off with the same good wishes, understanding that this is your place in the cosmos. You're not a destination job, and for any number of reasons you never really should want to be. Anyone coming to IPFW hoping to stay there forever isn't the sort of mindset you want on your bench.
No, sir. You are, for want of a better analogy, the TinCaps, developing talent and sending it up the ladder. The fervent hope for IPFW should be that Fife is only the first it sends off on that journey.
"Our success in Fort Wayne is something that I hold in very high regard," Fife said in the university's official statement today. "We took over a program that needed life, and our coaches, players and support staff delivered. We have, without a doubt, turned this program in the right direction and established a sense of pride that will remain sacred to IPFW basketball forever."
And now it's time for Dane Fife to move on. It is, after all, the natural order of things.