By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

1. A Hoosier basketball dilemma

As an IU alum (BA History, 1978), here are my two cents after the firing of basketball coach Tom Crean. I understand why AD Fred Glass made the move, but I still don’t like it for a reason I stated the other day: Paying coaches not to coach. I also believe in redemption after a season like this one. Crean resurrected this program to a respectable level after the Kelvin Sampson debacle and a full decade would have been proper. I thought Crean deserved another year to coax game out of stars like Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both go pro, and perhaps that figured into Glass’s decision. Perhaps they were gone anyway, Crean was facing a tough rebuilding without that talent and a contract extension. That’s the scenario for a program tailspin.

Where to go now? I am intrigued by bringing back UCLA’s Steve Alford. I like his coaching lineage, going back to his father, Sam, whom I sat behind at a game at Illinois (the one Coach Knight benched Alford and three other starters and played freshmen) and listened as he and Delray Brooks’ dad mulled the situation. But it might take up to $7 million to buy out Alford’s UCLA contract, on top of the $4 million left to pay Crean, assuming he doesn’t land another job. That’s $11 million and that makes by head spin as much as Teter Quad jungle juice. My second choice would be Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, though the Koch Brothers will make him a potentially expensive acquisition. My third choice would be Creighton’s Greg McDermott. Both Wichita State and Creighton are model mid-major programs. Dan Dakich favors Alford or Dane Fife, who would combine Knight/Izzo coaching lineage. That might be a good move.

2. J.D. Vance returns to Midwest

I had the privilege to dine with “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance and Purdue President Mitch Daniels last month, and Vance mentioned he was about to move from Silicon Valley to Columbus, Ohio. In the New York Times today, Vance explains, "For two years, I'd lived in Silicon Valley, surrounded by other highly educated transplants with seemingly perfect lives. It's jarring to live in a world where every person feels his life will only get better, when you came from a world where many rightfully believe that things have become worse. Charles Murray calls them ‘super ZIPs’ or  ‘veritable bastions of opportunity and optimism, places where divorce and joblessness are rare.’ The sociological role we play is to suck talent out of small towns and redistribute it to big cities. This has consequences beyond the purely material. Jesse Sussell and James A. Thomson of the RAND Corporation argue that this geographic sorting has heightened the polarization that now animates politics.”

Vance adds, “But there were practical reasons to move: I'm founding an organization to combat Ohio's opioid epidemic.” Hoosiers would be wise to reach out to Vance once he gets his opioid organization off the ground. We share much common ground and heritage with our Buckeye neighbors, Vance has kin here in Indiana, and he would be a valuable human rally point for the steep, steep challenges we face in politics and policy as we confront our epidemic.

3. Medicaid slashed in attempt to save Pvt. RyanCare

Despite warnings from Gov. Eric Holcomb and some half dozen other Republican governors, the House Budget Committee voted to make further Medicaid cuts on top of the $880 billion the RyanCare bill originally called for in order to bring Freedom Caucus members on board. This move will cost Republican moderate votes in the Senate. The bill is expected to face a March 23 floor vote. Politico Playbook is reporting that President Trump will make a “forceful public statement in the next few days,” saying that negotiations have wrapped up, and he will urge lawmakers to get behind the plan. Trump visited the Republican Study Committee including U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, this morning, saying he is “100% behind the deal.” The irony is that this bill which Trump wanted passed “largely intact” will hammer the very constituencies that put him into office last November.

There are further warnings from conservatives. Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it's not that easy. Once something is given – say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans – you take it away at your peril. This is true for any government benefit, but especially for health care.” U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton observes, “The House majority could be at risk if we get health care reform wrong."

4. Trouble for the Trump ‘soul’ budget

Today’s Atomic is written as I peer out my window looking at all the budding and blossoming trees and bushes. Spring seems to come half a month earlier than just a couple of decades ago. The Trump budget slashes away at the EPA, the National Institute of Health, NOAA, FEMA and other government programs vital to understanding and reacting to the environmental changes unfolding before those of us willing to look.

Stan Collender, director of financial communications at Qorvis MSLGROUP, observes, “This is not a budget. It’s a Trump campaign press release masquerading as a government document.” It is being recognized as such in the Senate. Sen. Roy Blunt observes, "There are many concerns with non-defense discretionary cuts." Rep. Tom Cole notes, “Go cut entitlements. That's where the money is.” And Sen. Lamar! Alexander says, "My priorities are national defense, national laboratories, the National Institutes of Health and national parks." But House Budget Committee Vice Chair Todd Rokita observes, “There will be a huge battle over this. (The administration's) strategy seems to be to open as many fronts in the war for the soul of the country as possible. It's needed."

New York Times columnist David Brooks writes today, “Donald Trump doesn’t really care about domestic policy; he mostly cares about testosterone. He wants to cut any program that might seem smart and nerdy, like the National Institutes of Health. But he wants to increase funding for every program that seems manly, hard, muscular and ripped, like the military and armed antiterrorism programs. Indeed, the Trump budget looks less like a political philosophy and more like a sexual fantasy. It lavishes attention on every aspect of hard power and slashes away at anything that isn’t.”

5. Appointed superintendent bill changes

WIBC’s Eric Berman reports that Speaker Brian Bosma is talking with Senate sponsors of the appointed superintendent bill in order to resurrect it after a stunning defeat there last month. Senate President David Long is intent on delaying the implementation date to 2024, allowing Supt. Jennifer McCormick to seek reelection. She supported the original bill. Long will try to convince his majority caucus to revive the bill next week.

Good luck to the Bulldogs, Boilers and Irish on Saturday.  Hope we all have the luck of the Irish today and beyond. It’s The Atomic!