by Kent Sterling
Frankly, I don’t know whether Crean can coach or not, but he has built a pipeline running through the state that ends at Assembly Hall. That pipeline has yet to deliver anyone to Bloomington yet, so the losses that continue to build are not surprising. Once the pieces are together in 2012-2013, we will all find out whether Rick Greenspan made a mistake or not, but not before.
But beginning with next year’s freshman class, kids will start to report for duty, and as they do, Indiana’s fortunes will improve. Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington will go to work in Bloomington three months from now. The following year, Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson, Peter Jurkin (from North Carolina), and Hanner Perea will join the fight. The year after that – Collin Hartman and Devin Davis show up, and in 2014 James Blackmon, Jr. and Trey Lyles pitch in.
That is a strong group. Add to those kids, the returning core of freshmen and sophomores, and expectations should grow each year. High expectations for this season were misplaced. Indiana and Michigan are the two youngest teams (by far) in a Big Ten that has some of the best seniors in the country.
Look at the senior talent that will be gone after this season:
- Purdue – JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore
- Illinois – Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, Bill Cole
- Wisconsin – Jon Leuer, Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil
- Michigan State – Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers
- Minnesota – Blake Hoffarber, Al Nolen (gone now too)
- Penn State – Talor Battle, David Jackson, Andrew Jones, Jeff Brooks
Indiana will lose Jeremiah Rivers, and the following year Verdell Jones, Tom Pritchard, and Daniel Moore. Nothing at all against any of those three kids, but who gets the best of that deal? If Indiana can get commitments from Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris and Kaleb Tarczewski, the 2012 class will be the best in the country.
Fans are piling on Crean because of what they believe are his oddly choreographed movements on the sideline, and the arrogance he may have displayed while at Marquette. They point to his NCAA tourney record while at Marquette, and inability to win more with a singularly gifted Dwyane Wade. Crean’s offense and defense are criticized because they look nothing like what was run under Bob Knight.
Indiana just doesn’t look like Indiana with all these ball screens and zones, they say. And they are right. It doesn’t look like IU. 3-11 in the Big Ten doesn’t look like Indiana either.
But brighter days are coming. IU fans have languished through three years of the kind of basketball no one from Indiana ever though they would see. There is a lot of blame to go around, but very little of it belongs to Crean.
Fans point to Steve Lavin as a coach who can turn a program around quickly because of the first-year success he has had at St. John’s, but the top six players for the Red Storm in minutes played and scoring are seniors. Crean’s best returning players were Eli Holman and Armon Bassett, who left shortly after Crean signed on, and that was not a bad thing for the longterm health of the program. Eric Gordon was also still a Hoosier, but his leaving for the NBA was a foregone conclusion before Kelvin Sampson stopped being conferenced in by Rob Senderoff.
So Crean has the luxury of a ten-year deal and the liability of bare cupboards. His only choice was to build a culture from the ground up, and this is the third year of that construction project. Those rooting for Crean to fail should enjoy the next 13 months because the 2012-2013 Hoosiers are going to be damn good. They will take a little time to get straight, but once they do, they will win a lot of games. Next year will be better, and the year after that Crean will either earn his criticism or praise.
What happens now is important as it sets a tone for the future, but Indiana fans won’t have any idea whether the Crean era will be a success or failure until this time two years from now.
In the meantime, keep bringing the angst. Nothing to do until then but pass time, and arguing is as good a way to do that as any. Stay passionate, and if in two years, I’m wrong – I will stand atop the Von Lee Theater marquee in the nude and scream “I was wrong” into a megaphone until Carla from Dagwood’s brings me a Supreme, Heebie from Nick’s brings me a strom, or one of Bloomington’s finest convinces me to climb down.