by Kent Sterling
It’s easy to pile on Indiana Basketball coach Tom Crean given the Hoosiers losing streak, 3-13 conference record and the apparent continuation of Indiana’s run of seasons without a postseason appearance.
Calling an Indiana team a success would be ludicrous when they will have to upset one of its two remaining regular season opponents or win the first round game of the Big Ten Tournament next Thursday to win more than it’s current total of 12.
But that doesn’t negate the progress the Hoosiers program has made in the past three years. Much of that progress is on display this week in high schools throughout Indiana, and will be evident beginning next month as summer team tournaments get revved up.
In the spirit of looking forward instead of back, here is a list of the top five things Tom Crean has done right since agreeing to try to lead the Hoosiers out of the swamp into which Kelvin Sampson dragged the once proud program:
- Crean has avoided the temptation to invite kooks and ne’er do wells into Assembly Hall. There were some issues with a former player, but when he finished his time in Bloomington, the problems left with him. There are always quick fixes available, but they often do more harm than good. You can’t build a solid house with rotten wood, and you can’t build a solid program with mercenaries.
- Jordan Hulls is developing into a very good point guard who can score and should become a team leader for the next two years. He’s clever, diligent, and focused. Crean recruited him, has worked with him, and he’s getting better. Programs are built with the sweat of gym rats like Hulls, and Crean deserves the credit for recognizing his potential as a player and nurturing his desire to learn.
- Staying positive throughout three seasons while winning a total 28 games is tough, no matter how much money a guy makes, and Crean has remained upbeat while demanding that the hard work continues. That the team has continued to row in unison despite taking on water more quickly than it can be purged is a credit to the kids, coaches, and Crean’s ability to communicate the big picture. Continuing to look ahead to where the program is going rather than allowing the past to define them is not only going to help this team become better players, but better men.
- Forging meaningful relationships with summer and high school coaches. From the very beginning, Crean has known who the power brokers in indiana are and how important their programs are in effectively recruiting this state. If Indiana University can’t win recruiting battles with the very best basketball players in Indiana, there is no hope to win a championship of any kind. Indiana cannot be successful with kids from Texas and Alabama, and if you don’t believe me, ask Mike Davis.
- Crean has infused the student fan base with enthusiasm that is infectious, and has taken hold. The atmosphere at Assembly Hall during games is raucous and loud, regardless of the result of the game. The early adaptors have adopted Tom Crean, and like my brother-in-law said after my wife brought me to meet her family said, “Hey, my kid likes him and kids always know.”
As long as the high school kids see Indiana as THE place to play, the current players fight like hell, and the students are in lock step behind Crean, I’m willing to believe he’s marching toward banners and not a sheer drop.
There will be doubters – there are always doubters, but there is no tangible reason to doubt that Crean is doing the right things, and that makes him the right guy to do them.
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