by Kent Sterling
On today’s Breakfast with Kent, I extolled the virtues of Indiana University Basketball coach Tom Crean, including the fact that players don’t get in trouble. Strike that from the list of Indiana Basketball’s attributes.
According to a report on Fox 59, developing big man Hanner Perea was arrested at 4:45 this morning in Bloomington for driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.15.
Timing is everything in life, and Perea’s timing could not have been worse. Indiana has lost five of seven, and are now in danger of falling into last place in the Big Ten one year after winning the conference outright for the first time since 1993.
Talk radio yesterday was filled with judgment of Crean’s program, losers of a very important game against Penn State at Assembly Hall – a game the Hoosiers led by 11 points with less than three minutes remaining.
To think that a kid would be dumb enough to get behind the wheel of a car while hammered defies belief. To think that he would have enough energy after a loss that corrupted the Hoosiers hopes for a berth in the NCAA Tournament to be drunk at quarter to five in the AM is madness. To think he was the only player out way too late acting like an idiot on a Thursday night is ludicrous.
Those who already doubt Crean’s leadership of the program will use this incident as further validation of their position, but the truth is that 19 year-olds tend to be dumbasses who make the mistakes that in the best of circumstances serve as lessons to lead them to a more productive life.
Excusing Perea is not my purpose, and Crean certainly has some culpability is this incident. How he chooses to handle this will help define his tenure at Indiana. He can choose to see this as a teaching moment, and suspend Perea, or bring the hammer down to teach everyone else about consequences for this type of dangerous stupidity.
Kicking Perea off the team is the safe play that might serve as a severe disincentive for others who might consider putting lives at risk by driving drunk, but it would inexorably alter the path of a kid who has been caught a single time doing something moronic.
The last thing Crean should do is consider the emotions of fans whom he is never going to be able to please anyway.
Unfortunately, there will be an easy to make assumption that the entire team has its head up its ass and doesn’t give a damn enough about the success or failure of the team to stay sober less that 48 hours from a game against the rival Purdue Boilermakers.
If Perea was out getting bombed, other Hoosiers were likely out, and what the hell commitment does that show?
Back in the day, players were out often – in season – and had no problem sweating out last night’s beer. That was in the Knight era. I was there, and it was commonplace. That doesn’t in any way confer a pass on Perea, but for those who loathe Crean because he’s not Bob Knight, players drinking during the season has gone on forever.
If I were Crean, I would cut Perea loose, but I’m not Crean, and I don’t know what he knows. In Crean’s shoes, I would require dedication from players – a commitment to excellence. Being drunk at 4:45a after an important loss would betray a lack of such a commitment. That would be enough for me to demand a kid’s jersey. They might be kids prone to stupidity, but if my $3.16 million per year is dependent upon their determination to do what is necessary to succeed (and it is, especially today), I’m moving swiftly and surely to lance a boil that exhibits this wanton disregard for his team.
The proof of a punishment well wielded will be seen in the behavior of players from this point forward. If an incident like Perea’s doesn’t happen again, good punishment. If there is another OWI, the responsibility will belong as much to Crean as the idiot who made the decision to put lives at risk by operating a 3,000 pound projectile while addled.