Indiana Basketball and Football – Hoosiers fans need to take a deep breath and see the big picture

by Kent Sterling

Fred Glass is going to evaluate and act - as good leaders should.  Demanding immediate satisfaction for mediocrity is just silly.

Fred Glass is going to evaluate and act – as good leaders should. Demanding immediate satisfaction for mediocrity is just silly.

There is a sect of people who simply don’t like Tom Crean, and others who don’t care much for Kevin Wilson.  Or, they are big fans of the rule that consequences should follow mediocre results.

People want a level of scorched earth comeuppance for the leaders of Indiana’s two marquee programs that I can simply not abide, and so I am being hammered on social media and in comments to earlier posts on this website.

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I have been called a “Tom Crean apologist” so many times, I have stopped being baffled by it.  Talk to people at Indiana about whether they think I’m a staunch Crean advocate.  They might laugh.  They might curse.  I’m not sure.

But because I’m not willing to say that Crean needs to be taken into the sub-basement of Assembly Hall and waterboarded, somehow I’m soft.  Because I want to allow this season to play out in its entirety before casting judgment on who the leader of what once was one of the most respected basketball programs in America, I’m not capable of letting go of Crean’s out-turned pocket.

Here are a series of facts often ignored by those who want Crean to be replaced immediately by Brad Stevens, Archie Miller, Shaka Smart, or the unearthed remains of Clair Bee or Henry Iba:

  • Michigan has lost to Eastern Michigan and Division One’s lone independent – the vaunted Highlanders of the New Jersey Institute of Technology – in the past week.  Nebraska lost last night to Incarnate Word.  Purdue lost to North Florida.  Indiana’s loss to Eastern Washington is hardly the only hiccup for a Big Ten team this preseason.
  • Before losing to Louisville by 20, the Hoosiers led in the second half.  They showed an ability to score the basketball that projects to potential success in the Big Ten.  Granted, the defense was lousy, and substitution patterns wobbly, but that isn’t unusual in December.
  • IU AD Fred Glass is not going to change coaches in December unless the safety of the players or NCAA violations demand it.
  • While banners are not hung for an APR of 1,000, it’s still a great accomplishment to lead a program where athletes are bona fide students – and successful ones at that.

Call for Crean to be canned for the arrests, positive drug tests, and injury to Devin Davis if you like, but declaring this season lost basically before it starts is rash and premature.

Even if you dislike Crean or find him odd, give this group of kids the latitude to sink or swim before declaring them incapable of making it to shore – or condemning Crean’s leadership as ineffective.

As for Wilson, Indiana has sucked at football since time began – minus a magically successful run in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Rebuilding a program from nothing at a place without a single positive brand identification is not an easy gig.  Was Wilson the best candidate to be a head football coach in the Big Ten when Glass hired him?  Of course not, but who in his right mind would take that job?  Let’s count the jobs the previous seven Indiana head coaches got after spending more than one year at IU.

Lee Corso (1973-1982) coached again for one year at Northern Illinois and one more for the USFL’s Orlando Renegades.  Sam Wyche (1983) moved to the NFL after one quirky season.  Bill Mallory (1984-1996) never coached again.  Cam Cameron (1997-2001) one disastrous year as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.  Gerry DiNardo – none.  Terry Hoeppner (2005-2006) – passed way after two seasons.  Bill Lynch (2007-2010) is at DePauw.

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Indiana is not a launching pad for great coaching careers.  Wilson isn’t an idiot, and knew what he was getting into, and Glass isn’t an idiot either, and knew in what pond he might be able to catch a fish.

Wilson is a much better coach and leader than he was when he arrived in Bloomington, and blowing him out right now would serve no purpose than to restart the clock on success.  Maybe Wilson never gets over the hump, but you can be damn sure that no one who is or will ever be considered a great head coach is going to come to Bloomington to replace him.

I like Wilson as a coach, and believe he is going to succeed eventually.

Indiana’s mediocre (I’m being kind) heritage in football and recent undistinguished off-court behavior and on-court play are tough to stomach for anyone associated with Indiana University, but being circumspect and reasonable, if not patient, shouldn’t be too tough to muster for a fanbase that has waited this long.

20 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball and Football – Hoosiers fans need to take a deep breath and see the big picture

  1. j

    HHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!! READ THIS kevin Wilson needs more time. it simply takes much longer to generate change in a football program than a basketball program. what Wilson is doing is working. at the very least they aren’t losing anymore than usual and there is better talent on the field. eventually that talent will create wins.

    lets look at the big picture on TOM CREAN
    -one final four with Dwayne wade.
    -a total of 3 sweet sixteens besides that in his fifteen years of head coaching.
    -2 all americans and got to a sweet sixteen.
    -2mcds all americans last year——no tournament wt*?
    – 1 owi
    – 2 fake ids
    – 3 minor consumptions
    – multiple failed drug tests
    and that’s the stuff we know about.
    there is enough guard play here for asuccessful season. but LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE: look at whats likely to
    leave and what is likely to remain.
    ————tom creans finest moment was right before the Syracuse game in the sweet sixteen. its downhill from there.
    ^$%#&$%@&#%$^-ive figured it out kent. you aren’t a crean apologist. you just realize if you turn on him youll have nothing to write about. who is going to write about how much they agree with you? nobody. so you take what appears to be the position to draw the most ire and ignite the most vehement of the fan base. LOOK AT TOM CREANS BIG PICTURE—it is MEDIOCRE. just like this column.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      What I do is try to be as honest as I can be. Your assertion that somehow my post is strategic gives me way too much credit for targeted sects who can agree or disagree. That’s not my game. Like Sollozzo in The Godfather, “I’m not that clever.”

  2. Brian Richardson

    I think Crean has one more season after this to prove himself. He could do it this year, but the biology of the folks we have in the post is not favorable for a great year in the Big 10. This is what I think will happen based on what he had to dig us out of, and the goodwill he earned by making it to the Sweet 16. We all want Championships, but there are 351 Divison 1 basketball teams. A top 16 finish puts us in the top .04% of teams for that year.

    That being said, I would be fine to replace him, considering who we could get. If we get Brad Stevens, I’d do it in a New York minute. Historically, my biggest complaint with Crean is that he makes his players adjust to his offense vs. his offense adjusting to his players. However, he is trying to do some of that this year. We have seemed to come up short when considering the talent we have had, which is a sentiment expressed by many.

    I graduated in 1992, so I actually saw what is the “glory years” of IU. I will never understand why we have never made a Rose Bowl run in this many years, but it is what it is. OSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Michigan, State repeatedly turn out great FB and Bball programs. Even Northwestern and Purdue have seen a little sunlight. The biggest issue we have always had is defense, and finally… we got a few good recruits on that side of the ball. Those guys are still young, but we have the potential to be good in a year or two.

    I would give Wilson more time. He has brought in the best recruiting we have ever had. We should at least give him time to test it out. If he isn’t successful, how is that different from any other year anyway? 🙂

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I would only argue that Indiana should be compared with the 65 teams of the Big Five conferences, not all 351 teams in D1. The Sweet Sixteen runs put IU in the top 24% of the Big Five programs.

      Firing is always about the replacement, not the guy being replaced. You are right on the money there.

  3. Alan

    I’ve been following IU since the mid 60’s, graduated from there, and have endured ever since. I totally agree that no big name coach would come here, and to yank Kevin Wilson’s chain now would just put us back another 5 years or longer. He brought along Tevin Coleman to elite status; he had 3 pretty good quarterbacks just 2 years ago (Roberson, Coffman, and Sudfeld). Roberson leaving really hurt us—-with he and Sudfeld, we most likely would’ve scraped out 6 or 7 wins this year. Kevin has learned on-the-job and I believe it will show next year with a bowl bid.
    Tom Crean deserves some slack, too. Just imagine if Vonleh were still patrolling the middle this year. Heck, if Devin Davis would’ve been healthy, rebounding would be so much improved from the current situation. I really wanted to see Davis take on Montrez Harrel of UL—–Devin was our only real hope to box Harrell out. Recruiting is suffering from uncertainty over Crean’s future. We need to get into the NCAA this year to lessen the chatter. While I truly don’t think Crean is a great in-game coach, he has done a lot to restore some of our past luster. Let’s have solid Hoosier support this season and then re-evaluate. I’m frustrated too, along with so many others, but I also am a realist and don’t want to see us knocking down all the bricks to start over again and again when the foundations for both football and basketball are solid, if not spectacular.

  4. Steve brown

    I reject the arguement that there isn’t anyone out there any better than Wilson or Crean. I remember a young, unknown kid by the name of Knight who was coaching a lowly Army basketball team. This unknown came to IU and built a national champion. The problem is that we have an AD with no vision. The fish rots from the head.

    1. Steve brown

      We need a Bill Orwig badly. Bill helped lead IU to its last Rose Bowl appearance. He also hired Bob Knight. What else can I say?

    2. kentsterling Post author

      If you are positioning against what I wrote, I never said there isn’t anyone out there who will take the job in place of Crean. There are plenty of coaches who would enthusiastically pursue the IU gig. Football is a different story.

  5. Rick

    I think Fred Glass should take an internship at Butler. After reading the full page article in USA today about Butler’s new basketball coach, it appears they have found another diamond in the ruff. What a novel idea Butler has, hire a coach with head coaching experience who has turned a program around. I don’t think IU’s football coach, basketball coach and AD can put that on their resume.
    Kent, I also read that Cam Cameron is the highest ass’t. college football coach in the US at $1.35 million. I guess that blows a hole in your theory that IU is a dead end job!!!!
    I am sick to death of the excuses.
    Signed, 35 year IU alum.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Cameron is the third highest paid assistant coach at $1.315M. Corso is also well paid as a media guy. Neither has been a successful head coach after leaving IU. Not saying people don’t make a living. Saying that being a successful head coach after spending time in Bloomington is damn near impossible given the track records of the previous six.

      1. Rick

        That’s not my point, I am saying the IU job enhanced Cameron’s and Corso’s career. Their careers are a lot better off for being the IU football coach.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          How did being with IU enhance anything for either Corso or Cameron? Cameron is not the OC at LSU because he was in Bloomington 15 years ago, and if you asked the executives at ESPN responsible for Corso being on Gameday, I doubt any have a clue that Corso once coached the Hoosiers.

          1. kentsterling Post author

            No one maligned your intellect. I’m curious what about being at Indiana enhanced the careers of Corso or Cameron. Not an insult to you, but a question.

          2. Rick

            PS Sam Wyche coached at IU, then became head coach of the Cincinnati Benagals, which he then took to the super bow1.

          3. kentsterling Post author

            As is written in the post, Wyche is excluded from the sample because he spent one year, and was offered the Bengals job.

  6. Jeff Gregory

    Crean is teetering on the edge for me. The last couple of years I tend to believe that he isn’t the guy to take the team to the next level – for a number of reasons. However, he is having more success with this team than I anticipated. It is a shame that the Louisville game was a 20 pt defeat. It was really a better contest than that.

    What I want to know, Kent, is will Davis be redshirted? Why haven’t we heard anything about that?

    As far as Wilson, a an IU fan you HAVE to have more patience with the football program. I disagree that they can’t get a good coach there. In America, everything is about money. You combine insane money with a great coach with a huge ego, and you have someone that can turn a program around. The money will get their attention, the ego tells them they can handle any challenge and is eager to prove it to the world.

    1. Rick

      It’s been almost 50 years since they went to a decent bowl (Rose), I’ve heard this for the last 40 years. I graduated 35 years ago.

      What’s the Purdue joke I heard 40 years ago from a high school friend’s dad (Purdue Alum). The IU psychologist was counseling a patient about a sexual dysfunction with his wife, he consulted Lee Corso and Lee said wait until next year.


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