Indiana beats Minnesota – talk of Tom Crean being Big Ten Coach of the Year sparks internal debate

by Kent Sterling

Tom Crean has reason to be both proud and anxious about his work with Indiana during the 2014-2015 season.

Tom Crean has reason to be both proud and anxious about his work with Indiana during the 2014-2015 season.

Indiana beat Minnesota last night with a historic three-point shooting barrage that accounted for 60% of the Hoosiers 90 points.

Hitting 18-of-32 (56.3%) triple tries is tough to count on, but at 8-5 in the Big Ten, Indiana is very close to securing a spot in the league’s top five, which will undoubtedly lead to a nod from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

A significant sect of fans have been tittering about the need to replace Crean since in Bloomington virtually since he arrived for a variety of reasons, but the din grew after last season’s tournament shutout following a 17-15 season.

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With five winnable games remaining in the regular season, this Hoosiers team without a center or power forward is on the precipice of exceeding all expectations by such a large margin that analysts are starting to yammer about the possibility of Crean being named the conference coach of the year, and John Calipari mentioned Crean as a potential national coach of the year.

Forget Calipari’s true motivation – selecting his competition for the award – it can be argued that no one has done a better job of matriculating his way through significant adversity this season.  It can also be argued that the adversity Crean has skillfully slalomed past is of his own creation, and why should that be celebrated?

So I will argue both.  You decide which side you stand on.

Crean is the Big Ten Coach of the Year

Tom Crean has dealt with a serious amount of hardship prior to and throughout the 2014-2015 season.

  • Indiana’s usable roster would win a national championship if players taller than 6’7″ were banned from the game, but that’s not how basketball works.
  • Just prior to the season, Indiana lost Devin Davis for the season because of some late night fun that turned dangerous.
  • Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson were suspended for the first two games of the season because of multiple dirty tests for banned substances.
  • Two players with extensive experience decided to transfer after the previous season, and were replaced by a 6.9 points per game wing from Illinois State and an unheralded freshman.

Despite those challenges, Indiana is 8-5 in the Big Ten and 18-8 overall with an RPI that is ranked 29th in college basketball.  Crean has managed a serious amount of success with a backcourt of the most valuable player (not the player of the year though) in the Big Ten in Yogi Ferrell and two freshmen – James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson.  There is also the very gifted and explosive Troy Williams.

Taking the ingredients available to Crean and whipping up what is to this point a winning Big Ten dish is worthy of Bobby Flay or Emeril, and certainly makes him the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Crean is anything but the Big Ten Coach of the Year

The misfortune that Crean has had to deal with was created by Crean himself, so giving him props for negotiating it seems silly.  Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell transferring was caused in part by Crean’s behavior.  Crean neglected or was unable to recruit size.  Robinson and Williams were suspended because they showed a lack of respect for Crean’s culture by using banned substances multiple times.  Ditto the event that caused Davis’ injury.

This is also a down year for the Big Ten.  If this Indiana team was forced to compete in any of the previous three years, the result would not be nearly as gaudy.

Crean caused the problems he has been forced to overcome.  The fact that he has found a way to lead the Hoosiers to the upper echelons of mediocrity should under no circumstances be interpreted as an achievement worthy of awards.

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Add to that a significant erosion of ability to recruit Indiana kids, and Indiana is on a track to be forced to overcome diminished expectations for the foreseeable future.  Turning mediocre into good is not worth over three-million per year.

I wrote both arguments, and it’s difficult for me to decide which side of the fence on which I fall.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

11 thoughts on “Indiana beats Minnesota – talk of Tom Crean being Big Ten Coach of the Year sparks internal debate

  1. j

    Indiana is certainly playing well. the debate about whether he neglected or is unable to recruit size is interesting. we all know how badly Indiana lacks size. as a result crean signed two 6’7″ guys for next year. this interesting for 3 reasons:

    –1 Indiana desperately needs size and crean failed to get it.

    –2 Indiana has no scholarships available. (how can you give scholarships when there are none to give?)

    –3 and finally even though crean is willing to cheat his current players and take away their scholarships he failed to get the kind of talent the HAS to have to be successful. this class is not in the top 50 nationally. crean struggles to win with talent let alone without it.

    –lets take a look the talent he has had and the results:

    ——this year he has two mcdonalds all americans. his team is playing well right now and will surely make the tournament. but–live by the sword die by the sword. this team is not balanced offensively and the defense is relatively porous.

    ——last year he again had two mcdonalds all americans and failed to make the tournament. additionally multiple players and some walkons left the team.

    ——12-13 season. the most successful regular season on a generation. two mcdonalds all americans, two nba lottery picks and the man who finished second in this year’s dunk contest. the team sputtered at the end. that was a great team. and they got their a$$*$ handed to them buy a 2-3 zone. —creans teams struggle with zones. people say the players have to execute. I agree but all of tome creans teams struggle with the zone.

    #$%^ with hanner healthy Indiana can start 5 players that were ranked in the top sevent five of their respective classes. no other big ten coach can do that. with all that talent Indiana has reached “the upper echelon of mediocrity.”

    BO RYAN on the other hand has a team full of three star recruits. his team made the final four last year and has lost only two games all season. that my friends is the criterion for coach of the year. he has taken little talent and turned it into a title contender. I believe THAT is what a GOOD coach does. good coaches don’t take ELITE talent and produce average results.

    I realize that no players have been arrested in a few months and that’s great. that’s actually a big step up. but its year eight and we have as many tournament wins as we do MISDEMEANORS. and crean only knows how many failed drug tests.
    this is not the coach of the year. this is the resume of a recruiter that struggles to be competitive and keep the players out of trouble.

  2. Bert B

    Bo Ryan. The league is full of mediocrity this year, as you point out (and the conf showed non-conf.). Wisc. is the one team consistently taking care of business. IU is solid, but I look at their schedule and have a hard time finding a win they shouldn’t have had, in my opinion. They played no true road games until B10 and won the games they should have won (including seven non-conf home wins against pretty teams – the Grand Valleys of the world). They’ve also had a few nice wins on home floor. I think they’re winning the games they should win. Hats of to them I guess, just not a coach of the year performance to me.

  3. Jeff Gregory

    I think we might as well go with the “Coach of the Year” scenario. I mean, the team is going to the tournament. They “overachieved.” You can argue the other points, but the fact remains that HE WILL NOT BE FIRED. Since that is a given, why torture yourself with the other scenario?

    1. j

      how is having arguably the most talent in the big ten and finishing in the middle of the big ten overachieving? explain that one to me. how has this team which starts 2 five star recruits and if they start hanner an additional 3 4 star recruits “overachieving?” I don’t care if crean “wont be fired.” rest assured im going tell anybody that will listen how pitiful he is. think about this: 2 five star recruits. 3 four star recruits. as starters. and they are 18-8 and 8-5? if that’s overachieving im not sure….well its not overachieving. period. its taking the best raw materials and building a big shiny turd. and that in a nutshell is what tom crean does. he gets the best and produces average results and people laud him for “overachieving.” what does that say about him? what does that say about you?

      1. Jeff Gregory

        If you expected the team to perform as well as better than they have this year, you are the only one that I know of that held that belief. Most people believed that they were going to hit bottom and seal the deal on Crean.

      2. kentsterling Post author

        Stars are assessed when a kid is 16-17, not 20. Lots can happen in the intervening time between the rating and a player being asked to contribute to a program. Think of how many players are misjudged by the best football evaluators in the world this weekend at the Combine. College kids are even flakier.

        A team without a legit four or five playing as well as Indiana has – especially after the accident and arrest that sidelined Devin Davis and cause the suspension of Emmitt Holt – has been a surprise.

        1. j

          there again kent you reference your own point of crean overcoming his own screw-ups. the team has no real bigs. he failed to recruit a good one last year and in the face of all things sensible he has not signed one for next year. he did sign two guys. if nobody goes pro, nobody transfers and nobody quits the team where are those scholarships going to come from? I am not asking this rhetorically. I really want to know what happens in that situation.

          1. kentsterling Post author

            We don’t know at this point beyond that overhanging by two requires a plan to accommodate those two new players. Just because we don’t know the plan doesn’t mean there isn’t a good one.

            Again, this is another instance of – is it bad or is it good? If Crean waited, good recruits all vanished early and he was left to pick over scraps, fans would say that he is unprepared for next year. If he overseeing, fans don’t like that.

            Tough to get a handle on the program’s future when all moves could be inferred as both positive and negative. Tom Crean is the Hamlet of coaching.

    2. Rick

      After the PR move today of having the New England coach speak to the team, I think Glass and Crean are trying to save their jobs. I guess if your married to a Harbaugh, you are going to flaunt it!!!!!

  4. j

    do the players actually like crean? do they respect him? I realize any response here is purely subjective and noplayer is going to flat out voice discontent. there was a game very early in the season when the players headed to midcourt for tipoff that yogi jogged by crean and ruffled his hair. yogi did not laugh and tom crean absolutely was not amused. its not easy to ruffle creans hair. im sure yogi had a great many turnovers that game because he coulnt hang onto the ball. average guys that woulod go to war for their coach succeed. great players that aren’t held together by a strong respectable figure don’t always succeed. where is tom crean on that spectrum?


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