by Kent Sterling
If Indiana is both the Crossroads of America and the home of basketball, then Assembly Hall is the home of the Crossroads of college basketball.
For the fourth time in 15 years, one of the steadiest programs in the history of the game is in turmoil, and unless a major pivot is made Saturday against Michigan State and in the Big Ten Tournament, unpleasant decisions will need to be made regarding the leadership of the Indiana basketball program.
Six weeks ago, the Hoosiers were 5-1 in the Big Ten, and looked to be one of the bright spots among a bunch of mediocrity in the Big Ten. This morning, after the Hoosiers seventh loss in 11 games, they have played themselves onto the bubble of the NCAA Tournament.
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Two consecutive years of not making the Big Dance is bad for job security in Bloomington, but to play without displaying the urgency, toughness, and unity of purpose shown by opponents makes the end of this narrative appear more immediately dire.
But it’s way too early to make that kind of assessment – just as it was to declare Crean a candidate for coach of the year because of nice results after one-third of the conference season.
There is more work to be done this Saturday at high noon against Tom Izzo’s Spartans, and then at the Big Ten Tournament before any declaration of a need for change is made, but last night’s 77-63 home loss to Iowa was not an affirmation of Crean’s ability to get the best from his team.
Some statements of fact can be made – Indiana is a terrible defensive team. The lapses of concentration and execution are relentless, and there is a lack of comparative toughness that has been fatal. Offensively, there are moments of grace that allow Indiana to stick around in games, but there is a reason the wins go to those who defend best.
Another fact is that Crean is despised by many with whom he has worked, annoys those with whom he regularly deals, and is seen as odd by many fans. The conversations with those who have been on the inside that might head off any talk of replacing Crean are usually peppered with anecdotes that reaffirm the doubts of those who are emotionally invested in IU Basketball.
Coaching is a business where being fired is a virtual certainty. The day when boxes will be unceremoniously filled and carried from an office come for all but a precious few. Hell, even Joe Paterno was canned, and if you think that was 100% Sandusky driven, you don’t know anyone at Penn State. Crean knew that when he walked into Assembly Hall arm in arm with former athletic director Rick Greenspan almost seven years ago holding a “Crean & Crimson” tee shirt.
If Indiana rights the ship by playing a tough brand of basketball and all five defenders finally seeing both the ball and man, Crean may be given another season to try to fix again what he originally fixed before it broke – a culture where excellence can be expected rather than dreamed of.
If not, current AD Fred Glass will need to think long and hard about a potential year eight of the Crean era that may or may not fulfill the hopes of a fan base that is growing increasingly impatient for the kind of March Madness not experienced in Bloomington since 2002 – the last time IU won a Sweet Sixteen game.
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Last night’s 14-point loss at home to a similarly bubblefied Iowa team does not secure IU’s spot in the NIT nor Crean’s ticket out of Bloomington, but it was another motion filed on behalf of the growing chorus of naysayers who are tired of Indiana being a middle of the road Big Ten team rather than a consistent player in the national race for a championship.
Indiana needs to give Michigan State it’s last best shot Saturday, or the 2015 Hoosiers may fall off the ledge into obscurity and indifference, and pull with it Crean’s career.
“But it’s way too early to make that kind of assessment.” I absolutely disagree with your timing assessment Kent. Indiana has waited too long to remove poor leadership from something as important to Hoosiers as the head coach of IU basketball. My opinion only, but I do not need to see a big name coach at the helm. I would proudly cheer on a team of JUST Hoosier kids led by a HOOSIER coach who can get the kids to play fundamental basketball. Let the UKs, Dukes, etc. have their team of U.S. All-Stars. I am ready to bring in one of our homegrown HOOSIER high school basketball coaches. Heck, somebody call up Larry Bird. Someone who has displayed basketball knowledge on the court would be able to teach our kids to rebound.
Finally, People are finally seeing the light! It’s not just the coach, it’s the whole leadership at IU from the Trustees (they have no clue), President, AD all the way down. Everybody keeps defending these guys with the fat pay check. Really, would you see at another major school have a basketball coach who never played college basketball, an AD who had never been an AD before and a football coach who never had been a head coach either. The basketball coach and AD probably never competitively participated in athletics even in high school. Sitting from their ivory towers they have no clue how to get people in the stands or motivate a kid how to jump in a pool at 6 am for swim practice. They have never done it themselves.
IU needs to take a workshop in leadership from the Butler.
Seriously, Russ? Contrary to popular belief, Bob Knight didn’t have that kind of a team. Two of his best players in 1976 were Scott May and Quinn Buckner, who were from Ohio and Illinois, respectively. The 1987 team had ONE Indiana kid in the starting FIVE, Steve Alford. The rest were from, Louisiana (Smart), Illinois (Thomas), Ohio (Calloway), and California (Garrett). I think you’re harkening back to the Branch McCracken days, with this silly notion. This is Indiana University, a Big Ten university, and there isn’t a team in the Big Ten that has all their players from the home state. It just doesn’t happen and hasn’t happened since the 1950’s, likely.
IU needs to hire Brad Stevens. Go all out, like Michigan did with Harbaugh. Stevens needs to then recruit nationally. He didn’t have all Indiana kids at Butler, by the way.
Fair enough. I would like to see Brad Steven at IU as well. My point (apparently not made well before) is that Indiana should not wait around searching for the perfect solution when an identified cancer needs to be removed post haste.
It’s not about all kids from the state of Indiana, but recruiting Indiana type kids. Look at Wisconsin’s roster – mostly Wisconsin and Illinois. Same with most teams from the Big Ten. When Indiana is good, Indiana kids are on the roster. Gary Harris, Trevon Bluiett, Matt Howard, Trey Lyles, Zak Irvin, Jeff Teague, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Josh McRoberts, JuJuan Johnson, Luke Harangody, and on and on and on over the last decade, great players have opted to go elsewhere, or were ignored by Indiana’s coach at the time. Think IU might have had some success with those guys on a roster?
Let explain why it’s too early to determine Crean’s fate – it’s not fair to the kids to decide today. Fred Glass is a smart guy, and he knows that anything but a complete and thorough review after the work of the season is through serves no one. There is a system in place for the review of coaches, and Glass will follow it. There are pragmatic metrics that will allow for the right decision to be made at the right time.
Kent I must say I’m lucky I didn’t drive my car into a ditch when you had Kevin on from the Indiana Daily Stupid yesterday. Do these kids know what Indiana basketball is about? Do they have a passion for anything or has all the ADHD drugs made them little passive robots. Do they know what Indiana basketball used to be like? I group Zach Osterman in there as well, dude was like 2 years old in 1987. This is awful. Also, please tell me why Crean gave scholly’s to players and then plays walk ons AHEAD of them. What is he doing.
Listen if you don’t get rid of Crean now the program is going to be in real trouble. Why? Tell me your starting five in 2016? Let me tell you who won’t be there. Yogi, Troy, James Blackman, maybe RJ. That leaves April, Priller, Hartman, Juwan Morgan, and well I’m at a loss. How did it get this bad so fast!!!!!! Also maybe just maybe if you hire the right guy is able to land a big stud late this spring for next year, cause Tommy ain’t doing it. Pathetic and truly sad, gone are the days of living for a Thursday night channel 4 game or watching a bunch of undermatched players kick the crap out of Glen Rice and company. Indiana basketball used to be the best friend you could always count on to give you something to look forward to that could make you laugh and cry, how sad it has become, how sad.
Matterhorn – your comment about IDS and the writer for the IU Star is right on – terrible.
It reminds me of the story of the dad who built a successful business and then turned it over to his son, who destroyed everything he built up over his life.
Bring back true leaders like Herman Wells or John Ryan. They would shake some heads. Or even with Mitch Daniels at Purdue, you wouldn’t see this level of dysfunction.
Please comment how you can keep an athlete director who’s next job will be to hire a new basketball coach. Is he competent after giving Crean a new contract.
Look what the Chicago Bears did, the owners fired the coach and the GM who gave the bad contract to their quarterback!!
But the Bears didn’t fire Ted Phillips. The wisdom of the Crean extension can be debated, but otherwise Glass has been aces in my book. He will get this right.
See the quote below from the Chicago paper. You are not correct!
Bears fire GM Emery, coach Trestman
Posted Dec 29, 2014
Herman Wells and John Ryan weren’t born 60. They were students at one point, and giving them an opportunity to represent their university – which is what IU is. There are also plenty of stories about dads who couldn’t figure out how to make a business work until his son came along and got it right. Not sure which happens more often. You can crap on 20 year olds if you want, but I prefer to find those with unique insight and an uncommon wisdom.
Matterhorn, I don’t think there is a Kevin who works at the IDS…I know the IDS has three basketball writers. One of them, Sam, is a regular on the show. I’ve been watching basketball for years and been around IU for years. That kid KNOWS his stuff. Hell, I’d take him over most of the other beat guys. The other two are terrible. But that’s what you get with student media. They’re learning. Osterman does his job. I don’t think youth is the issue with him. Same for the HT guy. But all better than some of the old farts in there or that Ass Albers.
As much as we like to think the Indiana Basketball program is for us, it’s for the players and students, and to not talk to the students about their program would be silly. Sam echoed many of your thoughts, and for a sophomore in college, understands very well the history and needs of IU’s basketball program.
If I could buy futures in a college student, I would invest heavily in Sam Beisheizen.
One last thing, if Crean had a top 5 recruiting class coming in with a serious big man then yes I would be for letting it play out, but he has signed two kids from…….wait for it…….Missouri for God’s sake. They are fringe top 150 players and they are both 6-7 or so which probably means 6-5. There is IMMEDIATE playing time for a legitimate forward to play with the best point guard, best shooting guard, best fan base, best practice facility in the Big ten and Crean can’t fill the needs, something is wrong.
where are yogi troy Blackmon and Johnson going? yogi might go pro. he will graduate but where do you see the other three if not in Bloomington?
J- I mean if you wait till after next year….Yogi graduates, Troy goes pro as does Blackmon, maybe Johnson stays but who else do you have for the new coach? It needs to be considered.
I am concerned that crean stays everybody comes back and next year they improve significantly. that concerns me because it will appear that tom crean has righted the ship although I think most of us here realize how this story ends. someone here called crean a cancer. it must be removed now. the symptoms may go away but when it comes back it will be worse. I don’t know who to hire. but I love the way Virginia plays basketball. bennet turned down the iu job before crean took it and I suspect he has his eye on the Wisconsin job. people complain about the low college bball scores and how to fix that. mr sterling has addressed that in a previous column. the low scores that teams like Virginia cause are whats RIGHT with college basketball. that’s what Indiana basketball is. whether its a motion offense or a run and gun offense or perimeter shooting or or an offense built on owning the paint, defense is the axis about which Indiana basketball rotates. if shots aren’t falling defense keeps you in the game. defense inspires doubt in an opponent. defense is the foundation upon which Indiana basketball was built and it must be the nail we hang our hat on tomorrow. . there were a lot of empty seats last night. surely fred glass and anybody that matters noticed that.
J- You give Crean WAY too much credit. They will not be any better next year, but the Big Ten will be. What did people say last year, all he needed was a bunch of shooters, how has that played out. Like I said if he had a top 20 center or power forward coming in next year I might actually be excited for 2015-2016 but that’s not happening. Glass is going to put the fans through another lame duck year like he did with Billy Boy Lynch and put the new coach behind the 8 ball. So stupid, and I’m getting sick and tired of hearing how Glass has raised all this money for IU, do people realize Indiana gets $30 million from the Big Ten Network each year no matter who the AD is.
Right on, Glass and Crean both get too much credit. As an old client of mine said, I don’t think they could run a Filling Station, for you young guys, that means Gas Station!
who is glass’ boss? what are they saying? im envisioning a chamber of cloaked hooded nameless faceless that speak in one word sentences.
there was a great deal of discord amongst last years team. are the major dividers gone now? is there still some level of us and them on this team? what has and what is crean doing to remedy this? can he unite the team? does he in and of himself possess the character traits necessary to bring a team together and keep it together? I have to think that if the players have a coach they like they will rally around him together as a team and in that instant they find common ground and a mutual goal. if tom crean cant inspire that then there are much greater problems than x’s and o’s and a poor defense. a coach must OWN his team. take that how you want. tom crean does not own this team. he didn’t own last years team either. and now if he is here for another year next years kids come in as freshmen and embark on a well developed dysfunctional college basketball experience. a neurotic pacing screaming clapping sweating mess of a man. some guys will call him coach but everybody knows who is running the show. the inmates. “the inmates are running the asylum” and these players own tom crean. its broken and tom crean cant fix it.
Heard from a good source (walk on that left team last year) that players HATED Crean. Take that for what it is worth. Why would a walk on quit the team, they actually get to play at Indiana under Crean.
absolutely. when walkons left that told me a great deal about tom crean and the shown he runs. walkons are there for the love of the game and even more so the love of the candy stripes and what they mean. those guys are likely living out life long dreams and for them to walk away SCREAMS problems. I learned yesterday that “creaning” actually is defined in the urban dictionary. is fred glass aware of the discord between players and coach?
jump in here anytime kent we all want to hear your take now that you’ve cooled off after the iowa loss. stevens. Bennett. everyone has their price. what would it take to get one of these guys in Bloomington? what could glass offer in addition to a mountain of money to get one of these guys? come on folks lets dream a little.
I happen to have met Fred Glass, as his kids went to school with mine. He is a very nice man, which may be his greatest fault in his job performance. There is no denying college sports – especially Big Ten football and basketball – are big business, which demand an ability to make tough business decisions. An AD must be objective about his coaches, whom he may eventually have to fire. Same goes for Tom Crean. His coaching style is too friendly, meaning nearly everyone gets to play in nearly every game, regardless of the opponent or the score. Someone needs to remind Crean the Big Ten is not youth soccer – they DO keep score. No other Big Ten coach makes substitutions as early in games and as often as Crean does. (I thought that’s what was meant by ‘Creaning’.)It’s no wonder IU has no coherent defense and such sloppy offense when the starting five only ever play 5 or 6 minutes together and the rest is chaos. It seems chaos has spilled over into off-court time as well with this team. The IU men’s basketball program desperately needs someone who can instill discipline and garner respect. Those are the kind of coaches who inspire the best from their players. Unfortunately, neither Tom Crean nor Fred Glass seem to have what it takes to be successful in the highly competitive world of college sports.
well put. while creaning technically means yanking a scholarship from a kid who isn’t as good as another. in reality creaning is used interchangeably like the word “smurf” on the old cartoon. think: “crean off” or “go crean yourself.” actually crean isn’t subbing at an exorbitant rate to give everyone a chance. he does it because he doesn’t know what he is doing.
As I have said many a times before, we are the only major college with a basketball coach who never played college ball, a football coach who never had been a head coach before and an AD who never had been an AD before????????? Is there something wrong with this picture??
Lou Holtz said last fall, the problem Florida made was hiring a football coach with no head coaching experience. Florida is not the job where you have the liberty to learn on the job. Only at IU.
Let’s look at the odds. Physically the IU team cannot compete with many other teams in the Big Ten. Any time you have 6-4 guards trying to defend against 7-0 centers the odds are going to be stacked against you. The truth is IU, for one reason or another, doesn’t have the physical ability to compete in this league. I really feel concern for all the players who have had to defend bigger opponents during this season. The Purdue game at Assembly Hall really should have shown everyone where the IU team is competitively. With 7-0 centers and larger forwards, IU surrenders the inside game. From the very beginning of this year, I felt that IU would be lucky to win 4 or 5 games in the Big Ten. They have won 9. In my book that is a victory whether or not they make a good showing in the Big Ten tournament and make the NCAA.
I am expecting an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament and a Miss for the NCAA Tournament. NIT, maybe. Crean needs to improve his recruiting in the State of Indiana. Trey Liles could have made a big difference for this IU team. For some reason, regardless of the past history, top Indiana high school players think IU sucks. We were really lucky to get James Blackmon, Jr. Let’s hope that he doesn’t decide to transfer after this year. I am afraid that this real possibility.
Why didn’t Crean tell players to foul during last timeout of game last nite?