Indiana Basketball – Until Fred Glass gets it wrong, I’ll trust he’ll get the basketball situation right

by Kent Sterling

Fred Glass has done a lot of great work as the AD at Indiana, but he will be forever remembered for the move that comes next to either replace Tom Crean with the right guy, or keep him.

Fred Glass has done a lot of great work as the AD at Indiana, but he will be forever remembered for the move that comes next to either replace Tom Crean with the right guy, or keep him.

Fred Glass runs a great athletic department at Indiana University.  The student-athletes (Indiana is one of the places where that term can still be used without smirking) are provided with the resources needed to succeed in both athletic and academic disciplines, facilities are in a constant state of upgrade, and most of the 24 teams under the IU sports umbrella win.

The two places where upgrades are needed are in football and men’s basketball.  Football is a longterm project requiring slow growth, and that improvement keeps coming with each recruiting class and season.  Last season’s injury to quarterback Nate Sudfeld eviscerated the team, and ended its chances to go to a bowl.  Another year of development has the Hoosiers nearing an era when going to bowl should be a more regular occurrence than the 2007 Insight Bowl Indiana has enjoyed since 1993.

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But basketball is where the Indiana brand is strongest, and where the fan passion is deepest.  A lack of new laundry hanging from the south end zone (the last national championship was earned nearly 30 years ago), and one outright Big Ten regular season championship over the last 20 years has fans impatiently asking when the long promised return to routine prominence among the elite programs in the game will take root.

The last two years for Indiana Basketball have been bleak.  This just concluded 2014-2015 schedule teased fans with a national ranking that accompanied a 5-1 conference start.  The 5-10 collapse has left those who care about IU hoops with intrenched and rational concerns about the direction of the program.

Tom Crean is the coach, and with an $11+ million check to cut to Crean if he is dispatched as many would like, his removal is unlikely.  Glass has said that the buyout will not stop him from making a change, but what the hell was he supposed to say, “Yeah, I boogered this one.  Painted myself right into this corner with an unnecessary buyout for a coach no one was ever sold on in the first place.”  Even an athletic director as candid as Glass doesn’t say things like that.

Indiana fans need reasons for hope, and two incoming freshmen from Missouri are not moving the feel-good meter, not after a 44-46 Big Ten record (including the championship season) over the last five years.

Yesterday, I wrote that Indiana needs to thank Crean and then say goodbye to him because the death spiral has started, and when that happens, a reversal is impossible.  Competing coaches poison the program in the minds of recruits because of the doubts about the current coach’s status.  There is also the question of where scholarships will come from to accommodate the two Missouians and anyone else who strikes Crean’s fancy.

Fans are tired of “Creaning” and feel a little bit dirty about a coach who forces kids off scholarship, and with him being on thin ice already, departures by current players will force another series of negative news cycles upon a program that needs smooth sailing for a few months..  The arrests and suspensions also burned through a good deal of equity, leaving Crean exposed to the whims of teens prone to stupidity.

There are also good questions being asked about the defensive inadequacies that included a bizarre and confusing strategy that left some Indiana players in a zone and others in man-to-man during multiple possessions each game that have weakened the Crean brand in the minds of fans.

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The key to saying goodbye to one coach and hello to a new one is making damn sure that the new guy can get the job done in a way that the previous coach could not, and while it’s easy for media types to say that Crean must go, the timing of the departure is critical because it will determine the ability to hire the right guy.

My trust is with Glass and his ability to find THE RIGHT GUY for this ultra important job.  That may mean not making a change until the moment is right.  That could coincide with the date the buyout drops to $7+ million (July 1), or a year from now when that perfect guy becomes available.

At some point, a change will be needed because Glass has a seven-year body of work to assess.  He knows the best Crean is capable of, and it simply is not enough.  If Indiana is going to be considered an elite program, the results of their on-court work need to back that up.  Right now, Indiana is a middle of the pack Big Ten team who slipped in the backdoor of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.  More of the same can be expected, but not tolerated.

Glass knows that and will provide change that brings reason for hope, but it needs to be done at the right time.  I trust Glass to get it right.

(Kent hosts the Kent Sterling show afternoons from 3p-6p on CBS Sports 1430 in Indianapolis.)

20 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Until Fred Glass gets it wrong, I’ll trust he’ll get the basketball situation right

  1. Jeff Gregory

    I think waiting till July doesn’t help anyone. Crean isn’t finished coaching. What coach would want to wait till July to start getting ready for their new job? They could negotiate that for the benefit of all.

    Reply
    1. JRB

      Kent – what is your definition of winning? The last time I looked, IU Football, basketball and baseball weren’t ranked in the top 20. If Glass cares about the student athlete, how come he let’s the basketball coach practice “Creaning”? Kent – I think you should take the summer off and review other major athletic programs around the country. I am an IU alum, but my kids went to another big ten and sec school. Boy were my eyes opened up, IU has a long way to go and the sad part, is most IU people don’t know any better and refuse to face reality.

      Reply
      1. Dayton Dave

        I have the opinion that Kent Sterling is closer to the mark than JRB. AD Glass is fully sentient. He knows what is going on in both football and basketball. I am an alum of both UW-Madison and IU-B. I sat up in the bleachers in Madison cheering for IU. And, believe it or not, I went on the road to watch IU vs BGSU in Ohio last year. What I liked about both basketball and football teams is that they didn’t seem to give up. The did have off nights, though. Wilson is building a decent football team and needs more time I believe. Crean has shown all his cards at Marquette and at IU.

        Kent Sterling seems to be correct from the perspective of AD Glass’ desire to not throw Crean out this year. It is partly because of the buyout. It also has to do with the risk of getting another coach into the transition period like Wilson is now. I want Crean gone; but, it looks like AD Glass won’t push Crean out immediately. Then, after July, I feel like a negotiated settlement is going to happen. July is a bad time to change head coaches; but, it might come down to that. I just hope that Glass has an excellent shortlist of coach candidates willing to take the helm. IU Basketball Head Coach is a position that will attract some of the best. But each will have some risk and warts.

        Reply
        1. JRB

          Valid observation, but little Johnny is still getting a D in Math! Little Johnny works hard and doesn’t give up, but he has a long way to go to catch the other students in his class. Little Johnny’s teacher really cares and she took me to lunch at Nicks, maybe that will help. Results is how you judge students and athletes, not by hopes and dreams. What’s the old saying, show me the money!!!! I have been an alum for 35 years and I have heard this before, I am wondering if they will ever turn this around in my lifetime. Results talk, BS walks! MY BIG QUESTION IS – Why have other smaller schools had positive results in sports and IU can’t figure it out ?????

          PS There are a lot of hard working students who never get into med school, no matter how nice they are and how hard they try. A surgeon once told me, if you don’t have what it takes, you don’t have what it takes.

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          1. Dayton Dave

            Why did IU basketball tank? Because, at first, basketball changes passed RMK by and the IU administration botched that transition. If one lets the players choose then a misfit like MD happens. Strange agendas and lack of oversight and cheating cause KS. High turnover in the HC position and Greenspan still there enabled CTC to take a seat. Fred Glass is better than that, we hope. I can’t crystal ball it for you. All paths have risks. As far as some schools having success…believe it or not that is the nature of games and tournaments. Someone will win. I am not trusting in Glass. I don’t know the guy. But, I do like what he has done except for the bubble on the extension…and the slow rebuilding of the football team. Do not give up. Life is a quest. And IU should not settle for 2nd rate basketball. We just may disagree on what that means and how to do it.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            I agree with everything but your appraisal of Knight. He just stopped recruiting. He remained a great strategist and coach, but no longer had the drive to recruit great talent.

            I do trust Glass, and think he plays the long game very well. He will get this right – it’s just going to take some time.

        2. kentsterling Post author

          The timing, I believe will be determined by the availability of the right guy for the job. If he becomes available at the beginning of July, that will determine the timing of the change. Fans should not restrict themselves to the notion that changes should be made in late March.

          Reply
      2. kentsterling Post author

        Baseball has been really good for several years. A trip to the College WS in 2013, and what should have been a return last year if not for a Stanford comeback at IU. Football is improving, but it’s a long road. Getting better will have to suffice there – even if the progress is occasionally marginal. Soccer has been good – track, golf, etc…

        Reply
  2. Steve

    I’ve been reading these fan sites and skimming through the comments for years now. I finally feel the need to post something. I’m as disappointed as everyone with another late season collapse. I can’t even completely argue against major changes for the program anymore. However, I think some perspective is in order before we storm the Bastille. For some background, I was a freshman at IU in the fall of 1980. IU won the national championship in the spring of 1981. I left Bloomington in 1987 after seeing another championship. It seemed like IU was destined to win championships every few years. However, that was the last one they’ve won to date.

    We can demand change with the firing of Tom Crean, but who will replace him? If Crean is fired, you will have to endure another rebuilding project. You should expect many, if not most of IU’s top players to leave. Williams will probably leave, Blackmon may leave, I wouldn’t be surprised if Yogi left. There is a good chance that both of the incoming recruits for next year may back out. That is a lot of talent off the roster.

    Regarding a replacement coach, I think this is time to think about our expectations for IU’s program. Many fans seem to think that winning championships is a birthright for this team despite the fact they haven’t won one in 28 years. Reading the boards, it seems the fans expect IU to challenge for a national championship regularly while having players that stay out of trouble, go to class, and stay at least 3 years.

    Who are the teams and coaches that have won since 1987? The teams are Kansas (2), Michigan, UNLV, Duke (4), North Carolina (3), Arkansas, UCLA, Kentucky (3), Arizona, Connecticut (4), Michigan State, Maryland, Syracuse, Florida (2), and Louisville. That’s only 15 different schools in 28 years.

    The coaches are Larry Brown, Steve Fischer, Jerry Tarkanian(Dead), Mike Krzyzewski (4), Dean Smith(D), Nolan Richardson(Retired), Jim Harrick(R), Rick Patino (2), Lute Olson(R), Tubby Smith, Jim Calhoun(R) (3), Tom Izzo, Gary Williams(R), Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams (2), Billy Donovan (2), Bill Self, John Calipari, and Kevin Ollie. That’s only 19 different coaches.

    Other than Duke and maybe Michigan State, what program on that list do you want to emulate? The rest have had some serious ethical, if not actual legal questions hanging over them. As far as the coaches go, who on that list do you want? Some are dead, most of the others are near retirement. Of the remaining, who do you want? Who can you realistically expect to get? No other coach in the country has won a national championship since 1987. While I can concede that change may be inevitable, that change will entail a rebuilding project and any coach will be a crapshoot, like their current coach, as to whether or not they can win a championship at IU.

    Reply
    1. Dayton Dave

      I don’t hear a drumbeat demanding a national championship every year. What I perceive is a desire to pursue excellence.

      Excellence, to me is very similar to the list that Kent Sterling posited here earlier. Compete for the B1G championship yearly and be near or at the top. (note I did not say win every year.) Graduate players. Represent the University and the State well. Successfully recruit Indiana HS. The coach should be one of the best in the B1G. Routinely get in the NCAAT. Compete in the NCAAT successfully with good runs, and put IU in a position to win it all. I cannot imagine Glass moving Crean out without having a likely candidate or a good short-list who has/have indicated willingness to be the new hire. Glass has positioned IU well and made IU attractive to prospective new basketball coaches.

      Reply
      1. Steve

        I accept that what you state is your definition of excellence. However, I don’t accept that is how the average IU fan defines excellence. In his previous post, Kent Sterling lauds Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan as the type of coach that IU should strive for to lead IU. No one can argue that Ryan has not be successful at Wisconsin. Since his firs season 14 years ago, none of his teams have finished worse than 4th in the Big Ten. His teams have finished first 4 times. His players graduate. There hasn’t been any hint of scandal. His teams have made the NCAA tournament every year. However, they have only gotten past the sweet 16 twice and they have never won the championship. Granted, there is a very good chance they will get beyond the sweet 16 for their third time this year, but it looks unlikely that they will win the championship. I believe that IU fans would haven gotten very restless with any coach not named Bob Knight with that kind of performance.

        Reply
    2. Jeff Gregory

      There is always a risk with a coaching change. I don’t think the answer is, “Hey, let’s not risk making it worse; let’s be content with mediocrity from now on.” That isn’t Hoosier Nation – not yet, anyway.

      This notion that it will be hard to find a good coach is something I am not buying. Like Dakich said, “IU is a strong tradition, basketball first (over football) school in a premier conference. Not too many coaches would avoid a job like that.

      Reply
    3. kentsterling Post author

      We were freshman at the same time. 1981 was a great year, and a wonderful example of a team where change was easy to anticipate. We could see the potential greatness of that team despite many losses. Isiah, Landon, Ray, Randy, Ted, Jim, and the senior leadership off the bench seemed capable of greatness. Once Knight turned the keys to the team over to Isiah, they soared. The current team operates in a different sphere than that 1981 team. The path to greatness appears blocked, and the sources of that blockage are many. All can’t be traced back to Tom Crean, but his contributions are the easiest to fix.

      I don’t want to shuffle one interchangeable coach in for another. If Herb Sendek is the option, Crean is just fine.

      Indiana needs to get THE guy, not A guy.

      Thanks for posting. You were reasonable, smart, and well-informed. You are welcome back anytime.

      Reply
  3. Steve Boarman

    IU fans have not been happy with a coach since Bobby Knight left. Find a coach that you like, has the characteristics that you want, and works hard for your school. How about tearing down Assembly Hall? It is a horrible basketball venue. Build a new one, make amends with Bobby, and name it Bob Knight Arena. Having a coaching turnstile does nothing to build a tradition. Please, please, don’t get someone like John Calipari. I want to watch college basketball with college students not mercenaries for the NBA.

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      But continuing a relationship with a coach that has built a mediocre program is not a high quality road to success either. And Bob Knight was not as popular in the late 1990s as people might guess.

      Reply
  4. Matterhorn

    Alabama football fans had to endure 7 coaches from the time Bear Bryant retired to the hiring of Nick Saban, I wonder what their message boards would have looked like back then. There would have probably been writers telling the fans that the days of Bear Bryant are over and to accept Alabama football for what it is mediocre. Sound familiar. Quit f—–g around and get Brad Stevens I don’t care what it costs.

    Reply
    1. Jeff Gregory

      Excellent post about Alabama! IU can’t let the fear of things getting worse prevent them from taking the chance to make it great.

      Reply
  5. PB

    If he was fired today, IU would owe Crean 12 million MINUS whatever he earns over the next 5 years elsewhere. Hypothetically, if Crean could get a coaching position for about $1.2 million a year, IU would only have to pay half the buyout.

    Reply
  6. Ben Montgomery

    I am an IU grad who lives on the east coast. And come from a family Big Ten grads: OSU, Minnesota, UM, Illinois, MSU and Northwestern. I realize that compared to other schools, Hoosiers are losers.
    Kent writes: “Until Fred Glass Get Its Wrong . . .” That’s all he has done is get it wrong. First, football. When Kevin Wilson was hired IU needed someone who had been a head coach and who had turned a program around. Kevin Sumlin who was coach at the University of Houston at time who had exactly those credentials, applied for the IU job. Glass passed on Sumlin who now runs an elite program at Texas A&M.

    Glass hired Wilson with no head coaching experience who in four years has failed to reach .500. The excuse for last year was quarterback Nate Sudfeld’s injury. Players get injured all of the time! But IU didn’t have anyone to step in because experienced QB Tre Roberson had transferred. Both Illinois and Minnesota have had coaches reach .500 in the same or less time than Wilson – injuries and all.

    As to Tom Crean, he was not bad choice but he’s going to fail for the same reason Wilson will continue to fail – uncertainty. Recruits want the certainty that the coach they signed up to play for will be there during their careers. Both Wilson and Crean have too many clouds over their heads. Competing schools remind recruits of those clouds.

    No school in the Big Ten would put with athletic department mess that is going on in Bloomington.

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      I do not believe that Fred passed on Sumlin, who graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit in Indianapolis – a school Fred is very well acquainted with. If Sumlin had been interested, I believe Fred would have hired him. Jerry Kill was one of those considered who was interested, but I like Kevin and believe he will succeed at IU. Under Fred, a lot of earth has been moved – literally and figuratively – the enhance the student-athlete experience at IU as well as provide infield competitive advantages.

      Indiana has had relative success from a recruiting perspective in football – ranking square in the middle of the Big Ten for the last three classes. Those would not be great classes for Ohio State, but for Indiana, it’s been quite good. Wilson has three years remaining on his contract. The decision will likely need to be made after this season whether an extension is warranted. That debate will be very interesting.

      As for Crean, you are right. Recruiting will be immediately impacted by uncertainty, and as a result, the death spiral has begun.

      Reply

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