Indiana Basketball – Five reasons to part ways with Tom Crean; 11-million to wait

by Kent Sterling

Tom Crean came to Bloomington with a smile, and whenever he leaves, his buyout will like bring another smile to his face.

Tom Crean came to Bloomington with a smile, and whenever he leaves, his buyout will like bring another smile to his face.

The future of beleaguered Indiana Basketball coach Tom Crean is being weighed in Bloomington based on a number of factors.  The most meaningful is money.  And make no mistake, when decisions are made by adults, money is always the determining factor.

There are other components, but plugging in the dollars usually leads those in power to pull the trigger or take the bullet out of the chamber.  Good people who don’t represent an efficient expense are jettisoned while idiots and the corrupt are retained because their numbers fit.

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Crean is not leading the Indiana program to the level of success necessary to ensure profitability, but paying the ticket to pry him from the sidelines of Assembly Hall is huge, so it keeping him around for a few months or years might be a necessity for a school who otherwise would rather invest in a new coach.

The contract extension Crean signed in November, 2012, pays him $3.16 million per year.  If Indiana made the decision to punt prior to the end of June, 2015, the buyout would be approximately $11 million.  Waiting until July 1, lowers the price to $7.5 million.  The following July 1, it drops to $4 million, and then to $1 million.

Let’s save the harangue about the wisdom of a buyout that large for a coach paid at the absolute high end of his capability to earn – as in who would hire Crean at the number Indiana pays, so why include such a stupendous amount for a buyout?  That’s a topic for another day.

Instead, let’s talk about the five reasons Indiana may or should consider replacing Crean immediately and bite the bullet on the lotto-winner-size check he would receive for packing:

Athletic programs are sustained through the very significant donations of donors, and the malaise in which the program is currently held is bad for ticket sales, ticket buyers choosing to attend games, and donors being compelled to write big checks.

  1. The question may not come down to whether Indiana can afford to buyout Crean’s contract, but whether they can afford to retain him.  Indiana Athletics goes as Indiana Basketball goes.  In the last 20 seasons, Indiana’s football team has notched a grand total of 71 wins – a hard to fathom 3.5 wins per season.  With football mired in such deeply entrenched mediocrity (who says I can’t be kind in my characterizations?), basketball cannot afford to recede to the mediocrity it has seen over the last two seasons (16-20 in the Big Ten) or even the last five (44-46 in the Big Ten).
  2. Hope requires current players improve enough to contend.  With two three-star recruits from Missouri headed to Bloomington for next season, the improvement needed to compete with Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin needs to come from within.  That isn’t just a matter of strength and conditioning, but through learning the game more thoroughly.  Indiana’s defense was deficient on many levels – but particularly in court awareness.  Is the ceiling high enough to predict better than another middling season.
  3. Crean and administrators at IU would like fans and media to forget about the spate of behavioral issues that plagued the program.  Arrests, suspensions, and the brain injury to Devin Davis caused doubt that Crean had the rapt attention of those on his roster when they were not in Assembly Hall.  Kids are going to screw up, and the police blotter has been clean since Halloween, but questions remain as to the ability of players to steer clear of trouble.
  4. “Creaning” is a common practice at Indiana where athletes on scholarship are asked to transfer to make room for others.  It happens at many schools, but given that the practice is named after Crean himself, you can guess who does it regularly.  It shows an inability to correctly assess and tap the potential of players, and each player “Creaned” reflects poorly on Crean and his culture.
  5. Recruiting in Indiana is necessary for IU to be successful.  Kids being recruited today were 10 years from being born the last time the Hoosiers won a National Championship, and if a heavy dose of malaise has spread throughout the alumni chapter of Hoosier Nation, imagine what kids in California, Florida, New York, and Texas think about IU.  In Indiana, IU still means something, and Indiana can recruit successfully against North Carolina and Kentucky for Indiana kids.  Crean has not been able to get Trey Lyles, Gary Harris, Zak Irvin, Kellen Dunham, A.J. Hammons, Ryan Cline, Kyle Guy, and on and on.  He did get James Blackmon Jr., and that’s a positive.  Relying on east coast recruits to lead Indiana to longterm success is not smart in the short term nor sustainable in the long term.

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The reason to keep Crean appears to be limited to gratitude for the digging Indiana out of the mire in which Kelvin Sampson submerged it 7+ years ago, academic success (an accomplishment that should be celebrated), and the giant ticket his buyout represents.  That last one might be enough to keep Crean here long enough to drain additional and significant life force from the brand.

$11 million is a hell of a trump card in this game to determine the future of a treasured and iconic brand.

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

30 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Five reasons to part ways with Tom Crean; 11-million to wait

  1. Joe

    Based off the fact that his buyout drops by nearly half on July 1st, do you think its safe to say we won’t hear of any announcement of Crean’s status until then? I’m driving myself crazy wanting to check my phone for updates several times throughout the day. I am one who thinks we can definitely do better than Coach Crean and am very anxious to see who we can get to replace him if that is indeed going to happen. Something else I was wondering…let’s say he comes back for next year and has a good season with all the returning players. Would the talk of getting rid of him go away, or will the “give him one more year” before he is gone still be the case regardless of the season’s outcome?

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      Define good season. Another season like this one that came during a down year for the Big Ten, would be crippling. If Indiana won 27 games and went to the NCAAs, and Crean was able to attract a number of solid recruits, that would move enough fans who aren’t Crean must go to justify his retention. If not, the heat will become unbearable for all.

      Reply
      1. Joe

        I definitely agree that another season like this would be crippling, thank you for responding. I have just read things where people say they are afraid of the fact that if Crean will return next year and happen to have a successful season that he will then be safe for a longer period of time, and people don’t even want him to be around to have that chance. Me defining a good season would be like you said, if he happened to get 27 wins next year if he ends up getting a good big man coming in. It wouldn’t make him a good coach in peoples eyes, it would be more of an expectation based solely off the talent on the team. It makes me think of something I heard someone at work say about Crean: “I think Crean figures ‘hey, as long as I can be really good at recruiting good players, it won’t matter whether or not I’m a good coach.”…and that obviously isn’t the case. I saw a stat where IU has the most top 60 recruits on their roster out of any Big 10 team. If that’s the case, then my rhetorical question to that is, why can’t Crean make a roster like that be great? Aside from my comments here, I definitely agree with each and every article you have written on this matter and enjoy reading all of them…I’m just trying to get myself to realize that it may be a couple months or so before we officially find out what the coaching status will be for next season…and I want to know NOW, haha.

        Reply
        1. kentsterling Post author

          Impatience reflects your passion for the program, and that’s what makes the Indiana Basketball what it is. Coaches and players think they make the magic. It’s not. It’s always the fans. Without fans, it’s just 10 guys on a pretty floor throwing a leather ball through a metal hoop.

          Reply
  2. Matterhorn

    My brother and I are not renewing our season football tickets if Crean is still the coach. That is the only way Freddie the Clown will get the picture.

    Reply
  3. Jeff Gregory

    As I mentioned in the previous thread, waiting till the summer doesn’t do anyone any good. The probability that there are deep pockets somewhere willing to add to the “goodbye Crean” kitty is pretty high. In addition, spring is the fire and hire season. Crean doesn’t want to be late to that party any more than IU wants be late getting the invitations back from the printer. Crean wants to be in the candidate circuit and IU wants to not lose out on good candidates because they want to save money. So, they negotiate. If Crean is leaving; it will be sooner rather than later or else there are some idiots behind the wheel of this bus.

    Reply
  4. A

    Similar to Matterhorn, I wrote a response email to IU Athletics when they asked me to renew my season tickets. I am not buying tickets until the Athletic department starts making better decisions. The huge buyout was a huge mistake and they should admit it. Wilson may end up turning the football program around, but don’t hold your breath.

    IU basketball is no where near what it used to be. I used to plan around all the games. I watched one game all season. I can’t stomach the basketball coached by Crean. He also shouldn’t be labeled constantly as a “good guy”. Talk to players and people who have to deal with him daily. I have, and can tell you they don’t describe him as a “good guy”.

    I have contacted IU Athletics a couple of times and been ignored. It’s time to speak with my $$$$. I won’t be giving money to IU Athletics through donations or tickets.

    Reply
    1. RB

      As I have said before, IU administrators keep blowing smoke at us. Wait till next year. What did they say on the radio today, Cub fans have been told to wait until next year for 108 years? IU is like GM, we screwed this business up, we need a bail out from the donors. Never mind focusing on the people who buy cars or the tickets. The way things are going, maybe Fred the clown and his 100 high net worth donors can sit in an empty stadium by themselves. That sure would be good for recruiting! Also, all of the sports columnist are scared to death of Fred Glass, they are afraid to make waves.

      I am a IU alum, but my kids went to another big ten and sec school. They don’t have a fraction of the dysfunction IU Athletic dept. has. These schools have people running the programs with experience. Do you think Fred Glass could take over and coach the football or basketball team like the Wisconsin AD Barry Alverez did last year, no way they would form a committee to hire a high priced flashy guy. You know, we don’t know what we are doing, let’s throw money at it or hire high priced consultants. We can’t figure this out!

      Why can’t IU figure this out, I am only asking for a little success or improvement, like Northwestern had in football, Butler in basketball, etc.

      Reply
      1. RB

        PS – That’s the IU way, always hire the flashy guy for coach or AD. The only time I remember that they didn’t go after flash in the last 35 years was when they hired Hoeppner and Bill Mallory. Amazing!!!!!!!!!

        Reply
          1. RB

            Let me explain, Kevin Wilson came from a flashy program or BIG NAME BACKGROUND, that is what IU wants, they don’t want to hire a MAC coach or a blue collar guy like Hoeppner, Mallory, or the coach at Butler, they look at the name always first. I think they should focus on hiring somebody to get them into the middle of the pack in football or basketball (ie Bo Ryan) before they hire the big name. Hire a coach like the girl next door, she may be loyal , not demand a big diamond ring (like Crean) and may turn out pretty good. Just me thoughts, we have tried everything else over the last 35 years.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            Mallory was actually a relatively hot coach at the time of his hire. I was a student at the time, and thought, “No kidding, Bill Mallory is coming here?” There are a lot of good coaches, and a few good fits. You are right that Indiana has not done a good job of hiring good fits, although I believe Wilson is trending up.

      2. kentsterling Post author

        I am not sure what dysfunction you speak of. Basketball needs new direction in my opinion, but it’s not exactly a dumpster fire. Football has been a mess since 1967 with the exception of six years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and then back another 20 years to the Bo McMillan era. Most of the non-revenue sports have been quite successful.

        And I don’t know any columnists who are afraid of Fred Glass or IU. Dan Dakich works at the radio station that partners with IU for play by play, and has been very outspoken about his displeasure with Kevin Wilson and Tracy Smith (now gone to Arizona State).

        I think Glass is a very capable administrator who is trying to get things right for the student-athletes – and make sure that term actually means something. He will get this right, or I will say so with no hesitation.

        Reply
      3. kentsterling Post author

        My comment about the long suffering football program is only because the fix is not an overnight re-branding. It will take time. Each recruiting class is a little bit better than the last.

        Reply
  5. Hoosier For Life

    Name a good replacement for Crean??? everyone is on his good side when he has the number #1 ranked team in nation but when you lose your entire starting lineup to either graduation or the NBA this hurts a program people which will not be corrected in one or two years. What’s going to happen if he leaves? the new guy going to be the hero???? not going to happen the game has changed from the Bob Knight era. The kids leave early for a pay check ….. Tom Crean is the answer to Indiana Basketball and the fair weather fans who think Indiana should be in the ranks as Duke, KY & Kansas are idiots…. We play in the Big Ten the toughest conference around where home court is a huge advantage no matter how bad the team is. We should be so lucky to have a coach that was taught by Tom Izzo . Its this time of year that makes me embarrassed to be apart of the Hoosier Nation reading the comments coming from idiots….enough said if we lose Tom Crean Indiana basketball is done for….. you read it here first.

    Reply
    1. Dayton Dave

      Well, Hoosier for Life, we don’t have to name a replacement for Coach Crean because AD Glass will have that person dialed in. If Glass doesn’t already have a short list of interested parties I would be surprised.

      Coach Crean does not put a good product on the floor routinely. He has a record of being average in the B1G over the last 4 years. It is record that we have the worst defense in the B1G. It is record that we do not close the season well. It is possible all of this is because Crean does not keep a roster so that experienced Juniors and Seniors on our team play against the competition. If Crean was truly a student of Izzo then Crean would coach teams with a decent defense and some upperclassmen that are big and built like Mack trucks. You do have one thing right though, there are a lot of strange comments coming from people who post remarks like these. But, it is likely that if we keep Crean on we will continue to be average in the B1G and not make runs if we even get to the NCAAT.

      Reply
    2. kentsterling Post author

      I actually think Tom Crean is the question, and the answer over the last five years has been 44-46 in the Big Ten. The rules are the same for Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, and every other team in the Big Ten. Why did Indiana finish tied with Illinois this season and finish 7-11 last season? For that question, indifferent and fundamentally deficient defense is the answer. Who’s responsible for that?

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    3. DD

      You say this is the era of kids leaving for a paycheck and you are correct. And Tom crean knows this so he should have a plan in place knowing these top kids could leave early. Doesn’t he talk to them as well. So I feel crean has to take some blame for this.

      Reply
  6. Mark J Janicki

    Crean deserves a lot of criticism but not to the point his family is targeted . . . or made into a piñata . . . in that same time frame (2 years) the illustrious coach in W. Lafayette is 17-19 and 35-37 over the last 4 years . . . so except for Blow Ryan and Tom Izzo (I’ll throw in John Beilein too) . . . Fran McCaffery (42-48) . . . not saying I like being mediocre . . . I was at the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1976, but get off your high horse and chill, and so should Hoosier Nation . . . next year is his Little Big Horn . . . Here’s hoping he’s Sitting Bull and not General Custer!

    Reply
    1. Dayton Dave

      Coach Crean already wears an arrow shirt. All kidding aside, his family should not be subjected to any of this. It doesn’t excuse the bad sportsmanship or bad neighbor attitude; but, those were kids taunting in a high school basketball game.

      Some people say that we should give Crean a break and wait. He is our coach. He has done some good. Others say that he has had the opportunity and time to show his strengths and weaknesses. He has failed to return IU to glory. He is not competitive with the best in the B1G. His track record is clear including his work at Marquette and IU He may even have another run if you believe that the team will play like a team, defend well. But some see that IU will not take advantage of matchups. I believe that Glass will do that in the next year or maybe shorter time frame.

      Don’t think we are on a high horse. Think we are wanting to have a really good basketball coach.

      Reply
    2. kentsterling Post author

      The narrative in West Lafayette is different in that Painter abdicated his culture, then re-embraced it, and the momentum is very positive. The vibe with Crean is that IU has reverted to the mean.

      Reply
  7. GoHoosiers

    Anyone else notice the deliberate manipulation of facts to make a point? 16-20 in the last two years and 44-46 in the last five years. Why the jump from 2 years of big ten results to 5 years to make his point? To include the 3-15 season. Why not 4 years? That would be 41-31 which doesn’t support his point.

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      Two years to get recruiting rolling is reasonable. Forgiving more than that is beyond kind and generous. That’s why five years. Why don’t we excuse all years after lottery picks leave because Tom has to replace a top 10 talent? We could craft all kinds of crazy exceptions. Two years of free passes is quite enough at Indiana.

      Reply
  8. Jeff

    It’s pretty easy to pick and choose which years to include in IU’s BIG10 and overall records. Considering the mess that Crean inherited, which turned out to be even worse than he was told, a fairer look would be to take the last 4 seasons won loss record into account. Over the last 4 seasons, Crean has taken IU to the NCAA 3 out of 4 years. The team has made the Sweet 16 twice. The loss this year in the NCAA looks better as the Shockers keep advancing. Their record over the last 4 years? 93 – 31 overall and 41 – 31 in conference. Compare that to Bob Knight’s last 4 seasons at IU. Overall record: 85 – 43. Conference: 37 – 29. 4 straight NCAA appearances with 2 first round and 2 second round losses. He finished 5th, 5th, tied for 3rd and 6th in the conference standings. Following a legend is tough. Following a legend, a mediocre coach, and a cheater is even tougher. Crean is under contract for two more years and deserves a change to prove that, despite the tremendous pressure from impatient fans and writers, he can continue the rebuilding process he was charged with. Firing Crean now would probably result in several players leaving and perhaps those already committed backing out of the letters of intent. How is any of that going to help next year or even the next 3 -5 years? Who would want the IU job after Crean is run out of town?

    Reply
    1. kentsterling Post author

      Excuses like yours guarantee a continuation of entrenched mediocrity. If Indiana is special, demand better. The situation Crean inherited became worse in part because of Crean. Kids left the program after he was hired, so he is partly responsible for even the two years for which I give him a pass. You want to start parsing numbers and finding reasons to applaud a loss to a Missouri Valley team, go right ahead. At that point, the problem isn’t Crean but the guy who looks back at you in the mirror every morning. If Indiana is an elite program, hold it to that standard. If not, just say so, and let’s look forward to somewhere between 7-11 and 11-7 in the Big Ten every season.

      Reply
    2. Jeff Gregory

      You can’t compare Knight to Crean. Knight had already proven himself so he deserved a little patience at that point. Then what happened the year Knight left with the team he put together and shaped? It went to the finals with Mike Davis.

      While I agree with Kent’s sentiments regarding IU, I think his Wichita State comment was out of place. Wichita State is a quality program. They have proven it the past four years. In addition, the MVC is a better conference than it is given credit. JMO.

      Reply
  9. Kevin Barnett

    First let me prefice by saying, I am a die hard Hoosier fan. In my opinion IU admin is getting what they deserve right now! The IU administration ran Bobby out, then hires outside our family brand (Kelvin Sampson, Tom Crean) when the right guy was standing there all along begging to come back home to coach @ Indiana. Yes I am talking about Hoosier legend Steve Alford! Beloved by fans, respected by players & has been a proven success as a coach (SW MISSIOURI STATE, NEW MEXICO, UCLA….ETC). So the whining needs to stop! U made your bed now lie in it. I hope whoever has made those decisions are out of a job also! #KnightsAssemblyHall, #AlfordforCoach

    Reply
  10. Bill Salin

    Crean can recruit that is NOT his problem — but it is obvious that he CANNOT coach. Even at Matguette he got the players then let them do their own thing. He doesn’t make player better — Zeller went to Indiana and made it good for awhile — tell me where are the Big Ten or National Championships — none for Crean. Brad Stevens was allowed to escape to Boston and now the Celtics are a good time with mediocre players, what could he have done for Indiana.

    We just don’t need a recruiter — he must be able to coach the team he has!!!

    Fire Tom Crean, he isn’t earning his pay — we also could have had Dan Dakich — look what we missed.

    Is this administration blind — maybe we need to start by getting rid of MR Glass…….

    Reply
    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      What leads you to the belief that Tom is a good recruiter? And IU has won two Big 10 Championships in the last five seasons.

      Reply

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