Indiana Basketball – Tom Crean is going to be just fine if/when he gets fired

by Kent Sterling

If he's fired, Tom Crean will be able to look back without regret and count his severance when he's fired.

If he’s fired, Tom Crean will be able to look back without regret and count his severance when he’s fired.

With talk of potential for a coaching change in the Indiana University basketball program, there are two camps of passionate fans I hear from regularly – those who are very black and white – pragmatic types who want Tom Crean gone because Indiana should be an elite program because if Indiana isn’t elite at basketball, what the hell is the fun of rooting for Indiana at anything?

The other group are those who have talked themselves into hoping that Crean can succeed, or have simply resigned themselves to the realization that Indiana is ordinary and no one better than Crean will accept the job.  I believe the second group is filled with those who for whatever reason feel that a person being fired is awful – as bad a thing as can happen to anyone.

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These poor deluded bastards have either never been fired and live in terror each day may be their last at their current workplace, or they were fired in the past and have never recovered from the insult of that experience.

Crean’s situation is unique because if he is fired before July 1, 2015, he is going to walk out of Assembly Hall with severance so substantial it should be presented to him as a giant novelty check Powerball winners receive from grinning bureaucrats.

$11 million is a nice parting gift that will keep the Crean Family in the black for several generations if they take good care of the money, but that isn’t the part that people fixate upon when considering Crean’s tenuous hold on a very cool job.

They worry about the moment athletic director Fred Glass invites Crean into his office and thanks him for seven great years, then tells him the program’s needs have changed, or some such preposterousness.  It’s the sinking feeling in a man or woman’s stomach that some want to protect Crean from.

But just as parents want to encase their children in bubble wrap so no harm can come to them, allowing a little adversity into a loved one’s life can be a great gift.  Kids learn not to fall down because it hurts, and adults learn self-sufficiency and develop new talents because they get bounced.

Being fired is a hell of a thing, but once the initial shock wears off – and it is a stunning moment for an adult, kind of like being expelled from school.  Being told you can no longer do your best to help those likewise immersed in a difficult situation because of a dunderheaded boss is kind of stunning.

I’m sure it would be staggering to Crean, a guy who has ascended to the mountaintop of his profession – a dream job that pays him insanely to recruit and instruct teenage athletes to play a silly game.  I’m sure he feels today like the guardian of a prized but ultimately meaningless  fiefdom – kind of like being the king of Luxembourg – and that without his incredible efforts the place will crumble.

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Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  If Crean were dispatched this afternoon, given the way his mind works, he would have a plan to execute what was next before he drove from Assembly Hall to his house.  And the guy tapped by Glass to run Indiana Basketball would be rolling almost immediately.

Crean would call his father-in-law and brothers-in-law, ask for counsel from other trusted friends, and by nightfall be in the midst of putting together whatever he thought was his best course of action, secure in the knowledge that money was not an issue.

Maybe ESPN would call, maybe the Big Ten Network, or another school in need of a high-energy whirling dervish of arrogance who treasures the challenge of leading young men into battle on the hardwood might hire him.  Hell, even former Indiana coach Mike Davis has taken two other teams to the NCAA Tournament after leaving Indiana.

Being fired is a little like childbirth.  While the initial pain is life-altering and excruciating, after that last moment of anguish and shock, what stares back into your soul is the potential of what might come tomorrow.  At least that’s the way it worked with me.

No, you don’t get to do what you have worked for years to achieve with those you love and respect (if you are very lucky – as I was), but what’s next can be even better, cooler, more impactful and fulfilling.

Sometimes a kick out the window is actually what’s needed to allow a person to prove he or she can soar.

Crean being at the pinnacle of his profession might make a true chance at redemption difficult, but all he needs to do is look at his buddy John Calipari to see that being fired can be a great step toward something grand if the adversity is answered with diligence and resolve – two traits even Crean detractors know he has in abundance.

And the fans who believe Crean deserves another year or more could be dooming him to a future bereft of the new challenge being fired might thrust him into.

An end is a beginning too, and it will not take Crean more than a few minutes to figure out.  Fearing it on Crean’s behalf is narrow-minded and silly.  If you truly have faith in Crean’s work ethic and drive to succeed, you won’t fear change for Crean – you will encourage him to find his new path – and you might learn how to move past that challenge yourself.

You never forget the feeling of being fired, and you might never forgive completely those who pulled the trigger, but that moment can be the change agent that takes your life in a great direction.

If Crean learns that sooner rather than later, why would anyone say it’s a bad thing?

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

9 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Tom Crean is going to be just fine if/when he gets fired

  1. j

    sounds like glass is resigned to endure another year im sure due to the buyout. I don’t care what he says. i have been an avid fred glass supporter. he has marketed football and i love iu football. kevin Wilson was a good hire. but fred has this wrong. fred glass is muffing this up.

  2. Dayton Dave

    So AD Glass felt compelled to issue a pronouncement that Glass fully supports Coach Crean. Glass indicates for the first time that the program is not performing as he wants it to. Could read those comments many ways. But, my concern is that Crean will have a decent team every 3 or 4 years, possibly next year. That will make Crean very difficult to fire. It’s a Catch 22. Not good enough to compete well in the B1G every year; but, one run to the S-16 in the NCAAT once every 4 years and Glass is in a difficult position and making it harder to fire Crean. Think I will move south and soak my head in some Gulf Stream waters. This is much too much. Well good luck AD Glass. And good luck IU.

    1. RB

      I woke up today feeling like I lived in the old Soviet Union as a result of the Indiana legislature and the dictators at IU. Neither gives a crap about the common guy. The guy in the Star today was right, IU is corrupt. I knew I wasn’t crazy, Glass, the Board and Crean are all close buddies. When it came time to do what is right for the school, they couldn’t pull the trigger. Living in Indiana, you better watch out for the GESTAPO.

      1. Dayton Dave

        Interesting take, RB. But I totally disagree. I hope that Glass and Crean like each other and get along well. But I don’t see Glass throwing the basketball program under the bus for his friendhip or personal gain (like keeping his job). I don’t see them as corrupt, either. As stewards of the public trust, I believe that they will keep things above board.

        I also think that their stragegy and time frame for achieving those goals are different from yours and mine. Glass is weighing more than just the basketball program. He takes into consideration all of the Athletic Department with input and some oversight from IU Trustees etc. So when he negotiated a contract extension with Crean the large buyout and timeframe may appear excessive in hindsight, but it also may have been according to his plan. ie..allowing the football program to make progress before dumping Crean. So, I think that he thinks he is doing right. Glass has drawn the line in the sand. Crean is coaching for his job. Seems to me that Glass sees letting Crean go now is more risky than late next year. People may disagree with when and where that line is and what success is. But I don’t see it as corrupt.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      Indiana will either be bold and move forward in hiring the right guy to lead the program, or will continue to exist in this Texas-esque nebula. Glad a chance to move from Crean to Rick Barnes wasn’t enacted.

  3. j

    has anyone heard if crean is job hunting? lots of openings around and if he really is unhappy maybe he will leave. just leave crean. you suck. we don’t want you here and you don’t want to be here. you are not good enough. you are overpaid and underqualified. players don’t like you. coworkers don’t like you. fans don’t like you. just go buy a freaking island with all that cash and leave. get out of town. take a hint. take that st johns job. you love all those east coast recruits so much that is right up your alley. actually I don’t care where you go. just go away.

  4. Auburn Ed

    Kent, I love your articles on IU basketball! Like you, (we are very close to the same age) I remember the IU basketball glory days. Back in the day, IU basketball and Bobby Knight meant something and carried a lot of weight. It was one of the few things my fellow U.S. Marine buddies knew about the state of Indiana. Moreover, has been way too long since we were even in the Final Four. I sooooo sick of hearing about Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and even Michigan State. It seems that the only cool thing about the state of Indiana is basketball…..and we end up losing out homegrown talent to outside schools, like Michigan State. No offense to Tom Izzo, but I’m sick of him poaching our kids!!! And speaking of Tom Izzo, if he can take the team he has this year to the Final Four, why in the heck can’t Crean? Oh yeah, because Tom Crean CANNOT coach!!!


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