Indiana Basketball – Two possible roads to success for Hoosiers are on display in this Final Four

by Kent Sterling

Four of the best coaches in college basketball being at the Final Four tells you one thing about college basketball - to succeed, and program needs a hell of a good coach.

Four of the best coaches in college basketball being at the Final Four tells you one thing about college basketball – to succeed, and program needs a hell of a good coach.

The road to this Final Four was paved in one of two ways.  Kentucky coach John Calipari has developed a system to acquire as much talent as possible, enacting it immediately upon arrival in Lexington, while the other three either built or continued a culture of excellence that regenerates each year.

Indiana is obviously trying to embrace the second of those two options as athletic director Fred Glass hopes momentum builds toward self-sustaining success as Tom Crean graduates classes who remain plugged into the IU program.

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Michigan State’s Tom Izzo will coach in his seventh Spartan team in a Final Four this weekend.  For 20 years, he’s run the show after serving as an assistant under Judd Heathcote – who led Michigan State to an NCAA Championship in 1979 and retired in 1995.

Izzo inherited a culture that he quickly evolved to reflect his own personality without disrupting what Heathcote built.  Through the years, Izzo has built a family of tight-knit alums, including Magic Johnston – the charismatic star of the 1979 team – who hold current players accountable for their actions on and off the court.

From Jamie Feick to Mateen Cleaves to Chris Hill to Alan Anderson to Drew Neitzel to Kalin Lucas to Draymond Green to Keith Appling to Gary Harris to the current team, the lineage of the Spartan way has been passed.

It has resulted in consistent excellence and occasional greatness.

Duke took a different route by choosing to go outside the program in the spring of 1980 when it hired a 33-year old who had played and coached at Army to lead the Blue Devil program to prominence.  Whether the people who chose Coach K to run things at Cameron Indoor were prescient or lucky depends upon to whom you talk, but the patience shown through the first three seasons of mediocrity (a record of 38-47 and zero trips to the NCAA Tournament) sure paid off.

Since then, the Dukies are 905-204 with 31 trips to the tourney, four championships, 12 Final Fours, and an overall tournament record of 86-26.  Eighteen former Duke players are on current NBA rosters, and 44 others have retired after NBA careers.  The names are a who’s who of basketball, and they take tremendous pride in their ties to Blue Devil basketball.

When Wisconsin needed to replace Dick Bennett in 2001, it kept the hire in the university family as it tends to.  The coach at UW-Milwaukee had excelled at UW-Plattville for 15 years before the promotion to Milwaukee, and had been pretty good there too, so Bo Ryan had finally earned his shot at leading the Badgers.

For 14 years, Ryan has led Wisconsin to relentless positive results, never finishing outside the top four in the Big Ten standings and always having its ticket punched for a trip to the NCAA Tournament.  The last two years have provided the trips to the Final Four his resume’ lacked.  Penney, Harris, Leuer, Hughes, Stiemsma, Brust, and dozens of others led the Badgers under Ryan to maximize their potential and pass on the secrets of Ryan’s swing offense to younger players who yearned to understand.

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Starting over is a loathsome and risky process.  To say goodbye to Crean is to say a prayer that the next hire will be the coach where the road to consistent success can begin.  There is also the option of dipping back into the Bob Knight coaching tree to build a bridge spanning 15 years from the Knight era to current day, which would ask fans to wipe the previous generation of Indiana Basketball from its collective memory or dismiss it as a foul dream sporadically interrupted by two sunny seasons of mirth and hope.

There is only one Calipari so hiring to a culture of future pros who cycle through every year or two would be difficult.

That leaves Glass with a hell of a decision – hope that Crean can find his way to success next year or risk bring fans into a malaise from which they may never emerge, or trust his instincts to bring in the next great architect of a once exemplary program that can pass the rock from generation to generation, leading the Hoosiers back to the kind of relentless success enjoyed by the four programs vying for the title this weekend.

That’s why they pay Fred the big bucks.

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

13 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Two possible roads to success for Hoosiers are on display in this Final Four

  1. Matterhorn

    Culture of current IU- Crean players to make way for more players that won’t be there when they are seniors then do it all over. How about these names TOM; Travis Trice-Senior, Frank Kaminsky- Senior. Our program is an absolute total joke. No redshirting, no roles given to players, no benching after a bad shot (is there a bad shot with loser Crean) and for those thinking a Thomas Bryant will make all the difference next year, give it a rest, he ain’t no Cody Zeller or even a Noah Vonleh, next year is gonna suck I mean totally suck cause they will be just good enough to possibly have to keep this loser around for a few more years, so sikc of all this crap down there.

  2. Matterhorn

    BTW Fred Glass is a loser too I can’t wait to boo the absolute sh–t out of him when he takes the field to do those awards during IU football games, can’t stand the guy.

  3. Pauly Balst

    I think a similar post about the backgrounds of Athletic Directors would be interesting. What Barry Alvarez has accomplished at UW is amazing. They were nothing in anything in my college years. Same with the ADs of Mich St, Duke, Louisville, Baylor, and others.

    They display pretty consistent excellence (or are climbing the wall) in the high profile sports, they are able to change coaches, especially football, without drama. Women’s sports do fine.

    My jury is out on Glass, but I do like Wilson. Are quality ADs former coaches? Athletes? Is there a common thread? My concern is Fred Glass is may be executing his AD role as an attorney. Not a coach or a results driven leader with an ego.

  4. Matterhorn

    Mike Davis did better at IU than Crean has, what does that mean. ANY coach is better than Crean. Quit making it out like it’s some big risk getting rid of Crean the risk is not getting rid of him till after next year, that’s the risk. Good lord Kent are you still not convinced…”leaves Glass with a hell of a decision” what are you talking about. WE HAVE THE WORST COACH IN THE BIG TEN RIGHT NOW, TELL ME WHO TOM CREAN IS BETTER THAN IN THE BIG TEN.

    1. RB

      People are starting to connect the dots. Jim Morris of the trustees is buddies with Glass and Glass is buddies with Crean. 2 years ago when IU baseball played in the CWS, ESPN panned in on Crean in the stands sitting and laughing like they were best friends next to GLASS. Other schools hires experienced athletic people ie Wisc., IU hires based upon politics. Glass reminds me of Pence, both politicians, look where that got us, finally the business leaders said enough is enough. Hopefully that will happen at IU, enough BS is enough!

      1. Matterhorn

        connect the dots or paint by the numbers the picture is always the same: Tom Crean=No NCAA title.

      2. kentsterling Post author

        You are connecting dots that barely exist in the same universe. Sitting with a subordinate at a baseball game is hardly reason to loathe Glass.

        1. RB

          Kent: Glass says Crean is not the problem, but the solution, sounds defensive, like something Gov. Pence would say. PS Looked in the paper today and saw IU Baseball is next to last in the Big Ten, IU Football was last in the Big Ten Last year and IU Basketball ??? USA Today reports that Calipari doesn’t get any tournament bonus, he believes he shouldn’t get paid more if the student athletes win more games. I agree! Kent, like the state of Indiana, I think you need to look at the facts, Kentucky athletics know what they are doing and IU is clueless.

          1. RB

            PS – Glass is well connected with the trustees, we all know that, it is a fact!! You are delusional.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            Why would an AD not be connected with the trustees? Who would benefit from a lack of connection? It’s likely the reason he took the gig in the first place.

          3. kentsterling Post author

            Indiana is 17-8 in baseball. Where that ranks in the Big Ten is anyone’s guess. IU Football is going to be fine eventually – maybe in 2015. Calipari gets $7.5M for showing up, so I would agree with him that he shouldn’t get a bonus. Your use of “student-athletes” is as fallacious as when Walter Byars invented the term to dodge workman’s comp claims.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      Tim Miles? Eddie Jordan? The decision isn’t about whether Crean is great or terrible, it’s about whether relating will cause the desired results.


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