Indiana Basketball – Is Tom Crean evolving program toward a more “Hoosier” dynamic

by Kent Sterling

Is Tom Crean finally figuring out how to coach at Indiana?  Maybe.

Is Tom Crean finally figuring out how to coach at Indiana? Maybe.

Tom Crean came to Bloomington with his guns blazing and supreme work ethic careening around Monroe County at a frenzied pitch.  He was like Yosemite Sam and the Tazmaniam Devil combined into one manic whirling dervish of recruiting zeal.  There were hits and misses with kids and processes, but the one constant was frenetic movement.

Recruiting was engaged years in advance.  Potential Hoosiers were offered before they played their first high school game based upon potential.  Current players were “encouraged” to work tirelessly to build measurables, academics were stressed, and wayward behavior was barely acknowledged (at least publicly).

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Everything in Bloomington appeared to be designed to support the narrative that Crean was doing a great job – as though each utterance from Assembly or Cook Halls was a strut that supported a reality that the program was in good hands.

As we know, the proof is in the pudding, and the Indiana pudding resulted in a 16-22 Big Ten record in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons.  And then there were the arrests and suspensions that resulted from a lack of meaningful consequences being meted out by an authority figure that seemed eager to look the other if it might mean a more talented team would be on the floor.

There are currently no commitments by recruits to Indiana Basketball.  None.  Not in 2016, 2017, 2018, or beyond.  Some see that as bad news.  I love it.  So many things can happen with a recruit who commits early that the commitment itself is mostly meaningless.  Kids decommit, injuries occur, a 15 year-old who seemed to have his life together suddenly unravels and becomes a stoner.  Then when the kid reports to Bloomington, the program is left with a wing nut who might drag others into his hazy vortex of irresponsibility.

I’m not sure the lack of commitments is Crean’s choice or whether he is benefitting from circumstances beyond his control, but either way, this is a positive for IU.

Crean grew a spine after pot smoke wafting from Devin Davis’s room in Hickory Hall last month caught the attention of someone who called the cops.  Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea were banished.  This was long in coming for Mosquera-Perea, whose DUI in February, 2014, should have been the only but last straw.  Discipline seems to have emerged as a serious initiative in Bloomington.  Whether that was due to an insistence voiced by athletic director Fred Glass or because of Crean’s own fatigue in dealing with idiots incapable of making good decisions, I don’t know, but a needed stern hand and voice is being backed by actions.

I love that too.  Playing for Indiana is like a driver’s license – it’s a privilege, not a right.  Nothing erodes enthusiasm for the straight and narrow like a supposed authority figure placating those who violate rules.  A two-game suspension, which seemed to be the de facto penalty for crossing virtually every line became a joke among players, and this adios to Davis and Mosquera-Perea shows that on-court potential isn’t the only criteria for membership at Indiana Basketball.

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And Indiana still has a scholarship or two to play with for 2015-2016, and I get the sense that there is no rush to fill those spots.  Part of that equation is the thin but long shadow cast by Thon Maker, who may or may not choose to enroll in college this December and then bounce to the NBA six months later.

Again, the alleged appearance of this supposed refocus of priorities may be due to a serendipitous series of events that leads fans to believe that Crean has evolved into a leader capable of slowing down long enough to see the light.  Or it might be a wisdom that has been slow in coming to a coach who has built a brand worth $3.16M annually from Indiana University, but yet to deliver more than two trips to the Sweet Sixteen and two winning seasons in the Big Ten in seven years as coach.

I’m choosing to give Crean the benefit of the doubt, and hope that Crean is becoming more like Indiana, rather than dragging the Hoosier program toward him.

20 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Is Tom Crean evolving program toward a more “Hoosier” dynamic

  1. Matterhorn

    Wrong again Kent, What’s happened is Chuck Martin is in charge of recruiting and unlike what Tommy and Shooter did is not going to hop in the private jet to give some stiffs a scholarship. So maybe if he’s evolved to learn that there are people smarter than him maybe that’s a good thing, now if he could just hire an assistant that I don’t know could teach defense, clock management, roster management, late game strategy, scoring of an inbounds play, managing difficult kids like Knight did with Landon Turner, be a gracious loser and not do blow by’s THEN we might have something.

  2. Matterhorn

    The hype surrounding this offseason with regards to Indiana Basketball is like non other. So let me see if I have this right, IU adds an 18 yr old forward but at the same time loses a starter, a good role player, a potential starter adds a player from Michigan who got to play because their team had so many injuries that even walk-on Dakich got playing time we don’t have any verbals for 2016,2017,2018 YET Tom Crean is figuring it out and IU is a top 15 team………..OK got it.

  3. j

    I don’t think crean has figured anything out. he is approaching the apex of his cycle. every four years tom izzo puts together a final four with good talent great work ethic and excellent coaching. creans cycle is still evolving though right now it looks like a couple sweet sixteens followed by a couple rough years and so on. crean has recruited some great talent and with some guys sticking around this could be another sweet sixteen. and crean will have peaked his cycle. he hasn’t learned anything.

    tom crean is a sine wave that peaks at a sweet sixteen and valleys with a 500 record. there are great expectations and equally great failures sprinkled in. but in the end cean will oscillate between genuine mediocrity and the fringe of national relevance. for one weekend. every other year.

  4. matterhorn

    Sweet sixteen is not enough, if people get all giddy about that next year and a year from now we are getting all the hype again I’m gonna puke. Btw no hype about Purdue and they are gonna be top 10 next year I guarantee it and I hate Purdue.

  5. matterhorn

    Hey Kent, so once again let me see if I have this correct. Purdue has 4 top 100 verbals for 2016 and IU has none but Tom Crean is figuring it out, you my friend are delusional.

    1. Downthestretch


      I love your passion and understand your point, but let’s be clear: Purdue does not even have one verbal for 2016, let alone 4 top 150. Just checked Gold and Black.

      1. Matterhorn

        They will beat IU for a fourth straight time this year so what the hell does it matter. That’s pathetic.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      I’m just saying there is a little evidence that weakness in leadership is evolving. Not sure who the Purdue verbals are. I can’t find any listed or reported.

      1. Matterhorn

        How much money was spent on the recruitment of Jeremiah April and the dude ends up a Trinity Community College. Maybe Freddy the Clown actually exerted some leadership and said “stop wasting money on all these stiffs, Tom”

  6. Bob Pruitt

    There should be no two game suspensions for anything…inform the players at the first of the season if the screw up, they are off the team, “permanently.” Crean is a good coach…not yet a great coach. Give hime a chance. With a few good recruits that can fill the center and tall forwards…and a great shooting guard that can average over 24 points per game. Then, he’ll be GREAT !!!

  7. cletus B

    I don’t think Indiana fans have an appreciation for the damage that was done by coach Samson— Not only did we lose all of our players, we lost our culture. Coach Crean has brought Indiana back but it will take five or ten more years of work to get Indiana where we need to be. If we can’t get more patience and support from our fans, rumors of coach’s demise will hurt recruiting, fulfilling our worst fears. The next guy will then need another 10+ years to build us back up because, believe me, if Crean goes, many of his players will go with him. Indiana fans need to get behind the team and stop whining. It’s hard work. Michigan took 15 years to rebuild after they fired Fischer and dealt with their sanctions. Norte Dame still hasn’t recovered from firing Holtz just because he couldn’t quite win a second national title.

    1. Matterhorn

      What Culture got hurt???Assembly Hall was packed the first 3 years Crean was there, it wasn’t like the stands were empty. You are telling me and other Indiana fans to wait ANOTHER 10 years. Are you serious, this is not football. So if Crean doesn’t go to a final four he should be given 20 freaking years to do so. Notre Dame hasn’t recovered because they actually make their football players go to class and have higher standards then say I don’t know….Ohio State. How many championships has Michigan Basketball won?? Excuses, excuses,excuses,excuses,excuses,excuses, get ready for some more next year. BTW I hope Crean is watching the NBA finals right now because from what I see Golden State doesn’t have their point guard dribbling all over the place and why don’t we just move Blackmon to the point and bench Yogi, Blackmon needs more shots.

    2. j

      matterhorn is right on this one. why the hell should it take 5 or ten MORE years? if this coach cant get beyond a sweet sixteen with two all americans…he isn’t the right coach. Syracuse was a nightnmare matchup but there are some coaches out there that would have beaten them with that iu team.

      sorry pal but tom crean is a hack. he does stupid things in game. his says stupid things everywhere all the time. the players don’t like him.


  8. Rb


    You are so right, as an IU alum, my 2 kids went to another big 10 and sec school. I have never seen the hype for mediocrity at these other schools. If IU would be straight about their current situation and then try to improve on it, it wouldn’t insult my intelligence so much. Then maybe, the writers wouldn’t have anything to write about??? Do the people running IU think the fans are stupid. Enough of the BS, I am sick of it and as a result have been turned off following IU.

  9. Matterhorn

    You do realize that from February 3 2015 till the end of the season IU’s only wins were Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern,and Rutgers, YEA that’s right Kent 4 freaking wins and here we sit all Giddy about another season and being ranked 15 with hopes of a final four, that is pure insanity people.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Hope you’re not lumping me in with the rabble who are yelping about IU as a top 15 team.


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