Indiana Basketball – the media liking Tom Crean has nothing to do with his fitness to coach Hoosiers

by Kent Sterling

That grabbing a cup of coffee and muffin with Tom Crean is pleasant enough, but that doesn't mean he's a great basketball coach.

That grabbing a cup of coffee and muffin with Tom Crean is pleasant enough, but that doesn’t mean he’s a great basketball coach.

“I like Tom Crean, but…”

If you listen to media people, myself included, appraise the work of Indiana Basketball coach Tom Crean, it’s inevitable you will hear that he is liked by that person.  It’s relentless, this compulsion to declare our affection for Tom, and it makes me skin crawl.

I hear those words come out of my own mouth, and I cringe.  In my brain, I ask, “Who in the hell cares whether you like Tom Crean?  Why share that?  Stop saying it!”  Then, 15 minutes later, I say it again.

Who gives a sweet damn whether someone likes Crean or not.  I like a lot of people, but that doesn’t qualify them for jobs – certainly not a job that pays better than three million bucks each year.

Most of the people I like have been fired at one point or another, and they all met that adversity with a positive attitude and overcame the brief adversity career reversal provided.  I’m certain that when Tom’s day comes, as it does for almost all coaches, he will quickly find the resolve to enjoy another challenge.

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If Tom Crean is fired this afternoon, he will walk away from Indiana University with a buyout check in the amount of $7,500,000.  I would wish that for all my friends – most of whom I know and like much more than Crean.  I would wish it for myself, and I love me!

Yesterday, as we discussed the relentless run of arrests, citations, and suspensions that have blighted Crean’s program over the last 18 1/2 months, Gregg Doyel dropped a couple of I like Toms.  On 1070 the Fan’s Dan Dakich Show – more I like Toms.  I said it myself – again.

What the hell is with the preoccupation of those paid to say perspective on sports with declaring our affection for a basketball coach whose job responsibilities do not include being liked by the media.

Crean is paid to win basketball games while teaching young men the lessons that will allow them to evolve into productive and compassionate adults, not curry friendships with the media.

If you listen or read, you have heard the following a dozen times over the last 48 hours:

  • “I like Tom, but with so many behavioral issues, has he lost control over his team?”
  • “I like Tom, but is a 17-22 conference record over the past two seasons acceptable?”
  • “I like Tom, but when is Indiana going to defend somebody?”

Three solid questions preceding by unnecessary and insipid qualifiers.

Life would be a lot more fun for managers, department heads, and owners if the only criteria for maintaining employment was liking an employee.  Some businesses are run that way, but they don’t stay solvent for long.  From the media, it’s even worse because our job is to peel away the noise to tell our version of the truth.

Let’s take a moment and appraise Crean’s work without any use of the L word – no, not that L word.  I’m talking about “like”.  Not even sure how the other L word could be weaved into any discussion of Crean, but I digress.

  • Players who stay for three to five years graduate, but nearly an equivalent number transfer transfer.
  • The Academic Progress Rate for the Hoosiers is perfect year after year.
  • Recruiting has been a hit and miss parade of quantifiables over culture.
  • Three NCAA appearances have led to a 4-3 record in those tournaments.
  • Since his third season – let’s not confer blame for the first two upon Crean – the Hoosiers are 44-46 in the Big Ten, minus failures in the Big Ten Tournament for an average conference finish of 6.4th.
  • A 3-5 record at the Big Ten Tournament without a single multiline result in any has made mid-March miserable for fans.  Then, there are the arrests, citations, and suspensions.

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Whether you like Crean or not, (did I mention earlier that I do like Tom? Good, glad that’s out of the way), those are the facts – the mostly black and white metrics by which coaches paid elite money should be measured.

Is that good enough to be the head basketball coach at Indiana, whether you like Tom Crean or not?

17 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – the media liking Tom Crean has nothing to do with his fitness to coach Hoosiers

  1. Matterhorn

    I DONT like Tom Crean and make no bones about it. Creaning good kids, kids who have fought through injuries, Creaning kids with a year left of eligibility (Matt Roth) to make room for a bunch on knuckleheads. I don’t like his dishonesty or maybe it’s just ingnorance when asked questions in press conferences after a loss, I don’t like how he acted like a 5 year old up at Michigan and I don’t like how he coaches. IU is past the July 1 buyout, fire him now.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      While I am with you on the transfer issue, Roth was on scholarship through enough semesters to earn his masters. What more could he have done as a student. Shipping a kid out through no fault of his own prior to earning his degree is exceptionally weak.

  2. Big E

    I like Crean too. I think he’s personally a good guy and he (alone) deserves the credit for rebuilding IU from the ground up from utter disaster to #1 ranking and B1G champs.

    I don’t like the results (on or off court) the last 2+ yrs. I don’t think he should or will be fired before this season, but do think the results this year will determine his future. Meet or exceed expectations (top 3 B1G finish and better than Sweet 16 in NCAA’s) and all is temporarily forgotten. Less than that and I think he either is let go, or more likely, given a VERY short leash.

    I would hope Glass doesn’t let him go without a solid plan to replace him though. Interim coaches or search committees aren’t effective, imo.

    1. Matterhorn

      Butler seems to have figured out how to replace coaches…….want to know why. They have an AD that actually played and coached basketball unlike our clown in Bloomington. With Glass in charge I agree I have no faith the right person will be found, dude is a lawyer no way is he just gonna make the call on his own, he needs to be able to blaim some committee if things don’t work out.

      1. Rb

        What a novel idea, maybe hire someone with AD, coaching and experience working with 18-21 year old kids. Not at IU, we always hire the well connected guy. (I forgot he is smart and cares about the kids) Maybe that is how the IU professors hand out grades now, not based on how well you did on the exam, but by how much you care. Boy how things have changed since I was in school.

        PS – Maybe Mitch Daniels can come down and teach a leadership seminar at IU!

        1. Matterhorn

          Yea you had to love Zach Osterman’s piece that came out in the Indy Star about all the great off the court things Crean does…………..2 days before his star recruit is busted pimping a 1.75 of Dark Eyes. Too Funny.

          1. Rb

            I told my wife Sunday, when I looked at the indy star sports section, Notre Dame and Purdue football on page 2 & 3 and what was this crap about Crean on page 1, it’s football season??? That article belonged in the Metro section. Do the IU people in charge and their journalist think we are stupid?

      2. kentsterling Post author

        The first two coaching changes post-Collier at Butler were made by an AD different from Collier, who returned as the AD in 2006 – in time to hire Brad Stevens.

        Would you consider the Brandon Miller a successful hire. It wasn’t, but hard to blame Barry for that.

        1. Rb

          How can you say that he had cancers or something before he could prove himself. I think all the other hires were home runs!!!!!

        2. Matterhorn

          Kent, that was a medical issue. Although Crean might have some mental disease we don’t know about as well.

    2. Matterhorn

      You really think a team ranked 212 in total defense is going to suddenly go to the elite 8 or beyond, that is insanity kind of like hoping Crean will somehow become a great in game coach and make solid substitutions based on time and score.

      1. Jake knight

        You obviously know nothing about basketball. We have a really good chance this year just by the addition of Bryant alone. You, like every other Cream hater will be in for another year of Tom after this one wether you like it or not!

          1. Matterhorn

            Kent I know human behavior rarely changes, thus why expect Crean to change is coaching habits, thus why expect a good season.

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