Indy’s Morning Sports List – 12 interpretations of Tom Crean’s hug of Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams

Some like this kind of hugging between a coach and player. Some don't. All have a voice here.

Some like this kind of hugging between a coach and player. Some don’t. All have a voice here.

The hugs for Hoosiers Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell by coach Tom Crean toward the end of the Indiana vs. Morehead State game Saturday night have generated some attention over the past couple of days – some positive, some not.

Like most things Crean does, the hugs can be assessed in a variety of ways – some complimentary, some critical.

Rarely has there been a figure in sports whose actions could be viewed in such a wide variety of ways.

Here is a list of 12 takes on Crean’s hugs Saturday night:

1 – As a leader and coach, it’s important for Crean to show his love for players.  Hugging is a great way to do that.

2 – Crean wants to be perceived by players and fans as a close behavioral relative to Tom Izzo, who is a very emotional coach given to occasional outrage and overt displays of adulation.  The difference between Izzo and Crean’s hugs is that Izzy’s players initiate the hugs, while Crean engages his players.

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3 – As has always been the case, Crean loves to celebrate positive results.  The hugs served as banner-esque affirmation for players who have been criticized for three losses and at least one win where consistent defensive effort was not displayed.

4 – What’s the big deal about a coach hugging players?  Crean is a father figure to many of his players and providing discipline and praise is important in their development.  Hugging shows love, and it’s good for a coach to love his players.

5 – Whatever the intent of the hugs, clasping a player’s head in order to nestle it in the coach’s neck and then enthusiastically patting it is a weird form of showing appreciation, and has no business being employed by an authority figure.  Can you imagine a boss reinforcing positive behavior like that during a staff meeting for an employee who closed a deal?  HR would be immediately dispatched.

6 – Can’t Crean do anything without being criticized?  Imagine if everything you did in your office was shown on ESPN or BTN and then scrutinized.  The way you walk in the halls, the way you drink coffee, the way you roll your eyes in meetings when the boss isn’t looking – all under review for millions watching.  You might develop some weird tics yourself.

7 – If the players and parents aren’t complaining, why is this even an issue?  Crean just can’t win with a lot of people, and those hugs are just the latest imaginary scab fans are picking to sully the reputation of a good, not great, coach.

8 – The hugs were icky, and coaches should never engage in icky behavior.  As a parent, I don’t want coaches, teachers, clergy, or counselors hugging my kid in that way.

9 – Those were hugs of an insecure leader trying to curry the favor of his charges.  Confident coaches should focus on the continued improvement of his players, not rewarding an outlier positive performance against a lesser opponent like Morehead State.

10 – Great coaches know when to pat an athlete on the back and when to kick him in the ass.  Crean gave those kids a little love in the spotlight after likely getting their attention using a different tack away from the cameras.  Regardless of whether the hugs were peculiar looking, a coach should be allowed and encouraged to show appreciation.

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11 – Premature celebrations have always been a part of the Crean recipe for mediocrity, and these hugs were par for the course.

12 – Crean should be judged based upon the tenacity of Indiana players defensive effort, not the  unique way he bestows a little affirmation for his players.

3 thoughts on “Indy’s Morning Sports List – 12 interpretations of Tom Crean’s hug of Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams

  1. Da Doctor

    Wonder when he’ll start kissing them on the mouth the way he does his son?

    Crean needs to be anywhere but Indiana University.

  2. Mark Thrice

    The hugs and pats behind the head were a little awkward. Creepy, no. Maybe a little of a few of your listed points. But seems Crean was making a point that his players did well. But Crean does have some unique mannerisms.

    Guess it depends on one’s method of teaching. Something is lacking in the Indiana University basketball program coaching. Could be Crean emphasizes the positive way too much. He may have gotten on the players’ cases for lack of effectiveness on defense. This may have been his way of making amends for that. Makes me want to ask all sorts of questions…but…it didn’t seem creepy to me.

    So with all of the interesting stuff going down with the basketball and football teams and coaches over the last decade or so…you pick to focus on one of Crean’s goofy public displays. Why not talk about any parallels between our Athletic Department management and that of Rutgers? A really intereting article was in the NYTimes yesterday ( ) It was about the lack of commitment to the programs by Rutgers as that University wears the mantel of being in the B1G. Seems IU has struggled too. Was it simply that RMK ruled the roost and what made him great also led to his downfall? And that of the department? IU itself went through a period of transition. Hope IU is on a path to excellence the way it once was.

    In other words: Crean’s hugging is really a non issue to me.

    Just let him go because he isn’t as good as the best in the B1G.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      I read the NY Times piece you linked to. Based on that and what I know of Julie Hermann, I do not see any parallels at all between Rutgers and Indiana. Hermann was a terrible fit as AD in virtually every way. Rice was – and is – a petulant doofus as a hoops coach. Firing the football coach was an overreaction to a fairly innocuous breach of conduct. Brachia would be better suited for a position specifically designed to address goals of the state’s medical schools, rather than hiring department heads requiring expertise with which he is not familiar.

      Indiana is ably led by Michael McRobbie, who is in the process of rebuilding what Herbert allowed to decay, and Fred Glass is a good AD whose chief concern is the welfare of student-athletes. I support both with enthusiasm I would never invest in Barchi and Hermann.


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