Indiana University’s basketball program is not where anyone wants it to be – not fans, not coaches, not administrators, and not players.
You can tell coaches aren’t happy with where Indiana is in the present because they spend a lot of time and effort selling everyone on a future filled with accomplishment and success. Anytime the Hoosiers achieve any goal – or even a pedestrian win – they celebrate like the 1976 team did when they finished their undefeated season by beating Michigan in the National Championship game.
There have been welcome cosmetic changes in the program, mostly for Tom Crean, who for the first time in my memory is sitting during parts of the game. Does that help players play better? Probably not, but it does convey a sense that Crean understands the action on the floor is more important than his performance. The pacing, posing, clapping, and swigging have diminished.
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That will please some, but I’m more interested in what happens on the floor than with the theatricality that annoys Crean’s detractors.
Rather than complaining and whining about Crean continuing as the coach, I have put considerable thought into sharing eight specific areas of improvement that are necessary for Crean to succeed at Indiana.
Here are those eight changes that need to happen for Crean and the Hoosiers to return to the elite status everyone either craves or insists still exists (reasonable people know those days passed 20 years ago):
1 – Rebuild fractured relationships with Indiana high school coaches. As I talk to high school coaches, I always ask off the record about Tom Crean. Some are politically correct and deflect. Others are quite honest, and those reports are very instructive as to the level of respect with which they hold Crean compared to Purdue’s Matt Painter and Butler’s Chris Holtmann. Being out-respected has made it very difficult for Crean to recruit the state’s best talent. If Indiana needs to rely on Boo Williams to steer kids toward Indiana, the Hoosiers will be what fans have seen the past two-plus years. Recruit elite talent in Indiana, and there is a chance to win championships.
2 – Instill a defense – one defense – and play it well. Better to execute mediocre strategy at an excellent level than to execute excellent strategy at a mediocre level. For years, Indiana has appeared to be confused on defense. It’s better to do one thing at a high level than try to out-fox opponents with a team incapable of achieving a positive result in that scheme. Watching Indiana play a 2-3 zone every possession would be nauseating, but better than this hybrid where zone becomes man.
3 – Fish with a rod and reel, not dynamite. When you recruit everyone and offer 50+ prospects, a lack of specificity is shown in your criteria for candidates. If you represent an elite program, you select the recruits you target with great care. If a coach can’t land recruits he targets, he is not capable of running an elite program.
4 – Stop celebrating every small accomplishment like it’s life-changing. When Crean was hired by Indiana, a friend called to wish me luck as an Indiana fan. He said, “Crean hung a banner when Marquette won the Great Alaskan Shootout. That’s all you need to know about Tom Crean.” [ed. note: that banner was sold in an online auction in 2012 and no longer hangs in the Bradley Center – bidding ended at $376]. Indiana celebrates wins like desert bedouins celebrate an oasis. Celebrations should follow meaningful accomplishment, not what should be perceived as ordinary wins. Cutting down nets after a loss and awarding Sweet Sixteen rings are additional items on a long list of oddly executed bizarre parties held for a team that fell short.
5 – Undersell so expectations are reasonable. Every year, those speaking for Indiana Basketball talk about why there is hope for an imminent return to the Final Four, upper echelon of the Big Ten, and the Hoosier birthright of peer status among college basketball’s elite. Every year, the fires of hope are doused by the chemical foam of mediocrity. If for no other reason than changing routine, tell us that this is going to be a really tough year. If the Hoosiers than finish in the top four of the Big Ten, fans will be thrilled.
6 – Schedule real opponents in the non conference season. Tonight marks the final noncompetitive non-conference opponent of the 2015-2016 season. Continuing to ask for substantial donations for the right to buy tickets to games at Assembly Hall against McNeese State (RPI #312), Morehead State (#181), Kennesaw State (#227), SIU-E (#210), Austin Peay, and Alcorn State (#311) is no way to run an elite franchise. [ed. note: I left out IPFW among the cupcake opponents to visit IU this season for two reasons – they are pretty good and keeping the appearance money in the IU family is a positive.]
7 – Tell the strength coach to sit behind the bench. Before the Crossroads Classic win against Notre Dame, I hadn’t noticed the omnipresent enthusiasm of Indiana strength and conditioning coach Lyonel Anderson. Crean’s bench has always been chaotic with assistants simultaneously yelling at multiple players, but Anderson’s histrionics even distracted me as I sat in Section 19 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. From warm-ups thru the final buzzer, Anderson exhorted, cajoled, gesticulated, cheered, waved, and beseeched in a nonstop frenzy. Successful leaders keep messages simple so they are easily consumed and implemented. Crean’s bench unleashes a torrent of messaging that is exponentially exacerbated by Anderson’s mania.
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8 – Build a culture with successful young men. Assessing personality is a critical aspect of hiring, and recruiting basketball players is no different. If you are forced to sacrifice a little athleticism to gain some grit and basic understanding of team function, that’s an easy call. Indiana’s roster is filled with players of a myriad of attitudes and aptitudes. Watching Butler or Purdue, there is a clear sense of unified purpose that has not been displayed by the Hoosiers since 2012-2013. A team cannot be built with physically talented but disparate ill-fitting parts. It must be constructed with personalities that fit together to form a unit.
Just trying to help. If you think what’s happened the last couple of years is good enough, no need to make any changes.
I agree with everything you said except your take on Anderson. I don’t have an issue with it and if it helps motivate the team then I am ok with it.
Considering he is new to basketball and his agenda is to prepare athletes for the game I believe that any bit of experience he can get is a good thing.
I will also say that if changes are made to the coaching staff I really hope Anderson stays on.
If Indiana needs a strength and conditioning coach to provide bi-minutely doses of enthusiasm, that’s a dire circumstance I hadn’t contemplated. Indiana has cheerleaders, a band, a crowd, and hopefully some pride that should provide a boost whenever needed.
Absolutely right. IU needs a staff that is serious about winning. That they do not have!
I still don’t agree. I think it truly helps the buy in from the players through developing a bond that goes past the sand pit and weight room. The culture that revolves around his skill set sets the tone for extra work or going the extra mile. Relationships between a trainer and players is tremendously greater when the buy in is more than usual.
When he is in the huddle he is learning the game. That knowledge is huge for him to go back and prepare a workout regimen specific to basketball instead of football.
Like I said I agree with every single one of your other points Kent, but I don’t on this one.
true, Anderson’s agenda is to prepare the team for games. once the game has started his job is over. furthermore coach Anderson gaining experience on the sideline is not a priority. it does appear he is doing a helluva job. he certainly needs to be there to address any potential physical issues but lets not drown out the basketball coaches and their attempt at coaching. for what its worth mr Anderson may be the best coach on that team but he is not a basketball coach.
I don’t see him trying to coach the team or overstepping any boundaries.
My take on Indiana is there is too much Farrell and Blackmon on one on one instead of good solid team passing and play. I agree with you on the defense. when they played ND there was none the 2/3 of the game but when they setlled on that one defense it paid off big time.
Spot on! Crean spends so much effort on East coast kids, while he’ll lose out on local kids like Kris Wilkes and Paul Scruggs. If you brought in ONLY INDIANA kids yearly, you would make a run consistently.
Yes yes yes! You have finally said everything that I try to put in words! I’m so tired of mediocre years and hearing wait till next year! If we’re an elite program don’t say it be it. Tired of hearing about the five banners I want to see number six! Keep the homegrown talent in state, don’t lose it, I have always said and I always will. I will put our high school talent up against any state period.
Someone finally made a lot of sense. It couldn’t have been written any better. It’s time for Crean to approach basketball the old fashion way, and that’s DEFENSE.
Why is Crean’s relationship with Indiana HS coaches fractured? What is the cause of the lack of respect?
I’m 40 yrs old, the last time IU won a nat title I was a 6th grader. I really wish Indiana could land a great coach!
I don’t see why Stevens wouldn’t be interested in Indiana if it came available, he’s an Indiana boy through and through. Make IU basketball something to look forward to every winter like it used to be
Brad Stevens already has a pretty good job.
I appreciate your insight and I agree with some of your points especially the defense point. I do have a question about your first point. What specifically do the state coaches mention in regards to respect? How did the relationships become fractured? Thanks.
Demands from Crean that are completely unreasonable compared to communication from other coaches. Crean asked an Indiana HS coach to completely switch his defensive strategy to help a recruit learn to play Indiana’s way. That request was declined. There are a myriad of other examples of Crean not respecting boundaries, requiring strange over-the-top accommodations for his visits, and overall haughtiness that are off-putting. If his interactions were commonplace among college coaches, it would be one thing, but they are completely unique.
Once again we do not need lists to improve Indiana Basketball. One thing needs to change……FIRE TOM CREAN…….Once again I will say I said fire him last year, your new coach would have had some good players that would have helped him in recruiting. Looking at another 5 year project. Really sad. Yes, can anyone tell me who the conditioning coach was when Knight was coach, and Kent seriously asking Todd Jadlow about a tirade Knight had against him when he was a player as the first question, dude it was like 25 years ago, let it go already.
Why wouldn’t a High quality coach not know the points that Kent states – Simple ,He’s not of grade ,My fellow (non) Indiana basketball sports friends shake their heads, that this proud institution has allowed Crean to continue to insult this program . Mike
Knight made the heinous mistake of utilizing his wife as the strength and conditioning coach. It was ludicrous.
Yeah, that was my first question because I have never had the opportunity to ask a player what it’s like to be called a “f***ing c**t who would rather eat p***y than get back on defense” in front of 17,357 people, including a US Senator and sweet teenager dying of AIDS within 10 feet of him. Why a young man wouldn’t punch the guy in the mouth is interesting to me.
I didn’t see Todd Jadlow running over teammates or getting caught for drug use or not going to class or turning out to be a complete loser…….hmmmmmm
Certainly a “spot on” analysis of a once-proud program but I’d like to add a 9th point for you to think about… Improve team discipline. This point dovetails into Kent’s second point about defense. Knight’s teams were good defensively because they were extremely disciplined, both on and off the court
And RMK didn’t need a strength coach sitting on the bench to send that message to his players. Crean seems to “want” discipline, but demures to hoping his players like him. The on and off campus shenanigans of the past few years are a barometer for a team that has not been held accountable for its poor decision-making… and that lesson has carried over onto the court. Being a good coach is akin to being a good parent. Both roles require occasional tough love and discipline.
It seems like the tough love comes at the moment a pink slip is issued. Suspensions were too light to get a player’s attention so termination has been issued to get the attention of those remaining on the roster.
Kent, You can’t seem to make up your mind if you want tough love or a coach that is a friend to the players. The end justifies the means always has always will.
It depends on the players. Some need a pat on the back and others a kick in the ass. A couch needs to recruit kids he can motivate, regardless of the means.
The ends justifying the means is the kind of thinking that starts wars and destroys cultures.
These kids need direction from someone that can relate to them as young adults. Keep them out of trouble and steer them toward feeling the true IU basketball spirit. I agree but also feel that recruiting needs to change and focus more on the aptitude of new players. Raw talent only gets us sloppy shenanigans on and off the court that degrades our program.
I attended IU the Bobby Leonard and Don Schlundt’s senior year and have followed them through the years since. I believe IU’s basketball problems are higher up in the organization than just the coach. We have not had a coach worthy of the school’s basketball history since Bobby Knight left. What we need is a new athletic director.
Nice artcile and I won’t disagree with any of it but the true resolution comes in getting rid of Crean. He’s a farce, simple as that.
For the record, if you were held as responsible for this horribly inaccurate article as the coaches you criticized are for their work, you would be out of a job right now. Keep up the great work!
Every criticism about accuracy here has always been vague, because there are no inaccuracies. Thanks for taking the time to prove that point.
i personally see a lack of good coaching by crean,doesnt know how to adjust to game conditions never has. i think a new coach is needed to shake things up or continue to mediocrity. Too bad as we lose too many good indiana players. IU should have hired Alford when they had the chance.