This is the first of two lists regarding Tom Crean and the future of the Indiana Basketball program. Tomorrow’s will provide a list or reasons coach Tom Crean should be retained. Today’s enumerates the reasons a change should be made.
There have been no NCAA compliance or academic issues to fuel talk of a need for change, and two Big Ten regular season championships and three trips to the Sweet Sixteen in the last five years are results many programs covet, so why would anyone in his right mind advocate a change in leadership?
There are Indiana fans who continue to see a need to make a change. Keep in mind the list for retaining Crean will come tomorrow. And remember the first rule of firing people – “Never fire anyone without having a better option ready.”
Here are the top 10 reasons Tom Crean should be replaced:
10 – Indiana will celebrate 30th anniversary of last championship next season. Only eight of the last 29 seasons of failure can be blamed on Crean – and really six because it took time for Crean to sweep up and rebuild after the Kelvin Sampson debacle in 2008 – but 30 years is a very long time for a supposedly elite program to not win an NCAA Championship. Is there a path for Crean to be the coach who gets Indiana to the promised land? Not a path revealed by past results.
9 – On July 1, 2016, Crean’s buyout drops to $4,000,000. There’s no rush in making the change because the buyout drops by $3.5M in a little over three months, and who wants to spend that kind of cash for the sake of expedience? The buyout a year ago was $12-million, so patience has brought a significant savings to the university – or the donors who will underwrite the buyout.
8 – Behavioral issues might be in the past, but not in the distant past. From February 14, 2014 thru August 22, 2015, many incidents of misbehavior authored by Indiana basketball players peppered the Monroe County police blotter. One player suffered brain injuries as a result of one episode. Others were given light suspensions for arrests or multiple positive drug tests until the tonnage of idiocy finally forced Indiana to get tough and send players packing. Gone are Emmitt Holt, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Stanford Robinson, Devin Davis, and Jeremy Hollowell. What took so long to communicate the need for players to act like adults?
7 – Indiana deserves an elite coach. If Indiana is going to be the elite basketball program it proclaims itself to be, the Hoosiers need an elite coach. Crean has been in the game as a head coach for 15 years, a long enough period to develop or display greatness if he had it in him. The simple fact is that Crean is not Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Bill Self, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, or Lon Krueger. Indiana needs it’s next elite coach.
6 – Crean just doesn’t fit. This is admittedly vague. Without specificity, criticisms are weak, but I don’t know how better to put it. There are some excellent managers who simply don’t fit the culture of their departments, or the company as a whole. Sometimes there are no quantifiable measurements to determine the quality of leadership. Crean is not a bad coach, but he doesn’t fit Indiana.
5 – Nobody remembers Big Ten regular season championships. Two championships out of six years (we forgive the first two seasons as unwinnable situations) isn’t bad, but those titles are as unimportant as the 2014 Big Ten championship is for whomever won it (do you remember who it was? It’s very likely you don’t unless you are John Beilein, the coach of the champion Michigan Wolverines). Winning games beats losing them, but given the unbalanced schedule that favored Indiana, the 2016 Big Ten is not a feat of excellence that should overshadow the continued mediocrity that bracketed the Big Ten season from which Indiana cannot extricate itself under Crean.
4 – Sweet 16s not so sweet at Indiana. Three Sweet Sixteens are good, if one or two of them led to advancement to a Final Four. Routine visits to the first game of the second weekend is just not good enough for a program like Indiana. The last Elite Eight for Indiana came in 2002 – 14 years ago. That’s a long stretch of road for a program claiming to be elite, not sweet.
3 – Can’t recruit Indiana. The last Indiana recruiting class filled with Indiana high school players was the woefully constructed 2012 class, of which Yogi Ferrell was the sole survivor. Since then, there have been sporadic forays into Indiana kids – Grant Gelon from Crown Point will join the Hoosiers next year giving James Blackmon Jr. and Collin Hartmant company as Hoosier-bred contributors from the Hoosier state. Meanwhile, players like Trevon Bluiett, Trey Lyles, Bryant Macintosh, Zac Irvin, Gary Harris, Caleb Swanigan, Ryan Cline, and others have opted to play elsewhere. With players like Kris Wilkes and Romeo Langford in the next two classes, Indiana’s ability to win a championship hinges on recruiting its home state.
2 – The Thomas Bryant cradling was weird. There is very little to say about this odd episode other than it’s hard to imagine a high school player or parent of a recruit that would not be off-put by Crean cradling freshman Thomas Bryant’s head after the Hoosiers loss to North Carolina. That it happened – for five minutes – is strange. That it was done in front of cameras was a poor choice.
1 – Good is the enemy of great. Indiana is good, not great. It has been been good for four of the eight years Crean has been the coach (again, we forgive the first two years as unwinnable). It was mediocre for the other two years. Evolving from good to great without a change in leadership is hard to imagine because the methodology that led to good is not likely to change. Indiana is what it is under Crean. Eight years is long enough to establish what any program’s ceiling is under a coach. Indiana University knows what to expect from the basketball program under Crean – and it’s not good enough.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.