Top 10 reasons to keep Tom Crean as Indiana’s coach (Part 2 of 2)

Tom Crean has every reason to smile if the list below is an accurate depiction of the state of the program.

Tom Crean has every reason to smile if the list below is an accurate depiction of the state of the program.

As promised, here is part 2 of the internal dialogue I have with myself regarding the future leadership of the Indiana basketball program.

Yesterday, we dealt with the negative – 10 reasons to replace Tom Crean as coach.  Today, we list reasons to embrace Crean as the right man to coach the Hoosiers.

As with everything Crean related, for every positive there is a negative and for every negative there is a positive.

Regardless of which side of the ledger you pledge allegiance, you must understand an adverse argument can be made.  One area where Crean and at least one of his predecessors share is the polarizing effect they have on the Indiana fanbase.

Here are 10 reasons that Crean is the right coach for the program moving forward:

10 – The organizational workflow issue for the staff appears to be solved.  At least when I sat behind the bench during the too-short visit to the Big Ten Tournament, the lone voice directing the Hoosiers belonged to Crean.  The cacophony of multiple directives during the same event two years ago was impossible for players to understand.  Extrapolating that the workflow confusion in all areas has been corrected is a hell of a leap, but I’m giving Crean the benefit of the doubt here based on the excellent communication during the tourney game against Michigan.

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9 – Behavioral issues seem to have been cured.  For 18 months, Bloomington appeared to be a playground for drunken revelry and high times for the basketball team.  Over the last six months, a lid seems to have been affixed to the wayward activities of a team that needed rapt focus to achieve any level of success.  Those who didn’t heed serious warnings were quickly dispatched, and the remaining players grew to understand there is a consequence for self-indulgence.

8 – Times have changed, and the curmudgeon in the red sweater isn’t coming back.  Of course, no one in his right mind would hire Bob Knight to return to Bloomington, but that extends to Knight-level tyrants who refuse to accept that a university is run by the president and not the basketball coach.  Crean has recently grown to understand the collective nature of an athletic department, and that education took eight years.  It would be a shame to start the lessons with a brand new guy who doesn’t understand that he’s not the boss of bosses.

7 – $4-million is better spent on student-athletes than buyouts.  Regardless of whether the $4M comes from the athletic department’s deep pockets or well-heeled donors, that is a lot of walking away cash for a coach who just won a Big 10 Championship.  The program might be inching closer to real success.  Four million bucks is a lot of money to wager it’s mired in March mediocrity.

6 – Indiana could have a ten-deep monster of a roster next year.  If Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, and Troy Williams return, the Hoosiers will add three freshmen to immediately help Indiana chase another Big Ten crown and seek March redemption.  Add Josh Newkirk as a pass-first point guard, and IU could have a special group.  Why derail the thing now because of the pipe dream of a coaching upgrade.  is Crean perfect?  No, but the 2016-2017 Hoosiers might be special.

5 – Good may be the enemy of great, but it’s also the enemy of mediocre.  Even by showing an inability to qualify for an Elite Eight after three Sweet Sixteens, the Hoosiers have been a good program over the last five years.  Until this March, the last time Villanova punched its ticket to a Sweet Sixteen was 2009.  Prior to the last two seasons, Notre Dame under Mike Brey had reached one Sweet Sixteen in 14 years. The Fighting Irish just concluded their second consecutive trip to the Elite Eight.  There are opportunities to pivot forward, and 2016-2017 might be the watershed season for Indiana.

4 – Recruiting is on the uptick.  While Crean has not secured elite talent in bulk from Indiana since “The Movement”, OG Anunoby has proven that Victor Oladipo was no fluke.  Oladipo came to Bloomington unheralded and under-recruited.  He left three years later as the #2 draft choice in the NBA Draft.  Anunoby was similarly ignored, and is in a position today to be evaluated as a potential first-round pick after his freshman season.  Once, maybe Crean got lucky.  Twice, he and his staff are beating the bushes and choosing wisely.

3 – How many coaches that might replace Crean would be a better option.  Okay, Crean isn’t Coach K or Tom Izzo, but that level of coach doesn’t exactly grow on trees.  Crean has been good enough to make it to three Sweet Sixteens, win two outright Big Ten regular season championships, and send three players to the NBA Draft as top 10 picks.  That’s a pretty solid legacy as he has built the program from the ground up into an upper echelon team in what is sometimes America’s best basketball conference.

2 – The hug between Crean and Thomas Bryant was a touching sign of respect and love between a player and coach.  When Crean took the time to calm and reassure Bryant, it was a player relying upon his coach for exactly what he needed at that moment.  Some players need a kick in the ass and others need a hug.  From some who were in the room when this PDA transpired, it was said to be a lovely moment.

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1 – Re-starting from jump street would set the program back years.  Unless exactly the right coach is selected, the program would require an almost complete reboot.  If the outcome isn’t substantially better than what Crean has provided, there would be no bounty for the lost years.

To read part one, the 10 reasons Crean should be replaced, click here.

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

30 thoughts on “Top 10 reasons to keep Tom Crean as Indiana’s coach (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Kyle

    Crean most definitely will be IU’s coach next year, but I don’t feel he’s any safer heading into this offseason, than he was last year. It’s hard to argue winning two outright Big Ten championships in the past four years, but obviously the Big Ten proved to be a relatively weak conference this year with no Big Ten teams reaching the Elite 8 and IU had one, if not the, easiest schedule of anyone in the conference.

    I’m really not trying to take anything away from IU this year cause I do think they were a top-tier team that got a lousy tournament draw and ran into a hot UNC team, but the fact remains we haven’t been past the Sweet 16 with Crean at the helm. And I guess, when did that become acceptable at Indiana?

  2. jay

    Kent makes some valid points, for both sides.
    I heard Eddie White on the show yesterday and he was all gung ho about keeping him. Eddie is a “rah rah” guy, and his back ground is public relations. Even though he has no affiliation with IU , he would not want to jeopardize his reputation by dogging on someone in the state/area he is working in. It could hurt his chances for any future endeavors. He knows how to play the game.

    Kent, I was kinda confused by a couple of things . Yesterday you stated that the “Thomas Bryant cradling was weird”, and yes I agree , very creepy for that long. When you were speaking with Eddie you seemed to be of that view point and thought it was staged. In todays column you said”The hug between Crean and Thomas Bryant was a touching sign of respect and love between a player and coach”. Did you change your stance from after talking with Eddie, or just giving two different view points? I just was under the impression you fell more into “the weird” aspect of it.

    Thanks for doing what you do on the radio and here.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Thanks for the kind words. The Bryant thing is a great representation of the duality of views regarding Tom Crean. I have spoken to people who were in the locker room at the time who were genuinely touched by the interaction between Crean and Bryant. I’ve spoken to others who believed it was a moment contrived by Crean to display the love his players have for him.Others were simply “creeped out”. That’s the fun of discussing Crean. People can see the same moment, disagree entirely about the intent, and then back the Hoosiers. I can see both perspectives, but know that if I was treated like that by a coach, I would have been extremely uncomfortable. If I ever treated a kid like that as coach, I would have felt ridiculous. That doesn’t mean everyone should. That’s just me.

  3. Mark Thrice

    These two topics on the pros and cons of keeping Coach Crean, especially the Bryant hug, do emphasize the dichotomy of perspectives and opinions of IU fans. Seems, though Kent, that you were holding back.

    On the Con Crean points:

    1. Crean’s style of play and the disconnect to the Indiana-style of play was one item that has kept the ‘con’ or ‘let Crean go’ side to have serious legs. Lack of defense, too many turnovers, up-tempo play, too many wings, soft players, lack of strength opponents pre-B1G, lack of leadership on court, lack of go-to players.

    2. The disconnect seemed to get traction the more Crean hyped the next year players and teams only to have the teams fade in the B1G conference games late in the seasons. This point is routinely referred to as the underachieving of the team or by Coach Crean.

    3. The problems off court seemed to not be properly dealt with by Crean. They happened again with the same players. Echos of Dan Dakitch’s dismissal of a platoon of bad actors; but, handled differently by Crean with continuation of bad press.

    4. Strange substitutions and lack of effectiveness in in-game tactics really put off many fans.

    5. Creaning also known as too few scholarships with too many signed recruits coming in caused some confusion and more disconnect. Lack of upperclassmen and lack of high basketball IQ seems indirectly related to this issue.

    6. Glass’ extension of Coach Crean after 2013 with the exceedingly high buyout caused more disconnect. Even the articles I am discussing here seem to imply incorrectly that IU would have to put out cash to buy out Crean. When in fact any buyout would be offset by Crean’s future income from other basketball coaching gigs. Of course any settlement likely would include cash over time.

    7. All of the above lend to the mediocrity argument. The longer we keep Crean the more IU fans and administration get comfortable with a Sweet-16 goal. Say goodbye to any hope of a National Championship and not just under Crean. The lack of consistency means there is no guarantee that Crean will ever improve and the teams will ever do better than a Sweet 16 followed by underachieving.

    On the Pro Crean side:

    1. Crean is the horse we rode in on. He is here. Is there anyone better and willing to come in. I actually trust Glass to know who is out there and who will be a good fit at IU.

    2. Crean and the team have changed this year. There is serious improvement throughout the year. Turnovers..down; leadership..up; upperclassmen seem to be making a difference; team chemistry is better; substitutions were better; in-game execution was better.

    3 Taking a team to the sole lead of the B1G conference games is a big deal. Repeating that feat is huge.

    4. Recruiting players that fit and have a decent basketball IQ and better team orientation is noted.

    5. The baggage of phonegate and the fallout from that may have hampered Crean’s effectiveness at recruiting. Crean didn’t have anyone to hold up as examples to prospective recruits here at IU except for Wade. That is until Cody and Dipo happened.

    6. The trend is decidedly up.

    For those reasons…and things did change since Maui…I say…keep Crean for a few more.

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