Is Indiana’s mediocrity this season because of injuries or incompetence?
Is it an inability to recruit Indiana high school stars or an inability of current players to invest in the process?
Is it Tom Crean as a coach, Tom Crean as a recruiter, or a series of unpleasant and unlucky circumstances?
All good questions that can be debated with the same set of facts applied through different prisms.
What cannot be debated are the records of Big Ten coaches who have been in their positions over the past six years or more years, and how Crean ranks among them.
There are eight of those coaches (including Wisconsin with both Bo Ryan and Greg Gard – Ryan resigned and Gard took over, so they receive special dispensation). We include Mark Turgeon of Maryland because he’s led the Terps for more than six years despite Maryland being a member of the Big 10 for just three seasons.
We restrict the comparison to the Big 10 records because programs play a differing level of competition doing the non-conference and postseason, so this is the best way to make an apple to apple comparison.
Here are the eight coaches/programs ranked by Big 10 winning percentage over the last six seasons:
- Bo Ryan/Greg Gard, Wisconsin – 75-31, 70.8%
- Mark Turgeon, Maryland – 36-16, 69.2%
- Tom Izzo, Michigan State – 73-33, 68.9%
- John Beilein – 67-39, 63.2%
- Thad Matta, Ohio State – 64-42, 60.4%
- Tom Crean, Indiana – 62-44, 58.5%
- Matt Painter, Purdue – 59-47, 55.7%
- Fran McCaffery, Iowa – 58-48, 54.7%
Okay, so Crean ranks sixth among the seven Big 10 coaches/programs that have not flipped leadership since 2011.
I though it also might be interesting to compare Crean’s last six years (the seasons after which he rebuilt the Indiana program) with the last six years of Bob Knight’s reign and the only six years of the Mike Davis era:
- Bob Knight – 60-42, 58.8% (total number of conference games differs because of the period the Big Ten only played 16 games, and Crean has two games left this season)
- Tom Crean – 62-44, 58.5%
- Mike Davis – 55-41, 57.2%
It’s interesting to note that if Indiana loses tonight at Purdue, Crean’s winning percentage will be 57.9%, and he will be in a virtual tie with Davis.
The extrapolation of the Knight vs. Davis vs. Crean comparison is that it may not matter a damn who the coach at Indiana is. Indiana’s Big 10 success through those six year runs that comprise 18 of the last 23 seasons is almost precisely equal.
Whatever the arguments about style, recruiting, and other subjective metrics, there is no arguing wins and losses.
Crean’s Indiana ranks in the middle of the Big 10 – just as it has for the last 23 years.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.