Tom Crean may or may not return to coach a 10th season at Indiana, but a job opened yesterday where he could land and succeed.
Missouri and Kim Anderson are parting ways three years after he was given a five-year deal to take over for Frank Haith – just ahead of an internal investigation that accused Haith of a variety of compliance issues.
Anderson had trouble rebuilding from the rubble caused by Haith’s malfeasance, and after three years, Mizzou has had enough.
Indiana has fallen on hard times after Crean’s initial surge in rebuilding the once proud Hoosier program. A Big 10 regular season championship in 2013 has been followed by three years of non-winning conference records and one more Big 10 Championship.
The fanbase at Indiana is restless, and with an unranked recruiting class on its way to Bloomington while O.G. Anunob y, Thomas Bryant, and James Blackmon Jr. likely leave, reasons for optimism are in short supply.
Those two scenarios have converged to present Crean with a unique opportunity – to leave a situation that is deteriorating toward another for which he is uniquely predisposed.
This assumes an exit from the Big 10 Tournament prior to the finals because if IU gets that far, the bubble may beckon for the Hoosiers and all Mizzou dreams of landing Crean might be dashed.
Here are five reasons why Tom Crean is a great fit for the challenges at Mizzou:
- Been there, done that. Crean took over the ruins of the Hoosiers program after it was destroyed by Kelvin Sampson’s indifference to recruiting rules he had previously violated at Oklahoma. Crean went to work at rebuilding through diligent recruiting and tireless salesmanship. By year four, Indiana was ready to beat Kentucky (see #2) at Assembly Hall.
- Gets to play Kentucky as many as four times a season. Crean does well against the Wildcats, and while it is unlikely the Tigers will play UK twice during the regular season, once during the SEC Tournament, and a fourth time either in the NIT or NCAA Tournaments, it is possible. Crean is annoying enough to UK czar John Calipari that he refused to continue the on campus series between the two programs.
- Crean is already good at recruiting the Show Me State. O.G. Anunoby and Juwan Morgan are both from Missouri, and both committed to Indiana. They represent what Crean does exceptionally well – identify and develop raw ability. While Mizzou rehabs and rebuilds, Anunoby and Morgan are exactly the kind of players the Tigers will need.
- Crean makes Mizzou immediately relevant, and for the right reasons. If you are reading about Missouri athletics, it’s likely for reasons that do not incite pride among students and boosters. While there were a few youthful indiscretions authored by IU players during Crean’s nine seasons at IU, players graduated (many times in three years), there were no meaningful compliance issues, and the team’s APR was routinely 1,000. Three trips to the Sweet Sixteen and two Big 10 championships. Mizzou hasn’t won a conference championship since 1994, and hasn’t gone to three Sweet Sixteens in six years – as IU has – since 1988-1994.
- Fans are more patient in Columbia than in Bloomington. Missouri has not won a National Championship since 1921, and back then the championship was awarded based upon a ranking system. In Bloomington, the last of IU’s five championship banners was hung 30 years ago, and the alums, boosters, locals, and various psychotics are getting restless.
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.