Indiana Basketball – Time to thank Tom Crean for nine years of service and replace him

Tom Crean did some good work at Indiana, and now it’s time for someone else to take the program to another level.

“The Program is in great shape – the team’s gotta improve.” Tom Crean, March 14, 2017, after losing to Georgia Tech in the opening round of the NIT.

That quote should be stitched onto a banner and presented to Crean as he leaves Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for the final time – which I’m guessing will happen later this week.

It’s emblematic of the confusion and illogic that has been been obvious within the basketball program on the floor and off for a good portion of these last nine years.

I listen to Crean last night, and then re-listened to see if maybe I missed something.  I often do that with Crean press conferences, but with the same result each time.  “The Program is in great shape – the team’s gotta improve.”  Nope, it is as nonsensical as I write it this morning as it was last night  His comments makes no more sense as the words run through my brain a second, third, and fourth time.

The players, I’m guessing, feel much the same way.  At least their on court behavior seems to convey the same bewilderment I feel.

Crean also mentioned the two Big 10 regular season championships “in four years”, which is technically true, but they weren’t during the most recent four years.  From 2014-2017, Indiana has won one championship, and in the other three seasons finished 7-11, 9-9, and 7-11.  During that four year run, IU has gone to two NCAA Tournaments with a 2-2 record.

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If a 38-34 Big 10 record over the last four years indicates “The Program is in great shape – the team’s gotta improve,”, then someone must have redefined priorities and expectations for Indiana Basketball.

The program will lose, I have been told, Thomas Bryant, O.G. Anunoby, and James Blackmon Jr. They will be replaced by three recruits (maybe more if others leave) who have been evaluated as long term contributors – not immediate impact players.

That means the IU hoops will likely bring more of the same next year.

Indiana finished this season 18-16, 7-11, and lost in the first round of the NIT after foregoing the ignominy of hosting that contest against Georgia Tech because the lack of a crowd would be a longterm embarrassment to the Indiana Basketball brand.

So “The Program is in great shape – the team’s gotta improve”?.

Of course, it isn’t, and nine years into Crean’s tenure as the architect, builder, and supervisor of Indiana Basketball, it’s time for the powers that be at Indiana University to come to the unpleasant but obvious conclusion that the IU hoops brand can stand no more of the mediocrity, confusion, and convolution that Crean has wrought.

I’m going to skip all the claptrap about Crean the man, Crean the father, Crean the doer of good deeds, and all the other “I like Tom Crean” nonsense that accompanies anything written about him.  He may be all of those things.  I hope he is.  But the Tom Crean we need to discuss is the Tom Crean who is employed as the coach at Indiana.  He’s paid to win honorably while overseeing a positive educational experience for the student-athletes who pledge their trough to Indiana.

And win is something Crean has not done at the level necessary to keep his job.

He cannot recruit Indiana anymore.  His defense cannot stop opponents.  His offense does not value the ball.  His teams cannot consistently compete in the Big 10.

And he explains it away with nonsensical blather. “The Program is in great shape – the team’s gotta improve.”.

Firing Tom Crean – or smiling broadly as another program sees his many positive traits and “lures” him away from Bloomington – is the only step to re-engage a fanbase so apparently disenfranchised that showing up for meaningful weekend Big 10 games against Michigan and Northwestern was too much to bear.  An entire balcony was empty for both events.

Indiana fans are patient, but years of fundamentally bereft basketball has left them with no choice but to avoid Assembly Hall on a nice February or March day.

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Replating is always an unpleasant choice, but it has become necessary as Indiana has become a run of the mill, mediocre, .500 team in a conference it used to dominate.

If Wisconsin can finish in the top four of the Big 10 every year since the turn of the century, is it too much to ask that Indiana do the same thing in more than one of the last four?

Who should replace Crean as the coach at IU is a conversation for another day.  That he should be replaced is a conclusion that can no longer be avoided.

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

31 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Time to thank Tom Crean for nine years of service and replace him

  1. TB

    My question: Where are Anunoby, Blackmon and Bryant gonna go? To the NBA? Really? Anunoby played 15 or so games this year. Bryant has no offensive repertoire — except to lower his shoulder, drive to the basket and get a charge or turn the ball over. Blackmon is a streaky shooter who can’t defend a high school junior varsity guard. Is there a market for that in the NBA? I have to admit: I don’t watch much NBA ball.

    1. jim marshall

      i agree have a friend who always says these three will play nba next year. i’m thinking an overseas trip for all three. they pale in comparison to so many other players. good luck to them in whatever endeavor they choose.

      1. Kent Sterling Post author

        He is leaving – or at least he planned to prior to Tom being fired. He will be a grad transfer – or would have been.

    2. Kent Sterling Post author

      OG will be a first round pick. Bryant will go in the second round. Blackmon will be a grad transfer.

  2. Fire Crean

    Glad to see some people aren’t spreading Tom Crean’s PR propaganda any longer. They always cite the regular season conference titles and ignore everything else.

    3 good seasons out of 9. 3 seasons with a winning conference record in 9 years.

    6, I repeat 6 AWFUL seasons out of 9.

    The guy is all smoke and mirrors and is completely mediocre.

    Mike Davis’ had a better overall conference record his last 4 years than Tom Crean.

  3. Maximum Derp

    What do you think high level D1 coaching interviews are like? What topics are covered? Style or recruiting? Offensive/defensive philosophies? What do AD’s look for in a coach?

    I think it varies. Smart schools would cover all of the things above plus some others…

    – What kind of culture do you want to establish? Part of that is addressed by the things above but it’s beyond that. What are your bedrock principles? What role do academics play for your players and does that mesh with the university’s priorities? How do you plan on you and your team interacting with the university community and the community at large? Basically, what do you believe in?

    – I’d want to know about your views on media, both oldline and social versions. Are you open to finding creative ways to use the media to your advantage? People often paint someone like Izzo as a luddite (he helps) wrt new media but man, the guy has used the old version about as well as any coach in memory. Lots of different ways to effectively function in this phase…everyone doesn’t have to be Tim Miles tweeting from the halftime locker room…but I’d want to know what the plan is and what the feelings are in terms of willingness to play the game.

    – What kind of staff do you want to assemble? Probably some talk about specific guys but also a general profile as to the kind of people you’d want to fill out the basketball office.

    – How do you feel about our facilities and general basketball infrastructure and commitment of resources to the program? Any coach is going to want more than what’s currently on offer, but I’d want to know specific areas of upgrade a candidate would want to see.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      They deal with all of that stuff, but there will also be a personal connection that needs to be established between Glass and the new guy. Fred is going to want to see what kind of culture the coach has built in the past. Indiana needs to be a more talented version of Wisconsin. That’s the mission. Tougher to accomplish than deciding it should happen.

      1. Maximum Derp

        IU will never be Wisconsin. Single digit TOs will never be the norm under Miller. He doesn’t want a team to play as controlled and slow as would be required to get to that number.

  4. Randy DeGolyer

    Certainly injuries disrupt chemistry no question, but looking at the situation my thoughts which mean not a thing as follows,
    1. the lack of footwork
    2. The lack of ball control and security
    3. the over all confusion on defense and being out of position.
    4. the lack of offensive flow, no identity to speak of. who are they are they transition or half court they struggle with offensive consistence.
    5. who is willing to take the leadership role or do they not have anyone to do it if not why?

    There seems to be confusion and a lack of toughness on both sides of the ball. I felt the Zeller/ Olidipo Team should of been able figure out the Syracuse 2 3 Zone but never did.

    The Turnovers are a neon sign and this area have never improved all season Why?

  5. Houlio

    Good job Kent. I’m sure you’re melting a few Crean Snowflakes with this article but it is spot on. He actually should have never been given an extension and fired after the 2014 or ’15 season. IU would likely be so much better off right now.

    The shadow of Knight continues to loom…

  6. Wally Gregg

    Thank you for the 100% accurate article on what may be the greatest underachieving group of talent ever assembled. And that is the responsibility of the coach. Marching and clapping along the sidelines while the ball is consistently given to the opponent is not acceptable at Indiana University.

    Thank you and good luck helping BIL Jim @ UM with the football team.

  7. john

    This team is in complete dysfunction, the turnover issues should be fixable. But evidently not.
    There is NO offensive flow at all, just dribble around and either throw it away or take a forced shot.
    Not sure he is capable of running a half court offense. Just run and throw it up or away….
    And really no use to talk about defensive end, cause for the most part there has not been one..
    And as far as Bryant he should try to go to NBA, but I doubt he would make it . To lazy and cries to much
    for pros.. And Blackmon Good Luck is all I can say…. OG another story, if healthy a lot of talent but had read to much of his press coverage before season. And really before injury never very often played to his potential. Doubtful even with his abilities anyone takes a chance not knowing what injury has affected with him. Crean I am Sorry but if you can’t win or get to final four with the talent you had with Zeller, Oladipo, Watford etc. you aint never going to get there. Good Luck and Bon Voyage !!!!!!

  8. Kevin Williams

    It seems to me that the players are looking for leadership on the floor and it’s not there , Then they look to the coach for the same thing. And it is no where to be found. Let’s wish Tom Crean the best in the future and move on. GO IU. !!

  9. Wes

    Yeah, every turnover the team made was coach’s fault. And yep, every missed shot, every missed defensive switch was his fault as well. Come on! You really can’t believe that bull. The players themselves admit that coach Crean worked on these issues every practice and admitted they didn’t “buy into it”. The problem with this team was that there was no team. Certain guys were thinking NBA and thus were only thinking about their own stats. KY has gone thru similar issues for the same reason. Crean is the right man for the job. And you can’t name a better AVAILABLE coach out there.

    1. john

      There out there for the right money, face it the man can’t coach. Boeheim took him to the cleaners
      when he had the best team in the nation that year…….

    2. Kent Sterling Post author

      Indiana is going to find a better coach. No coach is innocent of putting together two teams in the last four years that put together a 7-11 record. 7-11s get you two things – a Super Big Gulp and fired!

  10. Max Bess

    I don’t know what Wes has been watching, because Crean has never prrpformed anywhere close to potential. When he had Zeller Eladipo and Watford, he had the best team in the country. Even with that team he lost games to teams he never should have lost. When you play such a weak non conference schedule most of Creans teams should have gone into the conference schedule unbeaten. Bob Knight was a master at setting screens and when Crean has had the best 3 point shooters in the country, you never ever saw them set a screen for them. Knight lost his ability to recruit good big men because of his temperament and now Crean has lost his ability to recruit Indiana talent because of his incompetence.

  11. Brian

    Anyone who thinks Crean is the right coach for Indiana needs their head examined. He treats this iconic program like an NBA developmental team instead of a college program. I couldn’t care less how many “great” things he does outside of basketball.

    The man had 9 years to work his magic. The fact that he seems to be in denial about the real state of the program tells me that he will never get it. Man up Fred and give him the pink slip.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Which four? Wilson is a Fred guy. Allen is now a Fred guy. Crean belonged to Greenspan. Are you counting olympic sports?

  12. Fuzzyone

    Hate to see a guy lose a job but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team lose as badly as this one does. I watched he game last night. Where do you start! Your team has over a 20% turnover rate a you turn your head as you lob a soft pass to your teammate before you make a cut or you carelessly travel when running down the floor. You try to drive through the key just to lose to ball to a defender or out of bounds. You play a zone or whatever defense and always end up letting a guy lose for an easy and uncontested shot. I’ve seen so many all alone under the bucket points given up this year that it must be some kind of record. I think the first 7-8′ shots by GT were virtually uncontested. The IU players must not have any self respect.

    All of this is on the coach. For this to be repeated continuously over the course of the season speaks volumes. Either these fundamentals are not practiced or the players simply do not pay attention to their coach. Somewhere during the game last night, if this coach was serious about coaching he should have taken the starting five out and sat them on the bench for a length of time. Hell I think Morgan and the freshmen played better defense but for the careless turnovers he should have left them in. For certain this team, this coarch, this university have serious problems. The university needs to decide if it wants to play competive basketball and sell tickets to home games or just act like nothing is wrong. One thing for certain, I’ve never seen an IU team lose as badly as this team does.

  13. Steve

    I haven’t watched the last few games. After seeing Priller come into the Purdue game and set “picks” that look like my 10 yr old sons YMCA league, that was enough. Zero half court offense. Running a fast break 1 on 4!? 5 guards on this team and NONE of them can tell when to back off and “pretend ” to set up half court?! 3 guys on this team thinking NBA? They are as detached from reality as there coach! None of these players in fear of the bench. Defense?? You may not play well on offense every night but there’s no excuse for not D’ing up! This may sound absurd, but I don’t think coaching staff let alone the players know what help side D is. I said I haven’t watched last few games, but really, I’m not sure I’ve watched a full game since December! Sorry coach. It’s that bad and you can’t clap your hands and put an encouraging spin on this.

  14. jim marshall

    well, we got a correct decision rendered. Hope Mr. Crean and his family do well in their next assignment.
    Now we have to find a coach that knows basketball, how to teach and how to recruit. there are many fine candidates out there. We will need patience and understanding. several things that need to change about college basketball.
    1. If you haven’t fouled out and are still eligible you should get 1 extra foul for each overtime period.
    2. when the bench players gather at the score table to get their well deserved playing time the refs should call a 30 second time out and let them come in. They’ve earned the respect. the last four minutes of the game.
    3. fouling in the backourt with the intent of forcing the team that is leading to shoot fouls should be called a bench flagrant and the team that was fouled gets 2 free throws and possession again in the backourt.

  15. Geneshairpiece

    blahblahblahblahblahblah IUblahblahblah Creanbblablahblahblahbla whine complaint moan belly ache
    blahblahblahblahblah Bobby Knight blah blah blah blah blah blah Steve Alford blabblahblahblah recruiting Indiana Kids blah blahb lahblahblah past days of gloryblahblahblahblahblah Damon Bailey blah blah blah blah
    entitlements arrogance we deserve better blahblahblahblahblah this is not Indiana basketball blah blah blah blah to infinity……………………………….


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