Tom Crean is going to be fine – save your sympathy for someone else

This is what Tom and Joani Crean are doing today. Life could be worse, and it is for many Hoosiers.

Let’s not waste our empathy on Tom Crean.

Yeah, he was fired yesterday, and that’s never pleasant for a person.  I’m sure hearing the news for Crean was an unpleasant and emotional moment, but is it really a worth an outpouring of sympathy from fans and pundits?

People making $28,000 a year are downsized every day in the Hoosier state, and we spend no time mourning their loss when the end of their road might end in homelessness.

Crean is not going to be homeless – ever.  Not if he lives to be 550 years old.

To walk out the door, Crean is guaranteed to receive $4,000,000 over the next three years.  That number will almost certainly be offset by future income, but it’s a nice safety net.  While the coach at Indiana, Crean was paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $28,000,000.  That’s a lot of jack for coaching hoops.

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You and I would be thrilled to be fired with millions in the bank.  We would skip out of our boss’s office whistling the happiest of tunes, pack a bag, and decompress with the family for as long as we liked wherever we liked.

If Crean wants to coach next year, some university will hire him to do just that, and they will pay him roughly 100X more than that downsized employee we discussed earlier.

Crean did a nice job for the first five years of his Indiana run, and then the program fell into mediocrity.  Few are arguing that the best way forward for Indiana Basketball is with another steward – someone who can be counted on to recruit Indiana, teach fundamentals, and hold players accountable for behavior on and off the court.

Over the last four years, Crean failed in all three areas.

I’m not above sympathetic feelings for anyone getting the ax, but it’s impossible to argue that this termination was a mutually beneficial decision that will benefit Crean in the end.

And can we please stop with the “Tom is a good man” crap.  He didn’t die.  This isn’t a time for an obituarial lamentation.  He was a good to mediocre coach at a program where more is demanded.  Period.

This is a big boy world where who are are as men and women is not germane to whether we are successes or failures according to our bosses.  We get hired, get promoted, and get fired.  Rinse and repeat until we retire or die.

Tom got canned.  He drove home, hugged his wife Joani, likely sat down to explain the situation to his son and daughter, ate a sandwich, and started formulating an path with his agent toward what is next.

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It’s business.  Don’t delude yourself into believing this was some end of life moment for a guy who will continue to succeed as a college coach somewhere that is not Indiana, but pays nearly as well.

Save your tears for the people who are trying to figure out how to feed their kids this weekend.

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

11 thoughts on “Tom Crean is going to be fine – save your sympathy for someone else

  1. Brian

    I agree 100% Kent. Some of these people probably want to erect a statue to the guy. Reminds of the people who glom onto the death of a celebrity.

  2. Edward Huff

    Sounds like trying to resurrect the “mythical” ghost of Bobby Knight to me. I am an IU graduate, twice over, so I have some credibility. I have also been fired from jobs. It is NEVER a good feeling, as a human. Oh, by the way, he had a winning record. I guess that counts for very little in this brave new world. How many of you “fans” have a winning record, and get fired? Look at the plank in your eye. Sound familiar?

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Part of the issue with the winning record – especially in a season like the one that recently concluded – is that IU stacks meaningless wins in November and December against cupcakes. The Hoosiers were 8-0 in games against teams outside the RPI top 200. That means Indiana was 10-16 against everyone else. Over the last four years, IU has the eight ranked Big 10 record – 38-34. Also, Crean got fired after earning $20M in after tax cash. Probably feels a little better than when you got fired.

      1. edward huff

        I agree. I would love to see Indiana return to where they were in basketball in the 70’s and 80’s. With one caveat, a consistent ethic from a coach who is not hypocritical in many, many ways. That is all I meant.

  3. Houlio

    Spot on Kent. Maybe Crean is a nice guy? I don’t know. But my next door neighbor is a nice guy and don’t want him coaching IU basketball. Its a lazy, shallow narrative not unlike the national media yesterday who think Alford will be the next coach. Hint; he won’t be. The national media hacks also think Crean was a “GREAT” coach. Everyone must be great then because Crean’s 19 years as a head coach doesn’t scream great or even that good in my book. Carry on.

  4. Dave

    It’s funny. I’ve been telling my friends this since he was fired. Crean loyalists keep referencing his bringing back the program when it was damaged by Kelvin Sampson. Please remember he was well compensated for this and he doesn’t deserve some lifetime contract for it. People need to remember this is a business and fans have a right to want a higher level of achievement than they have received over the last 9 years. No one got screwed over here and as previously mentioned, save your tears for those who really are suffering from a termination of employment. Well said Kent!!!

  5. Deb

    Recrutment skill was alright but only that.. Not a strong coach. Players really became more under his leadersip. Never could get fundamentals and ephasize entire team philosophy implemented. Seemed to choose one or two he preferred during the games. Hope moving the ball, picks and rolls, toss in then out. Not sure one knows how to coach if never played the game. Miss that fundamental stuff.. Have been hoping for a change for many mnay years. Sampson had less talent and some rule-breaking issues, but he knew how to coach.

  6. Kent Sterling Jr.

    Some observations about Crean at IU. No particular order,

    *He won a number of games that IU wasn’t supposed to and not enough of the games IU was supposed to.

    *IU was too easily pleased with those surprised wins – almost anointing this squad as a national power – it never was. Those wins were nothing more than window dressing and maybe set the program back.

    *The IU faithful had and expectation problem – it always expected to national championships but never got beyond this notion that Crean was this gem.. we waited. we waited.. we waited

    Most significant – IU has had 10 years of lackluster achievement in football and basketball – this maybe more of a system issue – with change not coming easily.

  7. Maximum Derp

    Mizzou is off the table. Looks like NC State has their man in Kevin Keatts.

    Cal? I can see that working. Clean rep, decent recruiter, would make some sense for both parties I think. The Cal job is always talked about as a sleeping giant for all the obvious reasons: great recruiting base, excellent academics, the weather, the variety of things available to you in the Bay Area. The biggest downside is that you’d really have to accomplish a lot in that job to get Cal students and alums to care about anything but football. I’ve long been of the opinion that the West Coast simply does not lock into collegiate sports the way the Midwest and South do. These major cities are primarily pro sports markets.


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