Tom Crean had two options in leaving Indiana – admit his flaws led to uneven results, or point fingers at IU’s administration as those who caused his program to belch and sputter during three of the last four seasons.
Clearly, Crean and his family have chosen the latter, but his brothers-in-law are playing attack dog so Crean can appear to be above the fray.
I understand a brother-in-law getting pissed off about his sister’s husband getting axed from a high-profile job, but John and Jim Harbaugh’s whining about Crean’s ouster at IU is as absurd as it is factually bereft.
The Harbaughs made their case in a post on si.com by Michael Rosenberg, who spoke to the Harbaugh’s at nauseating length, but explains away the one-sidedness by saying he left an unreturned message for IU athletic director Fred Glass. I guess in today’s journalism putting up a one-sided post beats waiting for a legitimate and circumspect look at a coaching change.
The comments by the Harbaughs predictably cast blame upon the administration as the culprits in Crean’s inability to succeed. Rosenberg himself seemed miffed that IU didn’t extend Crean’s contract after last year’s Big 10 championship – as though that would have been the tonic needed to get IU over the hump during this final season.
Indiana, in truth, has supported Crean exceptionally well. Under Crean, Indiana had the largest recruiting budget in the Big 10 – nearly 10-times that of the far more successful Wisconsin Badgers. He was the second highest paid coach in the Big 10 and the eighth highest in America. Crean will walk away from Indiana with a guarantee of being paid another $4-million over the next three years.
One thing is certain – the Harbaughs understand coaching, and in coaching when you admit responsibility for failure, it is not a good strategy in getting another job. Throwing blame at the AD or GM explains away what might have become a black mark on a resume’.
By reading the Harbaugh Family’s wildly one-sided opinions about the athletic administration, you would think that during his nine-years at IU that Crean never lost a game – it was Glass operating in opposition to Crean’s wishes that made it impossible for the team to function properly.
Even the silly story about Crean’s son Riley entering a Bloomington North basketball game to a chorus of “Tom Crean sucks!” is repeated. The true story is that several students from the opposing school started the chant and were almost immediately silenced by a school administrator. Hardly, the seminal moment of irrational Hoosier dissent it is made out to be.
Here are some of the more bizarre claims by the Harbaughs in the post:
“In the end, it was the lack of support that basically takes its toll the most. You want to feel like you’re part of a team and you’re doing it together. It’s about knowledge, loyalty and leadership. This is the merry-go-round that Indiana athletics has been on forever.”
Working together is a two-way street. Perhaps it was Crean who was not always rowing in the right direction, and should have changed course. Crean was given all the resources necessary to succeed at Indiana – the recruiting budget being just one example. Publicly and privately, Glass has been nothing but extraordinarily supportive of Crean. The Harbaughs leaping to damn Indiana and praise Crean without any partial admission of culpability is an excellent example of the family’s bias (which is entirely understandable) and the author’s agenda (which is not).
“They haven’t supported a coach at Indiana since Branch McCracken.”
Bob Knight was supported through one embarrassing episode after another and won three national championships. The firing – as a result of a nonsensical zero-tolerance edict from Myles Brand – was the first and last time the university failed him.
“Even when they had successful seasons they really weren’t celebrating that. It was what they should have been doing better.”
That depends upon the definition of success. Indiana never advanced beyond the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, never won more than one game in nine Big 10 Tournaments, and failed to win more Big 10 games than they lost in three of the last four seasons. They cut down the nets at Assembly Hall to celebrate a Big 10 Championship after a loss. There were lots of celebrations, but no Final Fours or Big 10 Tournament finals appearances. Crean was given a pass for three seasons as he rebuilt the program, and prior to coaching a game was given a two-year contract extension because things were worse than he thought.
Celebrations and support was plentiful – sometimes embarrassingly so.
Is the athletic administration at Indiana perfect? No. Was Crean to blame for every loss? No. But was Crean the fall guy for departmental woes? Obviously not. Should SI.com be in the business of printing what amounts to an op-ed piece authored by the Harbaughs? There was a time that would have been unthinkable.
In my world, you report the truth. And in my world, you thank an employer for the opportunity to hold a great job for nine years, and for the approximately $28-million they gave you for that privilege.
Obviously, the Harbaughs and editors at si.com do not live in my world.
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.