The victimization of Tom Crean begins with a Harbaugh op-ed piece on

I’m guessing Jim and John Harbaugh will not be wearing these shirts again any time soon, nor did any Tom Crean led IU team justify their being printed.

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 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.

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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 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.

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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 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

13 thoughts on “The victimization of Tom Crean begins with a Harbaugh op-ed piece on

  1. ColonialCrester

    Excellent article Kent. I want to respect Tom Crean for what he did for Indiana but these SI articles and others that will come out later, will make it hard for me to do that.

  2. joel

    Not to surprising from the Harbaughs.

    “John and Jim Harbaugh’s whining about Crean’s ouster at IU is as absurd as it is factually bereft.”
    Probably so, but the ad nauseam caterwaul whining from the obnoxious,arrogant,entitled, non objective, IU faithful ,biased media, who all of them think they know whats best for IUBB is just as wretched and absurd.

    I have no skin in the game for that program, but get much joy seeing this wretched fan base get the sh!t end of the stick for awhile. For many years they exuded pompous arrogance when their team was winning.
    Nothing wrong with being a hard core fan, but the Hoosier faithful ranks as one of the most obnoxious.
    They just cant shut up.

    If they think Steve Alford is gonna come in and save this program, it will just confirm how delusional they really are. I could be wrong, maybe he would do good, but if he comes here and does not meet expectations
    every Hoosier fan’s head will blow off. You think the b!tching is bad now?! Then they really won’t shut up.

    1. seid

      yes joel. i am certain you as a hardcore fan base from whatever school you like is much more polite, and not delusional at all. probably your team and your fellow fans are pretty much the same, just with different colors and different band nerds playing different fight songs

  3. Wes

    After the three jump to the NBA and a couple of transfers, the program will be back to where it was when Crean was hired.
    No, Alford is not coming. Get real. Now IU might get Fife but he has no head coaching experience. Dayton just lost to a team they were supposed to beat. WS plays in the weakest conference around so I don’t want to hear about how great of a coach Marshall is. Glass just set the program back and I’ll bet in 6-7 years, IU is looking for another coach but a different AD will be faced with the task.
    IU is NOT a top 5 program nor will they ever be again.
    And let’s be real here. Had the injuries not happened, IU wins 6-7 more games and none of this happens. Now live with this but be prepared for an even worse season next year

    1. E

      If they have 3 leave for the NBA (not one of them will be around for more 1-3 years, if they are even drafted), how can yo say that Crean is a good coach. If (big if) you have 3 NBA’ers, then how can you have a season like they had? With 3 NBA’ers you should fall into 20+ wins.
      Everyone that supports Crean says that he brought IU back from dead. He did, so would any other coach from where they were at. The program was so far from the bottom from Sampson’s debacle, that anyone could have improved the program. However, it didn’t keep progressing consistently. Having one good season every 3-4 years is not what IU expects, whether deserved or not. If you don’t strive for excellence, then all you will be is mediocre. When a high jumper prepares to jump, he aims over the bar. Not at it. IU admin has made the decision and we need to move on to the next chapter.

    2. Demunn

      Blackmon is not going to the NBA, be real. He’ll be lucky to play in the D league. Bryant and OG will go but will be projects–no way are they ready.

      Fife was a head coach at IPFW and was reasonably successful.

      Witchita St gave UK a good run.

      6-7 games huh. Riiiiight. They lost to IPFW and Neb with those guys.

      Not a top 5 program but absolutely top 10. Notre Dame hasn’t won a NC in 29 years but it’s still a top job.

    3. Kent Sterling Post author

      Why wouldn’t Alford come? Fife was a head coach at IPFW for six years and built it from Independent doormat to Summit League winner. That’s not anything like coaching at Indiana, but he has coached and can coach. There is no chance IU would have won 24 or 25 game3s with Anunoby and Hartman. They had a healthy Anunoby through six Big 10 games and had lost three. If Indiana wasn’t going to be able to hire who it wanted, they wouldn’t have pulled the trigger.

  4. seid

    Wes – just relax. There is no comparison between the team now, even with 4-5 fewer players, and the sanction laden program Crean inherited 9 years ago. IU will be fine – they have the $$ for a homerun hire, who will hopefully take the program a level higher than it is now. Crean did a fine job getting things back together, and the next coach will do even more. Too much doom and gloom. Just see hat happens next. Not smart to sweat what happens in 2025- thats ridiculous.

  5. Dave

    Kent, how about an article on who you believe “IU” will pick for the next head coach compared with who “you” believe should be the next coach. I know you’re not a mind reader but it would still make for an interesting read.


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