Former IU coach Tom Crean is the Rube Goldberg of basketball

To succeed as a coach, Tom Crean needs to understand more about people than he does about basketball.

Basketball according to former Indiana coach Tom Crean – Winning Basketball = LB/7 + 3s(7)

Simple concepts allow students to understand.  Reducing the complicated into basic easy to understand bites of information is the key to allowing people to understand them.

Basketball is an easy sport.  On offense, create open shots and make them.  Defensively, limit open shots and rebound misses.  Easy.

Former IU basketball coach Tom Crean became a former coach because he was very adept at needlessly complicating the simple.  The result was confusion on the court, and a confused team is never going to be confident.

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Yesterday, Crean took to Twitter to share some hoops philosophy on the day many of the biggest summer youth tournaments begin in Las Vegas.  As is always the case with Crean, the intent was righteous.  He wants players and teams to play basketball the right way and succeed in a venue where it is rarely required..

Here is the tweet –

“It’s hard to lose when your team is getting 70% of the 50/50 balls and getting 3 stops in a row 7 or more times in a game. Toughness Matters”

Crean has taken a message about toughness, and expanded it to calculus so confusing I’m not sure what he’s talking about.  Stops are good.  Getting three consecutive stops seven times is bewildering.

Getting the ball in 50/50 circumstances is good.  Getting 70% of them is confusing.  Why not 80%?  Why not try to get 100%?

Crean tries to reverse engineer basketball to create goals that lead to a positive outcome, but basketball is about five players simultaneously committed to a fundamental process through toughness and precise execution.

Basketball is about process in the moment.  Results come from the execution of that process.

Get tough.  Be sound.  Develop skills.  Yes, yes, and yes.

Winning = LB/7 + 3sX7 makes a kid’s eyes roll back in his head.

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Score points.  Limit opponents opportunities to score points.  That’s simple.

Simple basketball is the best basketball.

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

14 thoughts on “Former IU coach Tom Crean is the Rube Goldberg of basketball

  1. John

    If kids are being coached properly, then Coach Crean’s comments should not be mind blowing. If Brad Stevens or Coach K would have made this statement people would have treated it as gospel. Based on the concepts above I can be a multi sport pro coach

    Baseball = hit the ball or get walked to score more runs than the other team
    Football = score more touchdowns or field goals than the other team
    Soccer = score more goals than the other team

    Ready for my millions

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Now you’re beginning to understand.

      “See ball, hit ball,” is a part of every hitting lesson excellent hitting coaches provide. Keeping it simple makes action and effort repeatable. Involving wacky math resonates with people who enjoy math more than sports.

      Brad and Coach K would never write or say anything that patently kooky.

    2. Jim Reamer


      Brad Stevens has a coaching mantra. “First things first.” That’s it. It’s simple and progressive. The next play. The next drill. The next decision. First things first.

  2. Joel Cooley


    There wasn’t anyone within Hoosier Nation more relieved at Tom Crean’s firing more than I was. Hiwever, your attack on his tweet is absolutely ridiculous, and honestly, uninformed and stupid.

    Perhaps he was wishing to couch his points in some sort of mathematical nomenclature just to be catchy. Thats not atypical whatsoever, as all coaches use memorable phrases, quotes, acronyms, what have u to help stick in a players mind and drive home a point.

    And even if u do think its too much, his points of
    emphasis absolutey do line up to what a true reflection of toughness in basketball is. I mean, where is he wrong?

    How is getting 3 defensive stops in a row 7 times in a game confusing? Its not. And hopefully u have a coach that can motivate toward and demand that.

    And what is your point behind saying that it shouldn’t be a goal to secure 70% of 50/50 balls, but 80%? I mean, i would have to believe it is more realistic to get 70% than it is 80%, but again, that isn’t really the point, though, because the point is toughness, and all coaches point to defensive stops and 50/50 balls as TEAM defensive stats that point directly to TEAM toughness.

    So then, what exactly is your point?

    The irony of this whole thing, is that the very thing that he is preaching here, is what he was largely not able to get out of his kids w any consistency, esp as it pertains to defensive play. And that was from him not holding them accountable, not because he made the game too confusing, as you assert

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Do you really want a team on the floor trying to count number of occasions in a row they got a stop up to three? Do you really want a team to embrace the goal of 70% of 50/50 balls controlled to be the line that determines success? Leadership pulls people up through a process rather than evaluating their effort through a series of difficult to calculate metrics that whiz past the exhausted noggins of basketball players. Crean expends great energy applying math to areas that require none.

      That’s my point.

      If you believe that three stops in a row seven times in a game – or seven stops three straight times – stuck in anyone’s mind, you don’t know athletes, kids, or human beings.

      The feedback I’ve gotten from former players of both Crean and Bob Knight support every word I wrote.

      Thanks for playing!

      1. Joel Cooley

        No, your point here is to try and diminish further a man who has already been fired. And your expert advice isn’t aimed toward Tom Crean, its aimed toward and audience of readers who will likely agree w you due to Crean’s current status and your catchy way of exposing his confusionisms. Thats your point, really, that, and to get people to read your stuff.

        So, question i have now is, which former players have told u that Crean, in fact, does ask the kids to keep track during a game, mind u, of getting 3 stops in a row 7 times in a game, and also how many 50/50 balls are secured. Because most staffs do, in fact, keep track of that. The STAFF does, or a manager.

        So you are telling all of us that Crean actually had his kids do that? Can u confirm that? Because if he did, then i’ll shut up.

        Because here’s the thing: i DO agree with u, he absolutely muddled things w over-analysis (ever see a post game presser?? WOW) and from being too reliant upon analytics, etc.

        I just think the example u are giving is very likely (extremely likely) completely incorrect, and serves no purpose

  3. DownTheStretch

    For the first, and only, time in my life I have to agree with Jim Boeheim’s assessment of Crean: “He’s an idiot”!
    Keep it simple like don’t give out scholarships like they are Halloween candy. The mighty G. Gelon is transferring to, wait for it, State Fair Community College! Crean is still living off of D. Wade like Millenial is living off of mommy and daddy.

    1. Terry Johnson

      DOWN THE STRETCH, Well said . I have said the same for 9 years. The wins were gifts given by players that were too good to have Crean screw them up ! The coaching out of a folder was the dead give away . Good person , couldn’t coach .

  4. Tout

    Coach Crean was talking about the basics and how they related to that game. And his comments are pretty solid but you needed something to write about and thought, “let’s kick Crean around a bit”. Be kind. It’s the way God wants us to be. Try it.

  5. Ghost of Al Davis

    He’s the first guy Izzo called when he got the head coaching job here. If TI thinks he’s that good, I’m not going to question anything about him.

  6. Wesmont

    Sure use analytics to situations in basketball. Of course how you get stops is what matters. Looking at data is an abstraction. Getting players to achieve these results is the bottom line. And crean’s teams always failed in that regard. Shoot 42% ,great but if you make 18 turnovers a game you are no longer effective,etc. If it really is simple ,why did his teams make turnovers and fail to defend?


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