With the news on Sunday that both Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis have contacted Tom Crean to discuss reinstatement, the new Indiana coach is faced with a pivotal decision less than a week into his tenure.
From a basketball standpoint, allowing both Bassett and Ellis to return to the program is a no-brainer. The duo represents IU’s only returning starters for next season’s team and their presence would go a long way in solidifying a shot at middle of the road stature in next year’s Big Ten race.
Unfortunately, due to the actions of both players over the course of this past season, this decision is not simply about basketball. In his press conference following IU’s loss to Arkansas, then interim coach Dan Dakich talked about changes that were needed to send the program in the right direction. And a couple of weeks later, Dakich, with the approval of the athletic department, booted Bassett and Ellis from the team.
While it is unclear exactly what type of infractions were committed to lead to their dismissal, rest assured it was much more than missed meetings and refusals to “own up” to those missed appointments. Neither guy seemed willing to let Dakich do his job in the tough situation he inherited. Ellis was shown in a few instances talking back to Dakich on the sidelines and Bassett had already been suspended once before. No matter how tough the situation was for everyone involved, their disrespectful behavior towards Dakich cannot be justified.
Now the responsibility to sort out this mess falls on the shoulders of Crean. I’m confident he’ll make the right decision for the program, the university and the players. If that means allowing both guys to return if they meet certain criteria set out by Crean, we should welcome them back to the program once they’ve paid the price. Or if Crean decides they don’t deserve another shot, I’m positive the rationale behind that decision will be plentiful.
Either way, it’s important to remember that no one individual is, or ever will be, bigger than the program.