It’s 9:30 at night, around 45 minutes after he’s left the stage, and Tom Crean is drawing a basketball court on a napkin with a sharpie. A fan has just asked the first-year IU coach to teach him how to break a press — actually, I can’t be sure on this, because the Tom Petty and John Mellencamp blasting on the speakers in the back room hindered my hearing, but for the sake of this post, let’s just go with that — and so Crean is explaining. He’s drawing. He’s motioning with his hands. He’s showing how to throw the proper pass.
This is Tom Crean. Always on the move. Always working. Always shaking hands. Always signing autographs. He’s a bit like our new president in that way, except Hoosier Nation is considerably smaller than America, though there’s about equal struggle in each right now.
When Crean took the stage after new AD Fred Glass last evening –who I particularly enjoyed by the way — it was what you would expect. Times are tough, I’ve been frustrated many times, but we’re getting better. I will recruit the best players in the country. We’ll be back. You fans are great. The IU fanbase is the best in the country. We need a win tomorrow night against Northwestern, and your support is crucial.
But there were things I wasn’t expecting: It’s clear Crean has an impressive knowledge of Hoosier players past, as he rattled off names of players that were playing on video screens around him. He gets it, gets the history, but also sees the future. And then, he had a surprise for the hundreds in attendance: Calbert Cheaney. The all-time leading scorer in Big Ten history came to the stage and went to bat for Crean. Said he’s the man for this job, said ever since he met him, Crean has been asking him to help out in any way he can, help him contribute somehow.
I didn’t leave the bar feeling excited, or pumped up, or anything like that. The rally didn’t quite affect me in the typical way one would think it would. Instead, I left feeling relieved, feeling proud even. Tom Crean knows what it takes, and he knows how to do it the right way. In time, we will be Indiana again.
Amidst a season of epic failure, that’s about as good as it gets right now.
Crean’s entire speech from last evening at Joe’s can be heard right here:[audio:crean1272009.mp3]