It’s an “old saying,” according to Tom Crean. I’ve never heard it, but then I’m not that old.
Whatever its age and origin, it hit close enough to home after the 78-46 loss to Wisconsin that Crean was willing to give up practice time to get his players into the film room, where they were required to critique their own performances, rather than hearing it from the coaching staff.
“Every once in awhile, you’ve got to give up the floor for the film room, and I thought that was yesterday,” Crean said Saturday afternoon inside the coaches’ locker room at Assembly Hall. “It’s one thing to see it on paper. It’s another thing to see it yourself and have to call it out in front of your teammates.”
So Crean gathered his charges in the the foyer of that same locker room where he met the media, and the Hoosiers graded themselves. Crean said he hopes the sense of accountability brought about by the exercise will continue to foster growing leadership within the program.
“The best thing that happens — this is hard for guys — is that they verbalize it before the coaches do,” Crean said. “But again, it’s all part of the progress that you have to make.”
That progress could be measured as soon as Sunday, when the Hoosiers travel to Iowa City to face a team that, like the Hoosiers, has just three Big Ten wins in 15 tries. But the tables have turned significantly since both teams met, something Crean and his team have not forgotten.
When Iowa made the trip to Bloomington, the Hoosiers were riding a two-game winning streak and finally appeared to be making the tangible progress so many fans had clamored for in Puerto Rico or against Loyola-Maryland. Then they ran into the Hawkeyes, who outhustled and outmuscled them at Assembly Hall, dealing the Hoosiers a 15-point loss. They have not won since.
Crean admitted Saturday that his team overlooked Iowa, (“I think they embraced success a little bit in those games”) one reason why he’s placing an emphasis on his players’ mentality in Iowa City.
“I’ll be very disappointed, OK, for them, for individuals that don’t come out tomorrow understanding that we better have some toughness and fight in this game,” Crean said.
Crean credited his players for their approach to preparation and practice since the Wisconsin game. But he also pointed out that the same could be said about the build-up to Indiana’s first match-up with Iowa, lending further credence to the idea that Indiana might have taken the Hawkeyes for granted in their first meeting.
“I guess we overlooked them,” Christian Watford said. “We didn’t really take that game as serious as we took the other games. We’ve got to go up there and pay them back.”
Getting that payback, according to Crean, will demand improved defense on the pick-and-roll and in pressuring Iowa, as well as better offensive execution. He was also worried about Iowa’s solid frontline, highlighting Aaron Fuller, who Crean said worries him because Fuller has struggled recently.
Indiana right now finds itself in a strange position. It can neither afford to look past any one game, nor lose sight of the overarching goal. Even Crean admitted that he sometimes struggles to remember the “process” ongoing within his program. So when he talks specifically and metaphorically in the same breath, and both the present and future come together, it is done of necessity as much as anything else.
Take, for example, the personal-critique film session, yet another exercise that builds for the now, and for the later.
“The only way you can do it is to keep building those skills of leadership,” Crean said. “When you have to verbalize what you didn’t do, you know what? It’s important, it’s not lying.”