Five takeaways from the Tom Crean era at Indiana

  • 03/17/2017 9:34 am in

Tom Crean was fired after nine seasons in Bloomington on Thursday afternoon. The move was announced just as the 2017 NCAA tournament was getting into full swing.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Crean era at Indiana:

· The results were too inconsistent: Tom Crean brought Indiana back into the national conversation by winning two outright Big Ten titles in the last five seasons.

But Crean didn’t win consistently enough.

In 2012-13, Indiana won the outright Big Ten title, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. He followed that performance up with a 17-15 record in 2013-14 and missed the postseason entirely, even with two McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster.

In 2015-16, Indiana again won the outright Big Ten title. The Hoosiers earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, beat Kentucky in the second round of the tournament and lost to eventual runner-up North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. But injuries and a lack of leadership followed in 2016-17 as Indiana finished 18-16 and lost to Georgia Tech in the first round of the NIT.

For a program that spends top ten money on its program, it wasn’t getting top ten results on a consistent basis. Ultimately, that inability to build a baseline of success was Crean’s downfall.

· The Big Ten championships were a significant accomplishment: Indiana’s two outright Big Ten championships in five seasons were glossed over by those who had their mind made up that Crean wasn’t the right fit for the job.

But winning regular season conference championships isn’t easy to do. Crean did it. Twice.

NCAA tournament success is the barometer for success in college basketball. But the postseason is largely about matchups and being able to prepare on a short turnaround.

Winning in a league that has as many great coaches and programs like the Big Ten isn’t easy. In two of his nine seasons, Crean won big in the Big Ten. That shouldn’t be forgotten.

· Crean’s Indiana teams had two major deficiencies: As great of an offensive coach as Crean is with the right personnel, his teams had two major deficiencies that prevented the program from advancing any further.

Defensively, Indiana was never in the top 20 under Crean in adjusted defensive efficiency. In the KenPom era, only one team has won a national championship with a defense ranked outside of the top 20. To build a program that is competing for national championships and Final Fours, defense is a key ingredient.

The turnovers were also a constant of Crean’s teams in Bloomington. No IU team under Crean ranked in the top 50 nationally in taking care of the ball. And three of the last four ranked outside of the top 270 nationally.

· Indiana recruited many high character kids and Crean was a positive figure in the IU community: There’s more to Crean’s tenure than just basketball. There’s a human element, too.

Indiana’s academic record under Crean was outstanding. He recruited many high character kids who were class representatives of the university. And Crean and his family were major positives in Bloomington and the IU community.

None of that should be forgotten or minimized as he departs the Indiana job.

· The program is in much better shape now than when Crean inherited it: There are very few coaches who go their entire career without being fired. It’s part of the business.

There are few who would dispute the fact that Crean inherited a mess of a program in Bloomington. Indiana is in a much better place than it was nine years ago and Crean is responsible for that.

Coaching, however, is a tough business.

Indiana fans are the most passionate in the country, but they also demand consistent success on the floor. When it isn’t achieved, the noise for something better becomes loud.

Crean’s tenure in Bloomington should be viewed as a success overall. But it will also be remembered as one that could never quite live up to the standard he set in his first press conference. This is, after all, Indiana.

Filed to:

  • Eddie McSwetty?

  • I’d be surprised if Coach K doesn’t hand pick his successor, and he not choosing one of his own.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    Your right of course, but I was feeling for him and the players.
    I thought he should be let go, but I thought about the players as well!
    I honestly liked the guy, but could not not support him any longer.
    He simply would not grow!

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    An ESPN analyst with IU ties says his gut feeling is Alford , decent coach but they gave up 80 to Kent st last night. Forget Stevens that’s a pipe dream, Donavan ,Marshall then A Miller . Although Mack may be great fit. I really hope they go after Billy D hard he is the best option but that’s just my opinion

  • pcantidote

    Nobody is pretending that, but let’s not pretend it was the entire fan base either. It was a vocal minority of obnoxious immature trashy jerks.

  • pcantidote

    Ok, that is way too good. He’s out. Next.

  • Ohio Hoosier

    Teams couldn’t play good defense, turned the ball over way too much,
    Never gave any indication that his coaching style would change (Learn
    from your mistakes). Time for a change!

  • Ohio Hoosier

    The problem with Knight at the end of his career was his
    inability to recruit the current day players. He never liked
    recruiting and would not recruit anyone with any baggage
    (perceived or otherwise). When he first started at IU he
    didn’t really have to sell the opportunity to play at IU.
    But later on because of his reputation of being so hardline
    about everything it worked against him in being able to
    recruit stud players. Also he was burned out at that age.

  • Ohio Hoosier


  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Outside of Stevens and Donovan, really none of the candidates has proven “on a stage like IU.” Alford has proven that he is a lateral move from Crean at UCLA, NM and Iowa. Marshall has proven that he can take a middling mid-major program and turn them into a Final Four contender on a yearly basis. They just keep getting screwed by the Selection Committee. According to KenPom, WSU should have earned a 2 or 3 seed this year! Instead…a 10 and matched up against UK…again.

    If you look at the Floor and Ceiling of what the next coach might bring to IU, I think Marshall brings with him the highest Floor. Under Marshall, IU would be no worse than what WSU has been over the past 6-10 years: tough, fundamental, solid on both ends of the floor, and capable of winning in March. Guys like Donovan and Stevens offer higher Ceilings for the program, but I don’t think even they offers as high of a Floor. They’ve both been out of the game for a bit.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    True, but we could say that about Donovan and Stevens too. Donovan won with Horford, Brewer and Noah both years. Stevens won with an NBA lottery pick…not typical for a mid-major.

  • No, they had a coach who could make adjustments and avoid things falling apart and missing the tournament with so much talent. Their ceiling was lowered a bit, but they didn’t fall through the floor. You’re capable of understanding that, right? I mean, I understand that you don’t want to concede that you might have been wrong about TC, and you’re going to hold onto your illusions for as long as you can, but you can at least _get_ what I”m saying, right?

  • INUnivHoosier2

    Not easy in practice, but it doesn’t require outstanding academics. That was my point really, that you don’t need to be any more than academically average to achieve a high APR.

  • AndyCapp

    Only a fool would compare RMK to Crean… and way to cherry pick RMKs final 6 years to Creans. Let’s include Crean’s first three years then and look at their overall record over *that* nine year span! What a joke.

    I was only taking issue to calling Crean “great”. If you think he was then the next coach should have a pretty low bar to impress you with.

  • AndyCapp


  • marcusgresham

    Inability? I think it was more indifference. He quit caring or trying to recruit.

  • Outoftheloop

    Note to Thomas Bryant: do NOT
    plan on the NBA Draft this year, just in the B1G you rank below Swannigan- PU, Happ- WI, Waggoner- MI for Bigs!

  • John D Murphy

    Two dance notes TC related. Stanford Robinson went for 21 pts tonight. 10/12 from the field (both misses from 3 pt). Wonder which hand he is shooting with? And 2nd, UCLA (which leads the nation in scoring) had only 3 TO’s against a very good D defensive Cincy team tonight. Going fast isn’t an excuse for high TO’s.

  • henryhansen

    Your assumption is that Crean broke through. Which, I’m sorry to say, he didn’t. He coached IU for 9 years. He only had 2 All-Americans during that time (Zeller and Oladipo). He recruited more that should have been in that rare air, but didn’t break through (Vonleh, Bryant, and yes Yogi). He only had winning records against 2 B10 teams during that time – Rutgers and Penn State. He had a couple good regular seasons that ended horribly. He did beat UK a couple times…I’ll give him that. He’s a fine guy, but really, how can anyone argue that hiring another top 20 coach ten years ago (which is what Crean was) wouldn’t have likely produced similar, if not better results?

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