Relax, Tom Crean still needs time, friends

  • 01/28/2010 10:33 pm in

Sorry for the lack of writing from yours truly this week, but duties of the day job combined with a killer sore throat have left me sidelined for a few days. As I found my way back to the computer Thursday night, I stumbled across this piece from earlier this week by Matt Snyder at FanHouse.

Titled “Crean’s Hoosiers Still on Roller Coaster,” Snyder dives into Tom Crean’s first 21 months on the job in Bloomington. He mentions the complete overhaul the program underwent and also talks about the up-and-down play this season. Aimed more towards a national audience, none of this would be news to those of you that frequent ITH.

But towards the end, Snyder looks toward the future and makes a few pointed comments that seem to suggest that the honeymoon could come to an end for Crean next season. Here’s a few of them:

Crean will probably continue to receive a free pass as the team skates to its second consecutive season without a post-season game. That will all change next year, however.

There is no reason that the 2011 Hoosiers shouldn’t be a big part of Selection Sunday.

Remember when Crean took the job and, when asked why he took over such a dire situation, kept saying, “It’s Indiana” with a big smile? Well, come next season, the roller coaster isn’t going to be suitable anymore.

Beginning in 2011, the next time Crean doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament will be very problematic. After all, it’s Indiana. We don’t do roller coaster seasons. We do Final Fours.

Look, I think we can all agree that Indiana making the NCAA Tournament next season would be fantastic. But to say it will be “very problematic” if it doesn’t happen? I’m not buying it.

Here are the facts: Yes, next year’s team will be a year older, more confident and more experienced. And yes, next year’s team will (fingers crossed) enjoy the presence of Maurice Creek for a full season.

But let’s not forget that this restoration project is still in its infancy. That’s why Crean has a 10-year contract. Shortcuts aren’t being taken. Rome wasn’t built in a day, folks. To expect a jump from sub .500 this year to a “big part of Selection Sunday” is asking a little much, no?

As someone who’s had the opportunity to watch Crean work both on the recruiting trail and the sidelines, I’m convinced the man is building the program the way it should be built.

And as easy as it might be to look at the quick turnaround at a program like Kentucky, Indiana tried the win-at-all costs solution with Kelvin Sampson. It didn’t work.

Will he make mistakes? Absolutely. Will we analyze those mistakes and second guess decisions that are made? That’s what fans do. But before you go adopting the “After all, it’s Indiana. We don’t do roller coaster seasons. We do Final Fours,” approach, sit back, relax, remember Indiana had been to one Final Four in 16 seasons before his arrival and let the man do his job.

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  • Vslice

    Coop, I read your post all the time. I generally agree with the things you say. Im, RHF, Vslice, Real Hoosier Fan. I guess it depends on what day it is (my name that is). Its easy to be critical when we are losing. I think it was the Minnesota game, the morning after I got on Hoosier Scoop expecting some excited fans. Nope, nothing but a bash fest. I guess Crean cant catch a break even when we win. But yeah your right, its not all about tradition. There is a lot more to the equation. Honestly for the rest of this year, I dont care if we win another game, (though it would be nice) seriously. I want the team to be able to be in every game. Fight like a team thats hungry for a win, tired of losing. If they do that I will be a happy camper. If they do that, I guarantee you IU will win a few more games. If they hustle and heart isnt there in the second half of the big ten season, its gonna be a long, ugly couple of months. By the way, do you live in Florida?? If so, do you try to keep up on Will Sheehey and Yeguette?

  • There's a reason some of the wins look more luck than skill, IU isn't good yet. We don't have the top-to-bottom talent to look good game in and game out and show consistent improvement. This is probably why I overly defend Crean right now, because I don't think this is his fault yet.

    Not that I'm against constructive criticism, but we're criticizing a team because we're not happy with the improvement, when he's had one real recruiting class. I just don't know how to distinguish between we're not improving and the talent just isn't that good yet, you know what I mean?

    It's tough to show improvement against the likes of Big Ten teams when you're at such a disadvantage experience and talent wise. Look at VJIII, he's arguably IU's best player and leader at the moment, as a sophomore. He wouldn't even start for MSU, Purdue or Ohio State, and most likely wouldn't for Minnesota or Wisconsin, yet he's our go-to-guy. He would have been an afterthought in recruiting for those schools, yet, along with Nick Williams, was IU's marquee recruit last year.

  • Agree Jerry, IU is coming off a brutal loss, and has had a week to prepare. I expect the toughness the team showed in the Minnesota game.

  • Vslice

    Here's some more exciting posts. These posts concentrate mainly on how TC cant coach after IU actually won a very exciting OT game against Minnesota. I grant you it was kind of ugly and it almost slipped away, but it didn't and a victory is a victory. Everyone should know that with this team victories aren't always going to be pretty. You will also view several other posts questioning why people get on here after a great win and continue to question the program, TC, and all these young players busting theirs butts.…. Do you need more? Because I think you need to get real and see how negative these fans are being right now toward CTC and the Indiana program. Hate breeds hate, if people continue to question TC in a negative way (I'm not talking about constructive criticism) this program will continue to struggle. Bad vibes equal bad results. Can you feel it??

  • oldiugymnast

    Since I grew up in Hoagland and learned to play basketball there, I have to ask…. are you on drugs? I hardly learned anything from the crappy coaches we had in middle school. I learned way more from playing pick-up ball after wrestling practice or in games on the other side of town. Not to say that kids didn't learn to play decent ball there (at least I learned how to execute a pick and roll… Apparently hear in CA, that means you have great bball IQ), but Heritage High School's girls team usually could beat the boys team. Well, maybe you are part of that storied women's program… so maybe you are talking about that side of the Hoagland skill development.

    That said, I agree with you that some people expect too much and others expect too little. I grew up in the little town of low expectations. I get it. That is why I got as far away from there as you can get and still be in America. I think you are underestimating what Coach Crean is doing (and not paying attention because I totally understand what offense they are supposed to be running and why they are not executing very well). Two of their best players are out injured and given the fact that Dumes is now some sort of team leader, I think you gotta give coach a break… and about 4 years to have enough depth to really compete at the top level consistently.

  • cooper

    Its pretty tough to make chicken salad out of chicken $hit and thats what Crean is dealing with.

  • CutterInChicago

    I cannot comment on Iowa's style and half-court sets but I do agree that it would be a good thing to have the ability to set up some form of half-court sets (e.g. some pick and roll with VJ3 and Watford) that we could utilize, especially if the offense bogs down in the first 20 seconds of a possession. I've never really understood why a team does not have a set of plays that they can run in the last 15 seconds of the shot clock if for no other reason than to avoid the “Bracey Wright dribbles for 33 seconds and chucks a trey” offense.

  • MikeinNC

    Clearly Crean inherited a program that was in a stage of epic meltdown – far worse than most rebuilding jobs (read: Iowa). If he can finish this year with a record close to .500 (still a big if at this point) then I think you have to say he has made meaningful progress, especially given the loss of Creek for the season. The GPA improvement would also imply that we actually have student-athletes on the team now, and have hopefully upgraded the character level of the players in the program now.

    That said, I would feel a lot better if I saw three things that I am don't feel like I am seeing today: 1) A clear identity for the team and program (ex: Wisconsin); 2) ongoing improvement in fundamentals relevant to said identity, and 3) consistently hard-nosed, fearless, high intensity play both on the road and at home.

  • Thanks IUMIKE1 those are kind words, and I also have noticed myself agreeing with your thoughts quite often as well. I just think we need to realize that, yes there are things Crean could possibly do better in-game at this point, but with the hand we've been dealt he's almost hamstrung. How can we tell what his real coaching tendencies are until he has a full squad.

  • Taskmaster75

    Crean needs a lot more time. It will take a lot of stomach to live through these next few years, but eventually things will be like they should.

    Anyway, I heard from the newspaper that Crean threw his players out of the Locker Room after watching Iowa outrebound them on tape, and also threw them out of the gym for not being worthy to play there. Any truth to this?

  • ronb

    Just because someone posts that they dislike Coach isn't grounds for believing that he is a bad coach. Most students of basketball would say that Roy Williams at North Carolina is a great coach who has won a National Title and has won at least 1 game in the NCCA tournament in 20 consecutive seasons. Right now there are a lot of negative comments about his coaching abilities. His team is 13-7 and 2-3 in the ACC. Fans down there think NC should always be in the final four. He has a roster full of 5 star players and McDonald's all Americans. IU has no players with that kind of hype. So has Roy Williams lost his coaching skills?? His team is averaging 16.2 turnovers a game slightly higher than IU's 15.9. So can't he teach them fundamentals?? Can't he get his team to show up for games? These are crazy statements about a coach that has a 80% winning percentage. Now I am not saying that Tom Crean is a great coach like Roy Williams yet, but some day he may be. NC has team chemistry problems and young players but I am sure Roy Williams will get it fixed with TIME. My point is that here is a team with all the things these negative posters say IU needs and they are having a bad season by NC standards. If, Tom Crean, gets enough TIME to get a competitive team and can't compete to IU standards then I will be asking these accountability questions. This is really his first recruiting class and by the TIME they are Juniors and Seniors he should have a great team. It is way to early in his IU career for all this hate some of these folks are posting. He deserves a chance to fix the mess he was handed.

  • BFowler

    There are a few things at play here. First, the writer of the article does not take into account that to begat winning, you must first win. Now, Tom Crean individually has won and he has a success stories to point to (Wade, obviously, but also Steve Novak and Travis Diener were/are NBA players), however, the culture of Indiana has to be rebuilt. Winners want to come to a winning situation, so when they do not see the ability to win (on the only stage that matters, the NCAA tournament), they will not come to a place that does not allow them to perform on that stage. So, in order to create a culture of winning, you must first win. The culture of Indiana recently, has not been associated with winning.

    Second, we, as Hoosier fans, have a reason we are fans of this program. Whether it be that we appreciated the way the teams played, the winning associated with the program, the coach, we are alumni, it was the only thing on the crappy, three channel, 13' black-and-white tv, or we like what our parents or influencing adults like; there is a reason we root for the Hoosiers. When they do not perform the way we are used to or think they should, naturally, we want to project winning or a winning attittude towards the team. Therefore, in our culture, where instant gratification is expected, we have a knee-jerk reaction to what we perceive as weakness or less-than-desired outcome.

    Third, we expect improvement and we want to look at the upcoming season as better than the one before. We look for any reason to be optimistic because we want so badly for that to be true. However, when unrealistic expectations meets unrealized potential, disappointment is the only reasonable outcome. Therefore, we need someone to blame when expectations are not met. Therefore, the “fire Crean” attitude from a select group of people.

    Fourth, it is very easy to react to a game like Iowa, where the Hoosiers were actually favored, as an upset fan. It is always easier to remember the negative than the positive (except in the case of RMK for a lot of fans). The negatives stick with us better (especially for competitive people). Therefore, we respond negatively and have negative feelings toward the people we blame for the negative feelings. (No, JerryCT, I am not talking about you, your views are legit.)

    Now, away from the psychology. I do not believe that most rational IU supporters feel the way the article descibes us. We are sometimes irrational, but we are realistic the next day. We look at the product on the floor and it does not resemble the one we grew close to (motion offense, strict man-to-man defense, tough and winning teams), and that bothers most of us.

    I think, on one hand, that Coach Crean does not use his players' strengths well enough. He seems like he is trying to jam players that do not fit his system into his system. Like hammering the square peg into the round hole, hoping it will come out round. It seems as though TP especially has taken a step backward. On the other hand, I bet Caoch Crean feels like he needs to show future recruits that this is his style of play and it should be shown how they can fit into it. I like Coach Crean; he is full of energy and enthusiasm, and that is contagious. He has a plan that he believes will win and he sells that to everyone he meets.

    I guess, all that was to say this: I support Coach Crean and I believe he will win here. I do not believe fans have anything to do with him being fired (although rich alumni….that's another story). I do not believe Fred Glass has unrealistic expectations of this situation, so I believe that regardless of tournament participation, Coach Crean will be our coach beyond the 2011 season and we will ultimately be ecstatic about that.

  • JerryCT

    I agree . Sorry but this is going to be long winded but maybe my explanantion/opinion helps. Here is my sense of Crean's logic ( I have no basis to know if this is accurate ):

    1. Kids want to play transition based offense, if we run this we can recruit better than Bo Ryan
    2. We have a great on ball defender who can turn over the other team, he is also a great rebounder and can start the transition game with no needed outlet pass. He is our most experienced player

    3. lets be overweighted on the transition game of up tempo dribble drive type sets . This works pretty well when the defense is getting stops and rebounds and we get open shots early in the clock.
    Defense of Crean: You would do the same if you had Rivers and the best screener in the B10, Pritchard

    PROBLEM: We don't have Creek to finish, Roth to pop, and our defense is not as good as it needs to be and Rivers is struggling to finish to make this work. After the intial failed ” quick hitter” in transition we struggle to get into the “secondary” offense and more often than not reset late in the clock w high ball screen and the dribble drive……again.

    DILEMNA: Given we are half way through the season does he go back to the drawing board or change schemes ?

    GOOD NEWS: Recently however , but only briefly , we showed a double high stack which I thought was the beginning of some Northwestern style motion offense. It is rare to see but we have it in the offense play set.

    ILLINOIS GAME: I will be watching the game for any off ball screens by Pritchard to shake Watford/ Jones/Elston loose for a quick pop. If you see this then we are progressing toward a new weapon.

    Like others I am not as interested in wins right now as I am in “progress” and ” possibilities ” for the future. Too bad that there are idiots posting on other sites that have no clue how difficult Crean's job is

  • JerryCT

    Agreed BFOWLER….except for one thing of course.

    With a player like Rivers and a deadly screener like Pritchard and guys who can pop like Jones, Dumes, Creek, Watford, Roth , Elston and Hulls why would you NOT run transition offense ……… I think Crean was in fact putting a round peg in a round hole.

    Things have not been perfect along the way however and now he faces a round hole with an oval peg . If Crean has made a mistake I would say it was the overweighting of the dribble drive stuff when Hulls and even Rivers have more experience in a different offensive scheme


    My two all time favorite teams, The Indiana Hoosiers……..and anybody and I do mean anybody that happens to be playing the big blue slimers. Living in southern IN gives an IU fan another whole level of hatred for these cheaters.

    Did I mention I hate Kentucky too.


    I also have read the posts of the………..well I don't think they allow words like I am thinking right now to be posted, person that goes by the name of stevealford. His extreme negativity leads me to believe that this person is either a purdon't troll or simply an idiot either way it must really suck to be him. Something tells me that if he isn't a purdon't troll he probably has statues of Alford and Knight that he worhsips faithfully numerous times every day. Do all of us true IU fans a big favor stevealford please go away and never come back.


    You hit the nail on the head, bingo, you are 100 % correct and all the other lines such as these. As is usually the case I agree with your post and it cut straight to the point in a no nonesense way.


    Long winded ? A good post of an informed IU bball fan is almost never too long for this fan. Maybe this is just me trying to feel better about some of my late night just a little bit too long vent / get it off my chest ramblings. You put things out there that are fun to discuss and gives the knowledgable fan ( e.g. someone that does not just watch what is going on where the ball is ) some things to maybe pay a little more attention to when the next game is played. Not saying that I always agree with you or will agree with you about a certain aspect being discussed but I am not so petty that I can never think to myself hmmm JerryCT is right about that glad he put that out there. It makes it more fun after a win or a loss to bounce things off each other to see what others think.

  • ronb

    This is a very good post and you said how I feel better than I could. You are so right about how easy it is to be negative. I believe!

  • Vslice

    Yea no doubt, he definitely leads the charge when it comes to slams and negativity. He used to make me mad but I've honestly learned to ignore most all of what he says. What's funny is every now and again, theres someone who will agree with him. Heres another example, there is an article about J. Rivers achievements as a student athlete that somehow turns into a war of words between fans loving Bob Knight vs. fans that supposedly “worship” Tom Crean. This is exactly what I'm talking about, this kid is trying to be recognized for his achievements and people cant give him his do without arguing about how they like Crean but really will start hating him if they keep hearing too much “man love for him” or something.…, yet Casey is the one telling me to “get real”. OK, sure thing wink, wink!!!!

  • Diesel

    Well said Ron. I've thought of UNC several times this year in light of our situation and it offers a great perspective to those Hoosier fans who have lost sight of reality.


    Remembered that set of posts as soon as I read the first one and remembered thinking “what an a-hole” and pretty much it being a tie between being too pi$$ed off to type something in rebuttal to him and thinking that he is just not worth the time and energy it would take to do it. I bet he secretly watches and cheers for the Kantuckee pussycats.

  • GFDave

    There is just way too much balance, sense, grounding and perspective in all of these posts for this to be the intertubes. I must be having a dream.

  • Dirk

    Something that bothers me about college sports are people who are “fans” of teams. I'm not a “fan” of IU. I'm an alum and IU is my alma mater. That's why I root for IU and always will even if they hire a cheat for a coach.

  • Let them jump on the bandwagon then. They are not true Hoosier fans then and IMO they don't need to be. Things always get worse before they get better. Everyone sees what Cal has done at UK and expects that. Well that isn't Typical. We tried that with Sampson remember? And look what it got us. And look what Cal has gotten Memphis and Umass into. I think there is more to rebuilding the program then making the tournament now. There is alot of Pride at stake here.

  • I feel you. Livin in Corydon is hard these days. All of the Sudden everyone is a UK fan. I hate the fan base more than anything. And Coach Cal. What a Jerk.

  • Casey

    Slice, when I read your first post, I perceived what you were saying is that there is “sooo much negativity in b-town” in regards to CTC. I’m pretty sure now that what you were referring to is the current state of Indiana Basketball, which sadly I think most people would agree with. In reference to the people that are slamming TC on a daily basis and saying that he is the wrong guy for the job, I’m glad that you posted those links because it exemplifies the type of “fans” that have been calling for his head. I’m aware that there are a handful of these types of people on the boards relentlessly trying to spark negativity, but the knowledgeable and/or optimistic fans far out weigh these posters and for the most part ignore these simple minded comments. As others have pointed out, most of these superficial posters frequent certain blogs more than others and in my opinion, a large part of the reason that the boo birds go unnoticed in our lives outside the internet is that most of us don’t interact with these type of “fans”. Just to reiterate what you stated, we all need to keep in mind that being critical of the players and coach is at times just part of being a fan and I don’t think that this equates to being negative, slamming CTC, or saying he isn’t fit for the job. I just think that even talking about the possibility of running Crean out of town at this point is very premature.

  • gregamstutz

    Im sorry, I agree with Mr. snyder. Everyone says that Crean is such a great recruiter, then recruit a big man already. All of Creans main recruits next year are more guards, we have guard, we need big men. And Speaking of guards, Crean has no reason to put Danielle Moore in the game unless were up or down 40. I feel that Tom Crean is to blame for all of our losses this seaon. The substitutions are rediculous, Pritchard's garbage, we have no size in the paint, poor Watford has to play out of postion, River's can't make a jump shot. But inside all that crap we do have talent on that team, I just feel that Crean in not putting the right personell on the floor.

  • dougbiker

    I still remember when IU went to NCAA tournament every year, even if they often got knocked out in the first round. But some idiot decided to send his son to bait Coach Knight into getting kicked out of Indiana basketball. And, as a result, ruining Indiana basketball! Coach Creen is a good guy, but, last I saw, his draft class wasn't even CLOSE to Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois.

  • jennifer Brattain

    I have been an IU Basketball fan my whole life. I live in the middle of Illinois and have had the nickname Hoosier since I was I freshman in college. Although I never attended or graduated from
    IU, I have IU staff all over my house. I remember how exciting 1987 was. I can say I am not used to seeing the Hoosiers lose. If Crean does not get in the NIT next year it may be time for a change. IU needs to get back to being one of the major basketball programs in the country and their winning ways. That includes national championships and final fours. I am tired of the youth and
    rebuild excuse.

  • Rex Michel

    I just hope he gets it done. I believe he will.