That’s A Wrap: Tom Crean

  • 04/13/2015 8:51 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2014-2015 Indiana Hoosiers. We conclude the series today with a look at Tom Crean.

What a wild one for Tom Crean in year seven.

The season had yet to begin, and Crean faced crisis and calls for his head in the wake of the Devin Davis incident. But his team did not crumble in the wake of the accident, it bonded together and thrived. Slipups in the non-conference season happened — the home loss to Eastern Washington was particularly concerning and a sign of things to come on the defensive end — but Indiana pushed the pace, scored the ball at a strong clip and rebounded well despite its size issues. Wins against SMU, Pittsburgh and Butler, along with a close overtime loss to Georgetown gave hope.

So did a 5-1 start to the Big Ten season. The Hoosiers weren’t supposed to be this good. One prominent college hoops voice placed Crean in the coach of the year discussion. Another separated fact from fiction in the Crean saga.

But as the conference season rolled along, the mob re-emerged with their pitchforks. On paper, the back half of the Big Ten schedule was supposed to be easier. But the Hoosiers limped to the finish line — finishing 4-8 in the their final 12. Crean did a fantastic job creating a top 10 offense out of the pieces he had. He put in the work over the summer and the results were strong — something I wrote about last week. But that’s just one side of the ball. And Indiana’s defense was curiously — and historically — bad. (Alex went in depth on this last week.)

When the offense was at its maximum, Indiana could beat a talented Maryland squad by 19 despite giving up 1.10 points per possession. But in games the offense wasn’t as good, its defense gave it little hope of doing enough to pull out a victory. If that home win against Maryland was Crean’s team at its best, its loss on Feb. 25 to Northwestern was it at its worst. The defense gave little resistance against a Northwestern team that simply wasn’t good and the Wildcats torched it for 1.41 points per possession in the first half.

Semi-contested 3s were a shot Indiana had the ability to hit all season. But as the Hoosiers kept trying those in the second half off little ball movement against Northwestern’s zone, they simply didn’t fall. It ended in an ugly seven-point loss. A look at the Film Session from that game reveals a team switching defenses mid-possession — something Crean said was to surprise and confuse the opponent — but it was clear it was actually befuddling his own team.

Because Crean held hard and fast to this style of defense for most of the season, one that often had the Hoosiers sinking away from man-to-man into zone, Indiana’s defense was essentially retreating from the opponent instead of pressuring and getting up into their faces. It never allowed them to create much in the way of opportunities to turn defense into offense. And Indiana didn’t create any of its own energy off of its defense, either. The next time around against Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers did pressure and hound to great effect and it was the catalyst for buckets in a comfortable win. It left one wondering where this had been all season.

After a listless loss to Iowa at home on March 3, Crean faced even more heat. Fred Glass had to step in and give a vote of confidence. And despite closing out the Big Ten season with back-to-back home losses after falling to MSU by two on March 7, Indiana showed some defensive resolve late to get back into it, which carried into the Northwestern game.

While there was plenty of grumbling on the social web about Crean and all seemed lost at the time, the Indiana crowd that remained in Assembly Hall cheered the team as it left the court. Thomas Bryant took it all in behind Indiana’s bench.

A month later, he committed to Indiana and Crean secured a player with a skillset he was desperately lacking during the 2014-2015 campaign. It marks the fifth straight season he brings a McDonald’s All-American to Bloomington.

There was talk Indiana may not make the NCAA Tournament due to its final stretch. But it racked up so many quality wins, the committee didn’t see it that way and the Hoosiers snagged a 10 seed. Crean had the team prepared and it played well against Wichita State. But the better and more experienced team won the game by making the plays in the end and Indiana bowed out in the first round.

Bottom Line: While it happened in an odd way — from exceeding expectations followed by a collapse down the stretch — Indiana achieved about right in line with were it was projected. Crean had his team ranked for a tiny stretch of the year and got the Hoosiers back into the NCAA Tournament, despite the first round loss.

But Indiana fans want a shot at playing deep into March, not sweating it out on Selection Sunday after not making the tournament the previous season.

Crean’s squad next season — like his three years ago — appears to have the talent on paper to be more in line with the Hoosier faithful’s high expectations.

Quotable: “My goals for this program are to perennially contend for and to win multiple Big Ten championships, regularly go deep in the NCAA tournament and win our next national championship, Be elite, if you will. As a lifelong Hoosier and IU basketball fan, alumnus and current AD, nobody wants that more than me.

“Coach Crean’s status should be based on his ability to achieve those goals going forward, not what he has or hasn’t done in the past. Because I believe in the team he has assembled and is assembling, his leadership of it and their ability to start achieving our program goals, I continue to support Tom Crean as our coach.” — Indiana athletics director Fred Glass

Previously: Robert Johnson, Max Hoetzel, Emmitt Holt, James Blackmon Jr.,Stanford Robinson, Troy Williams, Collin Hartman, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Nick Zeisloft, Yogi Ferrell, The Other Guys, Team offense, Team defense

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  • IUJeff

    Extreme ups and downs.

    The one consistent was in toughness. We were timid and could be shut down when we were played tough, and for most of the season showed a lack of toughness on D.

    Our O was great most of the time but will need a few new wrinkles to go along with the improved toughness, to be elite.

    And yes, a team this long and athletic should press. Especially given our expected depth.

  • calbert40

    That’s interesting. I didn’t know that.

  • hgdownunder

    He underachieved in year 3. Fewer Big wins than the miserable year before.

  • IUJeff

    Agreed were not going to pull Fife from MSU. I do wish we’d re-establish some links to RMKs players though. Would love to see more past Indiana players involved with the program in Bloomington.

  • IUJeff

    Solid draft picks, B1G Champs, top 5 rankings and great national publicity, solid to excellent recruiting etc. Geez.

  • SilentBob

    Fun Fact: In ’01-’02 Tom Creans Marquette team ranked 13th in AdjD. It wasn’t until the next year when their AdjD plummeted to 119 that they made the final four. No we won’t have Dwyane Wade next year (who was ridiculously good as a sophomore as well) but give me a few drinks and you might be able to talk me into thinking next years team as a whole could be better than Wade’s eagles. Because honestly it wasn’t the 3.8 ppg leap from Wade’s game that made the difference. It was the addition of bruiser Robert Jackson and hot three point shooting Novak + a greatly improved Scott Merritt.

  • calbert40

    Good post (other than talking about Cubs fans!). A lot of people seem to believe Smart is an elite coach. He’s a good coach, and I doubt anyone would dispute that, but he’s not elite. In six seasons at VCU, they were top 20 in AdjD twice, and out of the Top 50 twice too. They were inconsistent in AdjO also: 60, 107, 21, 102, 25 and 21.

    They made the dance 5 years in a row, and obviously, he became a national commodity when they made an improbable Final Four run from the “First Four.” Outside of that season’s 5-1 NCAA record, he compiled a 2-4 record in the last four years, and never made it out of the 2nd round.

    I understand that he was at a mid-major, and VCU enjoyed a level of notoriety and success that they haven’t enjoyed previously during the Smart era. But I don’t view him as elite. He’s good…maybe even very good. But I think the Havoc D may not be as effective against the competition level he will face every night now. It will be interesting to watch.

  • calbert40

    I agree that there is no chance Fife leaves for anything less than a HC job. I don’t think he will get the MSU job once Izzo retires, though. He will need to become an HC somewhere else first.

    I would like to see Crean reach out to Calbert. He wanted that position at IU previously. Now it is open. Let’s see if he’d like to come home.

  • John D Murphy

    TC is being paid like a top tier coach, but isn’t. Is he a bad coach? No. Is he a good guy? Probably. But the coaches at his pay scale don’t suffer from the issues he’s had. I have little doubt IU will improve next season and those of us calling for his job will be criticized by those wearing crimson blinders. I also have little doubt that we will miss the dance again before Kansas, MSU, OSU, Louisville, UNC, Arizona, or Duke. Those are his peers…that is the level we are paying him (as the 9th highest paid NCAA bball coach) to perform to. IU has every advantage of those programs except a five star head coach. Instead we have a coach who won’t learn, who won’t change, and who is plagued season after season by the same issues (turn overs and defense). I will always root for my Hoosiers but I will not be placated by #20 ranking next year and a “tough loss” in the sweet 16. I just don’t see how a TC coached team beats quality teams that are tournament ready. The continued march toward the acceptance of mediocrity by the IU fan base sickens me and I will not be assimilated.

  • Speed

    Last year is history. Important to get behind this team and give them all the support we can. Like Crean or not he is our coach and we all want to be still playing when next year’s Dance comes along.

  • calbert40

    I didn’t know that information. Interesting. It would be very interesting to discuss whether we have a player on the roster for next season that could have a nearly 4 ppg increase. I think we have a couple candidates. Throw in a competent big, improve our AdjD into the respectable category, and we could have a really good season next year.

  • Realityvill-an

    if you have to ask that then our goals for the program are much different

  • eville87

    Amen somebody who wants to be better than a mid major. Watch out now your going to hear it from the folks who like being .500

  • Yes, it should be considerably easier. However, he was on the East Coast, right in that DC, MD, VA triangle. He was competing with the likes of Duke, North Carolina and Maryland.. where now, he pretty much has Oklahoma, Baylor and probably Missouri to contend with.. I think he’ll do well, but he’s going to have to change the culture a little, to make Texas be thought of as more a basketball school.. Its’ not going to be easy, or it would’ve been done before. I do think he’s a pretty darned good coach and should do pretty well out there. But, I certainly wouldn’t cry in my beer that we lost a good one. I’m thinking here’s other good ones out there, if IU ever decided a change was desirable.

  • That was quite an adjustment. thing is, Crean didn’t have many options this year. It’s not like when he inserted player C and player D, we all at once became good on defense. I do think the presence of a decent rim protector, should help our perimeter defense.. I really hope he plays more man-to-man next year. AND, I really hope he hires that new assistant with more of a defensive perspective.

  • But an argument could also be made that VCU did not play the level of competition, that he will face in Texas.


    Shaka Smart’s “havoc” defense is a gimmick that got him to a final four because no one had seen it before.Look at what Kentucky did to West Virginia, and you’ll see what will happen to teams whose strategy is “frantically press and hope the other team beats themselves for us” when they play elite teams in March.

    And don’t give me anything about him not having enough talent, he got a few top 100 recruits in the years following the final four run, and still struggled to beat teams like St. Louis and Dayton in conference play.

  • Thing is, it doesn’t really matter what your goals for the program are, now does it? I don’t think you’re on any high level decision making board, so even though you like to make it sound like you’re real important, really you’re not…lol…

  • cooper

    He has done a nice job recruiting for next year. He bought himself another year, even though some good coaches were available. Maybe it will all “click” finally.

    Next year is put up or pack your bags. If he can’t get to the 2nd round of NCAA then he and Glass have to go. Hopefully someone on the staff goes to some coaching clinics on defense.

  • Dereck Johnson

    Shaka Smart is a pretty good coach and he’ll def get better recruits at Texas vs VCU. However I do remember CTC taking him to school in the 2nd round a few years back. That was before Yogi & Vic was just a Sophomore. That was Zeller’s freshman year. Imagine if Creek didn’t blow his knees out 100 times.

  • Bill Graham

    Ahh yes CTC every Hoosier’s favorite subject. Here’s my best approach at a non-biased neutral review:
    Obviously D was the major concern: Do you blame it youth?…Well Duke was young but they won the ship…but then again UCLA was also young and the were 219th in ppg allowed and finished 22-14.
    So do we blame on a lack of a big man then?…well Butler’s tallest guy was 6-9 and they finished 43rd in ppg allowed… but then again Oregon’s tallest guy was 6-8 and they finished 288th in ppg allowed.

    So that pretty much throws youth and the big man argument out…So we are left with the argument of the funky 2-3 man combo thing, but that still doesn’t explain the high inside opp fg %.
    Offensively we were 18th in the nation so…ya.
    In terms of off-court issues: we had major issues in the off-season but yet at the same time we consistently have perfect APR scores. We have lost 16 Hoosiers in the past 2 years (staff included) but yet we are currently a preseason top 15 team.
    So I’m having some trouble finding a legitimate pro or neg CTC argument. It would appear that any argument can be completely rebutted.
    Lastly, If you argue shear results…that he hasn’t produced. Consider this coach K has the most wins in NCAA history and he only made the NIT once in his first five years at Army…and didn’t even make out of the round of 32 until his 6th year at Duke.
    So would someone please establish a firm case for CTC either way. If this was a trial our jury’s heads would explode.

  • their SOS was better than IU last year

  • MarkHoltzHoosier

    I’d guess about half of all coaches get “fired.” If they don’t leave for greener pastures or retire at the school, what other departure vehicle is there? And what happens if we somehow put together a Final Four appearance?

    Crean is a good offensive coach and an average defensive coach. He’s also an excellent recruiter. I think with a talented team, he can reach the heights IU fans are thirsty for, if not consistently…

  • Realityvill-an

    I’m a fan..i think its ok to have goals for my team. this forum is about giving your opinion. once again, your comments are about as laughable as your avatar. da da dork

  • Realityvill-an

    average defensive coach? c’mon now. he’s already had a talented team with 2 top 5 draft picks and got bounced in the sweet 16 b/c he cant figure out how to beat a zone. we’ll be decent this year but not b/c of coaching. we’ll be good based on talent alone and wont be able to get over the hump b/c of the lack of coaching

  • Realityvill-an

    I love iu but iu bball is laughable these days and the fans that are ok with it are just as bad. imo it says a lot about somebody when they are defending the state of iu bball right now. I wouldn’t want people like that on my team…they’d get left behind and ride the pine b/c they’re weak


    The refusal to even try something different defensively is what really PO’d me this past season, I could see not doing something different if he had tried something different, and given it enough time to have a legit chance, and then not if it didn’t make things better not staying with it, but that was for sure not the case.


    Ooooooh yea ! You got that right.


    Not trying to argue or pass judgment on your comment, just wondering, are you saying that if he doesn’t finish in the top 2 of the B1G and make a deep tourney run you think he should be let go ? What do you consider a “deep” tourney run, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, NC game ? I like to hear AND correctly understand everyone’s perspective as I form my own.


    Correct, anyone that thinks getting TB to sign with us, or even that coupled with our other two recruits, is the cure all for our gigantic defensive liabilities is only kidding themselves. Will it help, almost certainly, but getting to where we need to be as a “team” defensively is going to take a big time commitment from everyone, including the coaching staff, and all are going to have to be willing to make some major changes.


    Agree, and I’ll tell you what else pisses me off, and that’s the people that justify calling last season a success by saying, ” hey we finished 7th and we were picked to finish 10th or 11th”. In my book, that’s kinda like saying I wrecked my car and they told me they thought I had totaled it, and my premiums were going to skyrocket through the roof, but now they’re telling me that it’s just barely fixable, won’t ever be completely right again, and your premiums are only going to go up a bunch instead of through the roof. That’s probably a really bad analogy, but I think you get the gest of what I’m saying. And for the record I don’t know that things even being slightly better than what you have laid out will placate me. I will not be assimilated either and resistance is NOT futile.

  • SilentBob

    Indeed and the thing that keeps me optimistic is we seem to have a team full of players who can increase their production from an efficiency and/or output standpoint. I always have fun breaking down numbers from a coaches past and present teams so if you want to stop reading now I can’t blame you.

    1) Crean always preaches about getting his team to the foul line. What separates his sound teams from his good teams isn’t just the rate they get to the line, but who gets there and how effective they are. His ’01-’02 Marquette team got to the line at about the same rate as his ’02-03′ team. One difference was the the latter shot 8% better. The other was who got there (players at the 4 and 5) In ’01-’02 Nnamaka and Merrit went to the line about 5.6 times a game. Nnamaka shot it for 71% and Merrit for 73%. The next year Jackson and Merrit go to the line 8.6 times a game and both shoot it at about 77.5%. This tag team force down low forces defenses not to sag of the big men when Wade drives and in part contributes to why Wades FTAs go up 2.5 a game. Also this gets opposing big men in foul trouble which helps open up drives to the bucket. For comparison Troy (who is actually the driver) and Perea went to the line about 6.5 times a game. Troy shoots it for 74% and Hanner, who was very poor at getting to the line, shoots an ugly 57.5%.

    2) Defense and rebounding. While it’s true that Creans best three defensive teams that ranked in the top 30 all played three guards, those guards were much different than ours this past year. Mainly in terms of size and agility. Despite a consistent outside shot, Troy is much more of a guard in a forwards body. He is a phenomenal rebounder, but his rebounds are the long range loose ball type. Not the grind it out box out rebounds you want from your four man. Long range rebounds are much less likely to yield second chance points than short range. That’s why I think a simple addition of adding Bryant and switch Troy to the three will help this teams defense tremendously more than a three guard press defense some fans want.

  • I’m just pointing out.. YOU ARE A NOBOBY… DIP SH**…
    It really appears you just might be a bit mentally handicapped, so I’m going to pass on any further discussion with such a lame brain…

  • MarkHoltzHoosier

    Yes, average!
    Let’s not forget IU went 3 for15 from 3-pt that game, including 0/6 from Hulls–and the threes weren’t all contested. We also shot 15/24 from the free throw line or just 62.5%…season average was 74% Cuse only put up 61. Their season average was 70. We like to remember what suits us, but defense is NOT what lost the Hoosiers that game. Besides, your overlooking my larger point.

    While this season was an abhorration, Crean defenses are absolutely what I’d call average. As referenced above, Crean’s IU teams over the last 4 years have rated 84th, 28th, 47th and 214th on Adjusted D. So an average of those finishes says his defenses are something like 93rd. Definitely not good, but out of 300+ Division 1 teams, 93/300 is exactly what I’d call average. The definition of average means that some observations must lie above and below it…

    And actually, if you throw out 2014-15, which if there were more data points would be a stastistical outlier, the other 3 of last 4 years yields an average of 53rd. That puts his defenses in the top 1/6 of Division 1 defenses. Not elite. Not Great. But also not Atrocious, Horrible or even Below Average. If we’re being objective, we probably even have to call that Good–but I’ll concede that a Good defensive coach doesn’t allow a 214th rated defense ever–no matter what the personnel situation…