It's time for IU's excuse-making to stop

July 11, 2013
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Nowhere are excuses more loathed than in the world of sports.

Everyone involved—especially fans and other supporters—seem to like it when players, coaches and managers stand up and take responsibility when something goes wrong. To do otherwise is simply bad marketing that will eventually leave an indelible stain on the team and those involved.

With that said, it’s time for those involved in Indiana University’s basketball team to stop bringing up the past as an excuse for their shortcomings.

I’ll be first to acknowledge that when Indiana University hired Tom Crean as its men’s basketball coach in April 2008, the program was a complete dumpster fire. It was nothing but smoldering ashes left by the Kelvin Sampson regime.

And I’m the first to applaud Crean for taking on the task of rebuilding the program and convincing recruits to believe in his vision. He has built this program into a national-title contender in four short (or long, depending on how you look at it) years. Crean has done an astounding job.

But the program, to Crean’s credit, is back. And every time something goes wrong, those involved in the program can’t say, “Hey, wait a minute, look where we’ve come from.” It’s time for the indignation to stop.

Case in point: Associate Head Coach Tim Buckley’s taking umbrage with a recent Wall Street Journal article calling last season’s team historic underachievers. I’m not here to say that’s the case, but when a college program has two of the top four NBA draft selections and doesn’t get past the NCAA tournament’s round of 16, I’d say there’s a case for it.

Yes, IU was 29-7 last year and won the school’s first outright Big Ten championship since 1993. And yes, all this happened just two seasons after the program was still stumbling through the post-Sampson fallout.

But the wheels also fell off this talented team late last year. Anyone remotely educated in the game of basketball could see that, and it’s time for Crean and his staff to step out of Sampson’s ugly shadow and own it. The team and its coaching staff looked thoroughly unprepared in a 61-50 loss to Syracuse University in the round of 16. Was Syracuse’s zone defense tough? You bet. Was it unsolvable? Not hardly. The truth is, IU didn’t look too terribly sharp in its round of 32 game.

Does any or all of this mean Crean and his staff are lousy? No, it does not. Have the wheels fallen off teams led by other big-time coaches, including Bob Knight? Absolutely.

But do IU’s stumbles late last year have anything at all to do with the misdeeds or damage done by Sampson back in 2007 and 2008? At this point, that’s a stretch.

Crean may be a victim of his own success. He’s pulled the Hoosiers back from the brink faster than anyone thought he would or could. But now that he has, he may truly realize the sky-high (some would say unrealistic) standards of IU officials, alums and supporters.

IU fans love a winner. And they won’t tolerate a loser. But first and foremost, they hate an excuse-maker. And who doesn’t?

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  • Here Here
    Here Here (rapping the table in approval).
  • Can Crean take the next step?
    Coach Crean has proven he can take the Indiana program and bring them back to relevance. The question that still needs answered is if he is the coach that can mold top level talent into national title contenders year in and out.
  • 1600 Pennsylvania
    When the White House stops blaming Bush for everything I'll let Crean off the hook.
  • IU Bashing
    Come on Anthony, the IU bashing never stops. These guys have put up with several years of the rebuilding process and had a stumble against the worst possible match up (long and tall wing span guards). They have a chip and an edge where they don't want to take crap from anybody. Especially journalists who know very little about what it takes to win. The expectations are now in full swing and they realize this. But the Wall Street piece was an obvious hit piece, trying to slow down huge recruiting momentum IU currently has. You defend yourself when comments say "you suck". How is this different?
    • This is Mickey Mouse
      This isn't exactly what you would call a deep analysis. What do we expect the IU staff to do when being questioned on the overall success of last year's team? Say that even though we were ranked #1 for a large portion of the season and won the deepest B10 in years... that the season was a failure? There is recruiting to be done and the PR game is important. It was a bad matchup that exploited the one big weakness IU had, small and/or inexperienced guards.
    • You're Making His Point
      You guys are making his point. His point is that the coaches need to step up and admit failure where it is. Last year's team failed to meet expectations, bottom line. Part of that was the matchup with Syracuse but none of that was because of anything past last year, especially not 3 or 4 years ago. That is his point.
    • Where is the Perspective?
      I agree with Anthony that the "Look at Where We Came From" talk needs to stop. Crean has recruited IU back into national prominence. The best coach in the history of hoop could not have made those 1st Crean teams much better, and Crean has done a masterful job of getting the talent back to IU. I do not agree that last season was a failure or sign of Crean's lack of coaching ability, as suggested by some, just because IU did not advance deeper into the tourney. IU had the talent to compete for a title, but winning one is more complicated than just the best players or coaches. It's usually about match ups in a particular game, and it's one and done if you don't figure out how to win the match ups. Yes, I was surprised that IU looked so helpless against the Syracuse zone, particularly when Michigan (who IU beat twice) seems unfazed by it. Match ups? Maybe. Or, maybe Crean and his staff did all the right things to prepare for the Orangemen and these kids just didn't execute ON THAT DAY. The best coaches are not just about Xs and Os but figure out how to motivate and get talent to achieve. Sometimes it just doesn't pay off as planned. Duke routinely has gawdy win totals and does not get past the Sweet 16, yet do people criticize Coach K as not know how to coach these teams, teams laden with talent every year but which sometimes do not gel at tournament time. Let's face it, it takes some luck, momentum, key players stepping up at opportune times and many other good things must happen to win a national title. IU fans need to understand this, despite how easy Bob Knight made it look. Knight had 3-4 years with nearly all of his players; modern coaches get 1 or 2 to have an impact on them before they jump to the NBA. Expectations or not, it is not fair to judge Crean or any modern-day coach by his school's past successes. Steve Alford will be feeling that heat soon enough....
    • A good point or two, but
      Anthony, you can always write about IU and Crean and get response, so I get why you do it...I understood Buckley's comments in the context they were given, but I wasn't crazy about them either. I have commented other times about the myraid weaknesses this supposedly great IU team had, so I won't belabor them here again, as other commenters have noted the small guards and their inconsistent play which became downright awful in the torunament, the lack of bench, and the bad matchup with a much longer more athletic Syracuse team...other items would be that this was a weak draft with no start power talent which is the biggest reason Zeller and Oladipo left this year...neither would have been drafted nealy as high next year. Buckley was responding to the East Coast bias of the article, given IU's recruiting inroads made there. I wish he had not done it too, but I get it...you are an assistant, so you can put it out there easier than Crean himself. I ddn't like it, but I get it, it is a bit protecting the turf they have gained (though I don't think most kids these days care about winning a championship as much, they want to get to the NBA). The expectations are now back in full force, Sampson is long gone...Crean and staff will have to make a final 4 soon, and eventually they will have to win. I get your point...they should know what the expectations are...but they had a great year, and they hung a banner, even if it wasn't the nner that counts the most.
    • The IU staff doesn't care what "we" think.
      They care about what recruits think and the perception that they have of the program. Outside of that, they don't owe the fans or the media any further explanation. It's just cynicism, and the WSJ and "The Score" specialize in that. Seriously, has anyone followed Anthony on twitter? It's insufferable at times.
    • Comprehension?
      Anthony, I'd expect someone with your job to be able to read and listen and comprehend what is being said. Apparently I was mistaken. No where in Buckley's comments did he make an excuse for last year's ending. An excuse would be to say they lost to Syracuse BECAUSE of where they started in 2008. Or that the team was tired, or sick or whatever. Which he did not. He simply said that when you look at where they came from, he and the program did not consider last year a failure or the most underachieving team of all time. He pointed out the successes of the team, which again is not making an excuse. They'd rather focus on the success than the failure. Again, makes sense considering one of the busiest recruiting periods is starting right now. They had a lot of things to be proud of from last year, and while they ultimately fell short of the biggest prize, that doesn't mean they are the biggest underachievers of all time or that the season was a failure. But then again, that would't get you the headline you wanted...
    • Insufferable? Really? Then unfollow
      RDS, Perhaps you need a lesson on how to unfollow someone on Twitter. That's normally what I do when someone is insufferable. Not whine on a comment board. Take care now.
    • For The Record
      In a recent interview, Jordan Hulls said he was hurt pretty badly when they played Syracuse and was not ablet to much of anything. I'm not saying if he was 100% healthy IU would have won the game, but when one of your best players is hurt it makes a difference.
    • How about them Boilers?
      Anthony, if you're looking for a great example of underachieving, how about bashing the Boilermakers and Coach Painter's lack of wins, notable recruits, and all the other glowing expectations Purdue fans were bragging about when Painter took over for Coach Keady? As opposed to Sampson's reign of terror at IU, Keady was a winner who ran a good program and left Purdue basketball in good shape when Coach Painter took over. Since then, meh. But then, why bash the Boilers when nobody outside of Lafayette cares.
      • Agree
        I am a huge IU fan. My loyalty to the school and to the players has never wavered. But the “Hey, wait a minute, look where we’ve come from" is two years too old. Also, a bit tired of Dwyane Wade.
        • Readership
          Your goal is getting people to read your columns....goal achieved when IU basketball is your topic , but it does not change the fact that this piece is complete garbage. Try again !
        • hype machine
          Hard to feel sorry for Crean when he spins hype harder than a network newscaster. Crean is strangly animated and over exagerates everything to hype the program. When it fail, like it did this year in the tournament, he looks even more foolish. Their recent recruiting classes have been good, but more so mediocre than the hyped up juggernuat the program hypes it up to be. "The Movement" didn't pan out near as talented as it was made out to be, but the expectations and sky high due to Crean's marketing. I don't know if he needs to stop making excuses more than stop over hyping the reality of the program.
        • OVER-RATED
          IU had the talent to win it all last year, but so did another dozen or more teams. This means the chances of IU winning "it" was about 10%, at best! No, IU's season was not a failure, not unless one actually believed the media when IU was NO. 1 in the polls for so many weeks. Who really thought that IU was No.1 in the nation while they trouncing a dozen or more nonconference "cupcakes"? Any top 20 team can look good against the competition IU played game after game. Those games certainly did not prepare IU to play Syracuse, (or Temple, who they barely beat) or anyone else for that matter. Those games served only to inflate IU's record, with no genuine achievement, while the "Hoosier Nation" was yelling "We're No.1!" Simply put, IU's basketball team last year was good, even very good, but they were OVER-RATED!
        • Shallow, inane analysis
          Anthony, your problem, along with large swathes of the sporting public these days, is you don't bother with any appropriate context or perspective. Not only does history not seem to matter, but not even the total body of work in a most recent season seems to matter. They're under-achieving excuse-makers? Really? A team that won the B1G title outright when the league was clearly the nation's best, and did so by winning on the road in East Lansing and Ann Arbor (where no other visitors won all season) and did so near the end of the campaign, (when you say everybody could tell the wheels were falling off?) Really? Look. The NCAA tournament, and any tournament with a single-elimination format, isn't really structured to consistently identify and crown the best team. It will generally identify the hottest team that had the best matchups along the way. Sometimes that ends up being the best overall team, (as I think Louisville probably was this year) but just as often not. And I say that as a guy who was in the Omni in 1984 when a bunch of guys named Dan Dakich, Uwe Blab, Mike Giomi, Stew Robinson and Steve Alford beat guys named Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith and Joe Wolf in the Sweet Sixteen. That was almost certainly Dean Smith's best team ever. Ever. And it lost. Which happens. Does that mean he was a crappy coach? Does that mean those UNC guys were a bunch of under-achievers? I mean, Michael Jordan, what a bum! Right? Nah, it means they had a bad night at the wrong time. And I could come up with a lot more examples. It's not excuse-making. It's the nature of the beast. Indiana unequivocally had the nation's best team in 1993. Alan Henderson got hurt. Didn't win. Was Indiana's 1987 team the nation's best? Maybe not. But it beat UNLV at its own game, then Keith Smart played out of his mind for a 10-minute stretch. Indiana admittedly wasn't playing quite as well in this past March as it had in, say, mid-January. But that happens, too. And bad matchups happen. If you have a pair of 6-foot guards who aren't shooting well, that's pretty much a death sentence against Syracuse when the Orange are playing well. If Indiana had played, say, Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen, the Hoosiers still might well have lost, but would have looked a lot better doing so during what almost certainly would have been a free-flowing, high-scoring game. When defending champ Duke lost to IU in Sweet Sixteen play at Rupp in 2002, it was largely because the Dukies couldn't handle Indiana's strong frountcourt scoring and rebounding of Jeffries, Newton and Odle inside. Does that make Coach K a bad coach? No. It was a bad matchup for that particular Duke team. Did only Louisville achieve and did everybody else underachieve this year? The Michigan team that made the NCAA final, does that make it better than Indiana, a team it went 0-for-2 against (and which beat the Wolverines on their home floor with the league title on the line)? Now, I don't want to diminish how bad IU's performance against Syracuse was. It was probably the worst overall Indiana performance of the past two years. Things went seriously awry. The Hoosiers pretty much stunk unrelentingly in that one and, as you noted, weren't all that much better against Temple (another tough matchup.) But to fixate upon that rather than gauge the team's total body of work, as some fans and writers seem bent on doing, is inherently superficial and unfair. That is all Buckley was trying to point out. Or have we reached the point in our instant-gratification, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society that carrying the nation's No. 1 ranking successfully for 10 weeks and winning the Big Ten title outright just don't mean anything? Have we gotten to the point that only March matters? I sure hope not. But articles like yours don't help.
        • Seriously?
          You really think the Wall Street is producing "Hit" pieces to slow IU recruiting? Oh my! man get a grip.
        • IU - Syracuse Game (Players or Coaches Issues)
          Frankly, the last 1/2 of the season, most of the Big Ten Top Teams Tanked, except for Michigan, and they returned to mediocrity in the NCAA Championship game against, as Trey Burke increased his aimless dribbling, with the outcome that all cutters quit cutting and the offense immobilized. My concern with IU against IU is the question why Oladipo takes only 6 shots and Cody, as I recall took only 10. That is either a coaching issue or frankly, since coaches don't shoot, why did neither of these All Americans step up and take charge. I would argue if both take 15 shots, they win, but offensive talent has to assert itself and not play as passively as I felt they played.
          • IU Vs Syracuse Game
            To my narrative above, I apologize, but I meant to say in the game of IU vs Syracuse, not IU vs IU, when the two IU All Americans took only 6 and 10 shots respectively.
          • Disregard facts then?
            So you're willing to take shots at the staff and tell them to stop complaining but unwilling to recognize that this team was dealing with an injured Sr. leader who was one of the national leaders in 3pt shooting percentage? How do you beat the zone that Cuse exclusively runs? 3pt shooting... Jordan Hulls (hurt early in the round of 32) missed all his 3pt shots in that S16 game. Sure the staff needs to let go of the past and move forward but thats 2 years ago that this team struggled to win 10 games. All year media claimed there was so much parody and it was a wide open field. A team who was in the top 5 at one point gets hot and makes a final 4 run. It happens. Another shotty article by media who doesn't know jack about the sport, just taking pot shots to get views. Congrats it worked
          • Big difference my friend
            QUIX, Keady left the program on a downward trend. Painter has done a very good job since he's been there. Had it not been for Hummell's injuries consecutive years history would be different. as for your Hoosiers, 2 top 4 draft picks, 2 1000 pt seniors and a 5* point guard.........and well, yes you Hoosiers did underacheive. the same Hoosier nation that was screaming and clapping " kelvin sampson" as he left the building burning . wake up dude.....crean had his chance this year and blew it. he had seen the Cuse's zone how many times while coaching in the big east? and the way he's pushing the recruoiting envelope dont be surprised to have you know who knocking on your door.
          • Purdue Fan Looking to Boost Readership
            Nice try Purdue fan. Go HOOSIERS!
          • Live with it IU fans
            Did any of you IU zealots actually watch the Syracuse game? Hulls and Yogi were badly exposed by guards who were much taller and more athletic, and who kept them from doing anything. Syracuse was the absolute ideal match-up to go against that IU team and if they played again IU would lose again. The idea that many IU fans have that the Hoosiers had the absolute best talent in the country last season is badly mistaken. IU had a lot of talent and was a very good team, but they were vulnerable in a number of areas that were all exposed by Syracuse. As an IU fan I didn't like seeing them lose, but when our squad loses to a better team, what can you do? My advise to you is give Syracuse a lot of credit for playing great, stop all this ridiculous crying and learn to live with this loss, be thankful that Tom Crean and his staff have led IU out of the abyss and get on with your lives.
          • Three thoughts
            1. Couldn't have said it better than Andy. 2. Would like the WSJ to explain how Indiana was more underacheiving than Kentucky last year. 3. When did IU basketball fans turn into Notre Dame football fans with their delusions of grandeur?
            • Domers & Hoosiers are clones of each other
              To Posey's comment, it has long been known as the "reversible jacket" phenomena - fans who root for Notre Dame football (ironic that the post prior to yours was from "Avon DOMER" and then for IU basketball. My guess is that in some cases, the person didn't attend either school. But it's all about loving a winner and one's ego as personified by the fan's team. Some people are so sensitive. It's hysterically funny to see people claim that the original article in the 90%-business- content-oriented Wall Street Journal was "a hit piece designed to slow IU's recruiting momentum" or to take a crack at team mentioned in neither that article nor this column - Purdue - as if to be "fair" the writer must be equally critical of Purdue. I don't see where Purdue underachieved this year or in the years prior when their best player was injured, they were not as highly ranked as IU and did not have two of the top 4 NBA draft picks sitting on their team. (Admittedly, the pundits did say that this was a weak year for the draft, so maybe those players (Oladipo and Zeller) aren't as good as IU fans want to believe. Regardless of whatever facts a person here points to, both writers expressed an opinion - that is what opinion columns are, after all. The WSJ did put some statistics together to support his argument, but so what? It is just an opinion. Everyone is free to believe what they want but to see people feel the need to contradict, defend, etc. is amazing. Why not let it go? I didn't particularly agree with the Wall Street Journal article and teams underachieve all the time. But people, especially sports fans in Indiana in particular and especially many of those all three major schools - need to be less sensitive and get over both their inferiority complex and ironically, their sense of moral superiority and birthright in the case of Notre Dame football and IU basketball.
            • Yes, the WSJ is out to get IU basketball
              I'm sure ruining IU's basketball recruiting is high on the list of priorities at the Wall Street Journal.
            • #3
              " 3. When did IU basketball fans turn into Notre Dame football fans with their delusions of grandeur?" I don't understand this question. IU basketball fans and Notre Dame football fans are the same people.
            • Oh, come on.
              It's clear to me that the writer doesn't realize that all of his angst is answered by his own penultimate paragraph. Hoosier fans (and I say that as a proud member of Hoosier Nation) need to get a life.
            • I agree
              I completely agree... enough with the Dwyane Wade stuff. It comes up WAAAAAY to often. I am thrilled that he and CTC have a great relationship, but I feel like it's traded on too often.
            • Crean Just Isn't a Tourney Coach
              Tom Crean is a great coach. I love what's he's done with the team and I agree that it's now his team and that the ghosts of season's past can't be used as excuses. While I love Crean overall, I don't think he's a good tournament coach and I don't think IU will win a championship with him at the helm. It pains me to say that. I think he's a fantastic all-around coach, but not a clutch situation coach. The talent may win in spite of that, but it cetainly won't win because of that. JMO.

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