IU supporters making it tough for Crean to succeed

March 19, 2014
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Indiana University’s men’s basketball team is down. And if IU supporters aren’t careful, they’re going to help it stay down.

I’m no Tom Crean apologist. But most objective observers would admit that Crean is a good recruiter. He was at Marquette and he’s done a credible job of recruiting since he arrived in Bloomington. Exhibit A is how quickly he doused the dumpster fire left by Kelvin Sampson and built a national contender on the ashes. Few can sell a program like Crean. He sold it when nobody was buying. And I mean nobody.

Any decent coach knows one of the keys to winning is playing to your strengths. But IU supporters are hampering Crean from doing that.

The faithful this season did a wonderful job of undermining Crean’s ability to recruit. They’ve complained about his every misstep and have been eager to fuel every story, rumor or murmur about his imminent departure.

I don’t know if there really is a group of rich IU alum ready to pony up $18 million to buy out Crean’s contract as was reported on a number of blogs and news sites last week. Nor do I have any idea if there’s any merit to the Mike Woodson-to-IU story that was bouncing through cyberspace, also last week. It sounds crazy, but in this day and age, who knows? Oh, and there’s also the rumor that Randy Wittman could be the next IU coach.

To his credit, Athletic Director Fred Glass has stood strong behind Crean. Some IU followers would have you believe that’s only because he’s waiting for Boston Celtics and former Butler coach Brad Stevens to become available.

I don’t know about any of those stories. But I do know this: 17- and 18-year olds pay close attention to the Internet. High school coaches and athletic directors—who heavily influence those youngsters—do, too.

And I know this. IU has seen this all before, with Mike Davis. Was Davis the world’s greatest coach? No. Was he in over his head when he replaced Bob Knight in 2000? Perhaps.

But remember this. Davis wouldn’t have been on Knight’s staff if he hadn’t been a solid recruiter. That’s what he was brought in to do. In his six years as IU’s head coach, Indiana alums did plenty to undermine his ability to get the best talent—particularly homegrown talent—to Bloomington. Of course, Knight did a masterful job of undermining Davis’ ability to recruit, but that’s another story.

The negativity about Crean is causing some of Indiana’s best high school players to flee to places like Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. No one has been a greater beneficiary from IU’s civil war than Ohio State Coach Thad Matta and Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo. Ironic, isn’t it?

Maybe Crean can’t coach. If that’s true, it will be born out in time. Glass will figure that out.

But no coach is perfect. Not even Knight. Certainly not Woodson, who has a 305-360 record as an NBA head coach. With any sports operation, there are going to be ups and downs. It’s the nature of the game.

Unless the continual backbiting stops among IU supporters, unless the microanalysis at every tiny step sideways or backwards ceases—or at least slows, no IU basketball coach can succeed.

  • Give me a break
    This article is totally nonsense. Every school faces the same type of crying from fans, every one of them. The Indianapolis media more than covers for what some dumb fans do or say and does more to sell IU than pretty much anything associated with the university.
    • IU BB
      Interesting evaluation and takes me back to when I coached freshmen and sophomore boys baseball. No matter what I did there was always a dad or mom than knew the game/strategy better than me. So....the next year I put out 10 rules that everyone must abide by. Rule #10...if you want to coach...GET YOUR OWN TEAM. I suspect that if that was presented to all the naysayers, they'd all crawl back under the bed and the issue woud be mute. Lesson to learn.
      • Agree with Drew
        Drew, agree that the article is simply a deflection from the real issues. Let's not forget that a whole lot of experts think the 2012-2013 Hoosiers were the underachievers of all time...then lay this year on top of it. Coaching has to be considered with 2 seasons like that. Minnesota, OSU, Wisc and Syracuse all beat us badly at the end of last year...sweet 16 sounds nice, but that team was loaded. Love the recruiting, not impressed with the in-game stuff. Crean is a good, positive man, but fans will simply want wins over time. No reason to think next year will be any different.
      • Sigh...
        Excuses, excuses, excuses......Drew's comments are correct, IU's fanbase is no different than any other schools'.
      • Underachieving
        This article may have some truth but it doesn't address the central issue and that is every one of Crean's teams at IU have never overachieved. Every one has not met reasonable expectations. Although this year's team had some quality wins they wiped all those out with miserable losses. The players play hard for Crean but they don't seem prepared to handle the storm that comes every game. There offensive sets are pathetic, especially when games are on the line. Recruiting is only half the battle. At best Crean is the 7th best coach in the Big Ten and that simply not acceptable for Indiana. I had no preconceived notion about Crean but his record speaks for itself. Y
      • Big Business
        Appropriate the IBJ would cover IU basketball as it's turned into a BIG business. The crabby fans are a result of the multi-million dollar enterprise where coaches salaries, ticket prices, and booster club donations continue to escalate. Fan expectations are accordingly on the rise, too. Fans are bigger experts now because every nuance of the game is shown and re-shown on the TV networks that are printing money. We've lost the spirit of college athletics by becoming the farm system for the NBA and NFL. Look at the money-grab going on in these player lawsuits and unionization efforts. I maintain AAU has ruined high school basketball. The amped up mentality of players and parents is creeping into college basketball where many of the players are uncoachable. Sure, there are several elite players on their way to the NBA for which it doesn't matter. Fans have a really short memory of how bad things might have been before the current coach took over. We're a little crabby as Purdue fans, too. (I wonder how the Cubs fans got so content) I don't have any answers but I don't like the direction we're heading. Sorry that I sound like an old fart. I'm only 53.
      • What's Crean selling IU?
        This is a ridiculous column. The author tries to first claim Crean is a great recruiter, then blame fans for his inability to recruit in the future. Which is it? So if he's such a great recruiter, why did we have no outside shooters this year? What became of Jurkin, Hollowell, and Mosquera-Perea? Are these the great recruits? No, it seems they are average or worse players, and if Crean is to be lauded at his ability to sell a story to incoming athletes, we should examine that selling ability and ask: what is he selling IU? What is he selling to the fans, and the media? It has become clear to many of us that Crean is selling us all a pant load of hot stuff, and though Anthony Schoettle has bought it and wants us all to be good little boys and settle for the mediocre status quo IU has devolved to, many of us aren't buying the Crean bill of goods. If poor Coach Crean can't overcome the bad vibes and bad press he's reaping, perhaps he isn't quite up to the job of leading INDIANA BASKETBALL?
      • There's a little to this...
        Great coaches out there like Tony Bennett at Virginia wanted no part of Indiana because of the mess and scrutiny that comes along with it. The flip side of losing Crean is that it will be hard to fill the position. Fans lie to themselves thinking coaches would be falling all over themselves to take it. Newsflash: Stevens is not leaving the NBA to take the IU headcoaching job.
        • It's the Players and A.D.
          Until the coaching staff realizes that it is the point guard who dominates the ball...dribbles, dribbles, backs-up, dribbles and then throws an errant pass at the last second who has cost so many games. Plus the A.D. who has convinced the trustees to remodel an aging, obsolete arena by spending millions of dollars. The main problems are not the fault of Coach Crean. He hasn't missed a shot in the game yet!
          • HA!
            I think you miss the point Anthony. Coach Crean has already proven that he is NOT a good coach. Coach Crean's only asset is in recruiting. He would make a good assistant coach, but he is NOT a good coach, nor will he ever be. Last year's NCAA tournament was a great example of his lack of tournament preparation and his lack of great recruiting. The best example of his bad coaching is that he celebrates MINOR team milestones, when the ultimate goal is to win an NCAA Championship with kids who get good grades and graduate on time. Coach Crean is at best an average to above average coach, who is trying to play in the big leagues.
          • Another excuse
            I love IU basketball more than anything in sport. I am sick of the excuses with jerseys, and now the IU fan base is at fault. I went to three games this year. Every game Crean did not give his team plays against zone and man-to-man. Just one or the other. That's why yogi sits there waiting for the defense to adjust while the clock winds down. I don't know the first thing about coaching a team other than it certainly does not bother me to see clean chest passes and boring basketball when we win games. It's much better than hyper crazed basketball with 20 turnovers a game. We are not winning and we are passing up post season games out of pride. I would much prefer a lesser recruiter with a hell of a coaching ability. If Stevens can get to the final game two years in a row with c and d recruits, and crean cannot get past the sweet sixteen with the best team in the country, I pick Stevens everyday and twice on an early April Monday evening. Ps - You think glass can ask Adidas for some cream undershirts? Ridiculous.
          • I'll have some cheese with that
            That was a big whine for Crean. He's best at selling himself and getting a big contract. For that, you have to deliver. He had some talent again this year.
          • moot
            It's moot not mute...
          • PLAYERS have responsibilities too
            turn overs lost more games than all the marginal coaching decisions combined. Our IU players didn't consistantly value each possession. Talented teams with focused players learn this early in a season. Our very talented IU players didn't so they'll now watch other teams whose players did.
          • 3 strikes and you are out
            This story is your second in the last month regarding IU basketball that has completely missed the mark. Not sure if you are a Butler or Purdue guy, but one more strike and you are outa here. All those players you mentioned leaving state of Indiana for other Big 10 schools did so when Crean had the complete and utter support from the fan base. Crean is NOT having trouble recruiting (as evidenced by yet another top 5 class last year), yet he IS having trouble winning. And it has nothing to do with the fan base. The same fan base that was promised SOOOO much more two years ago when the the head coach came back to renegotiate his salary to over $3.5M/year putting him well into the top 10 highest paid coaches in the business. When you get greedy and do something like that then you are telling everyone that you are going to put a consistent winner on the floor. Most IU fans can accept a "down" year, as we know we are no longer an "elite" program (although our profitability would show otherwise). But it's less about the losses than it is HOW they lost those games this year, AND also the picture that is starting to come into focus for our future. I expect more out of your next article on IU bball. Otherwise focus your attention on Butler or Purdue.
          • Stevens would come here
            RDS, I disagree. If IU offered Stevens Crean's ridiculous salary and a $15M buyout, he would be here before the end of the NBA season. It's his dream to coach at IU and his low key style of being a team leader, not a cheer leader, will win the hearts of Hoosier nation. I have no idea how Crean compelled Glass, a well respected attorney, to the ridiculous terms in his contract. When Knight left in 2000, he made $96,000 a year from IU. Crean makes $3.7 million and is the highest paid state employee. He didn't even take a group of very talented players to the NIT. At some point the Crean defenders need to look at the facts. I know doing light shows and having pep rallies before games is cute, but I believe those who attend Disassembly Hall, go for wins and banners (real banners; not banners that say we were ranked RPI number 1). I say, hire Stevens, build a new arena (Disassembly Hall roof system is designed to collapse), and lets start over. This fifteen year headache needs to end.
          • Hit a nerve today Anthony
            Anthony...bating IU fan is a cheap strategy that you utilize far too often, but they all climb out of Mom's basement (that's where Lance learned to recognize a "pant load of hot stuff") long enough to comment, so I guess I can't blame you...Dakich is right...IU fan (you know, that guy) is deluded, clueless...thinks he knows basketball cause he watches it, thinks no one but OLE Bobby can coach, thinks nothing has changed since the 1976 championship, thinks IU fan base is great (sorry folks, you are different from most fan bases, and that's not a positive...notice Lance uses all caps when describing it, like it is the model program...amazing)...I'd love to see who these big anonymous faceless boosters are that are willing to pony up 18 million to buy out Crean do that, but they don't exist, just a bunch of gutless critics who snipe behind the scenes...same guys that wouldn't pony up $40 mill to update Assembly Hall because they want OLE BOBBY'S name on it somewhere, bunch of fake fans, nothing more...I really enjoy watching the old guard at IU squirm in the new era of college basketball, though I would love to see IU and Crean (or whoever replaces him when it happens) do well, it is more fun when they are in the conversation...and the plan is to get Mike Woodson to take the job? Really?...beyond dumb, although I'm sure Woodson would bite...anything has to be better than the Knicks...as for Stevens, his NBA contract is 6 years...he will get 3-4 of those at a minimum, because he has a two year honeymoon and is making big money...that is time enough for IU fan to drive out Crean, but...my guess is he gets Boston to the playoffs next year with Rondo, high draft picks and a couple of free agents, and won't be available for quite some time...as for the choice Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Hoosiers?...greatest franchise in the history of the NBA (yes Laker fan can dispute), vs. maybe the 20th best college basketball job in the country (for many of the reasons you alluded to AS)...no brainer...in the NBA, you coach talent...in college, if you compete for the best talent, some kid like Vonleh shows up for one year, and sticks the coach's paycheck in his back pocket on the way out the door. Even Zeller, a kid cut out of IU cloth if there ever was one, only stayed two...Stevens isn't stupid, IU isn't Utopia, and it never was...wake up boys, it isn't 1976 anymore...OLE BOBBY isn't coming back to save the day...you are lucky to have as good a coach as you have...I feel your pain, and your delusions of grandeur though...have a nice day...turn on the light when you go back downstairs boys, those cellar steps are a little tricky...
          • Crean is here long time. Players maybe not so much
            Hilarious to read how some have anointed Brad Stevens as the can't miss savior of the IU program. Guess what, he isn't coming to Bloomington. Not next year...not in 5 years.Hoosier fans need to accept that Tom Crean will continue to be the head coach for at least 3-4 more years, if not longer. I agree with an earlier post that said AAU, blue chip ratings and other press have made young kids into mega-stars before they play their first college game. And the media sure doesn't help by immediately reporting that this or that 17-18 year old freshman is a can't miss, NBA first round/lottery pick (Noah Vonleh)all season long. Word is the new NBA commissioner is considering raising the age to 20 years before a kid can declare for the draft - as early as next year. Get ready for a lot of one and done college players heading to the NBA draft this year.
          • Crean Appologist -- BARF -- Nonsense
            As I see it, Crean's only possitive attribute is his recruiting ability. I think it takes more than that to be the head coach at IU. Crean's complete lack of control of his team is evidenced by their poor ability to hold on to the ball and their DUI offenses the night before games. Crean could really recruit some top talent if he could convince them he might be able to coach them. I am now physically sick after reading this article.
          • Uh, did we forget Pat Knight incident
            Uh, before we start bringing up Tom Crean's players being brought up on DUI (as an example of a lack of control), let's not forget Bob Knight's own son was brought up on drunken disorderly charges, and that's when Pat Knight was a player on the IU team.
          • Complete BS
            I knew before I read this it would be full of stupidity and crap. I wasn't disappointed though.
          • No all fans are not
            Like this. IU fans and Kentucky fans are the best and worst fans on the planet. PU has not made the tourney the last two years and their fans are still solidly behind Painter. The way Crean has been treated this year is an embarrassment to the fans and IU.
          • Yeah Right...
            A little over a year ago before a weak non conference game we all cheered when Fred announced the contract extension. Hoosier Nation was caught up in the frenzy of being #1 in the country once again and Tom could do no wrong. So tell me what kind of recruiting class did we get as a result of that love fest? The only thing he has is Backmon and this dude better be the next D Wade or Tom's in trouble. If you think its bad now just wait.
          • Let's think about this
            What a storm you've created here !! Nice work Anthony but your theory in the article is bogus. IU Fans and supporters(especially the ignorant ones) won't steer the programs towards success and failure, ADs and Coaches do. Coaches coach, players play, and fans cheer, whine and complain.
          • One of the worst
            Articles I've seen in the IBJ. What recruits has IU lost to OSU or Michigan/MSU that anyone could say was due to the IU fanbase? That's a total fabrication, not based in reality. You think kids don't want to come to IU, because the fans are too passionate about the team? Maybe some, bust most competitors seek out the limelight, not run from it. UK fans are 100x worse towards their players/coaches/programs when they lose...they have trouble recruiting because of it? I can't believe someone can miss the mark so badly in a column. Really out of touch.
            • Crean is a fraud
              Take it from a Marquette University graduate and basketball fan. I watched Crean work in Milwaukee for many years. D. Wade got him to a Final Four and he cashed in on that for many years. Crean is a used car salesman. He sells himself. He's a shameless self-promoter, nothing more. Get used to it, IU fans. You're stuck with him for awhile.
            • Alternatives?
              Methinks IU fans who believe Crean should go should consider the effects should that happen. 1. It would cost the school a lot of money. 2. Given the remnant young team he had to work with was anyone expecting sweet 16 much less tourney? And if a new coach replace him how many seasons of crap would have to be endured before they showed their prowess? 3. Mike Woodson? Uh no. That would not be anything even remotely resembling sane. In the event Glass made a switch who would be on the short list? If it were me I would have two names on it: Brad Stevens and Steve Alford. Problem is it will never happen. Both are ensconced in legendary programs and are doing well. Short of either of those two it is best in the long run to stick with Crean for a lot of reasons mostly unrelated to X's and O's. Be careful for what you wish.
              • Stirring the Pot
                Anthony doesn't know what tomwritevabout, so he just throws together a story about IU or Crean to stir the pot and get article hits. He knows even more than the Colts, IU basketball is something that will generate conversation. This state revels in everything IU basketball.
              • Future is so not bright I never wear shades
                No astute Hoosier fan is looking to bring the General back. What is needed is a coach who can bring the best out of these young athletes. Crean has not shown that he is capable of this. Not one of his seasons has left me feeling like his team reached its ultimate potential or at least was playing its best basketball at the end of the year. For those of us who watch these games closely we want a team we can trust game in and game out. Crean's teams have no identity. They seem lost at. Crunch Time This year was terrible, unfortunately next year (after an underperforming Vonleh leaves) will be just like Jake from State Farm- Hideous.
              • Pablum by Schoettle
                Schoettle's article is devoid of substance and fails to connect actions with their consequences. Following are a few quotes from the article which will validate the above: 1. "He was at Marquette." So? At Marquette Crean had a 190-96 record. Winning 2/3rds of games played is not a mark of great success. In his 9 years at Marquette his teams went to the final 4 in 2003 when Dwyane was on the team. Marquette did not win another first round NCAA tournament game until 2008. 2."The faithful this season did a wonderful job of undermining Crean's ability to recruit." This has nothing to do with the current team and its pathetic performance. The faithful was very supportive of Crean when he recruited the current roster. So is the current team's performance a lack of good recruiting, bad coaching or both. More could be said of last year's performance with a stellar roster. 3. "To his credit Athletic Director Fred Glass has stood behind Crean." Amazing! What else could be expected? Isn't Glass responsible for extending, prematurely in the judgment of many, Crean's contract? Ask Glass to provide the following information--How much did he contribute to IU before he got the AD job? How many athletic event at IU did he attend in the 10 years prior to obtaining the AD job? 4. Mike Davis - "Was he in over his head when he replaced Bob Knight in 2000. Perhaps." If Schoettle can't give a definitive answer to such any easy question, are any of his answers credible? What has been Davis' coaching results since he left IU?Where is Davis coaching this season, last season? Schoettle can't blame Knight. 5. "Maybe Crean can't coach. If this is true, it will be borne out with time." How many data point are needed? Some believe his record, prior to and at IU, provides enough time to tell. 6. "The negativity..causing some of Indiana's best..to flee to..Ohio State, ..." The fleeing began prior to the negativity. Whether or not Glass or Crean should have been honored with positions at IU is a fair question.
              • Naive
                What Anthony said is true but is also very naive. Crean has demonstrated time and time again he is not a good bench coach. Losing so many games with good leads down the stretch and leading Big 10 in turnovers are just 2 examples of his coaching weakness. Standards are high at IUBB. No more banners until Crean says good bye.
              • Six Words
                Next. Indiana. Head. Coach: Dane. Fife.
              • Pay Attention
                Do you even understand what your are reading? This article doesn't state that players don't want to come to Indiana because the fans are too passionate. It's because they don't know if Crean will even be around for long. Who would want to come to a program with turmoil surrounding a coach??
              • Pathetic
                IBJ, WHERE did you get this guy. One of the most pathetic excuses for a "sports" story I have ever read. Is this pandering to get an interview? Flabbergasted. Virtually nothing stated here has any merit at all. Who have you been talking to? IU BB certainly gets BEAT TO DEATH with analysis, the worst of it better than this.
              • Grammar
                Anthony: I believe you meant "beneficiary" and not "benefactor."
              • Thank you
                Beneficiary. Yes. Thanks.
              • frustrating recruiting
                I disagree with Kyle - alumni do not create problems with recruiting, the team's results do. That's on Crean. He has had unbelievable recruiting classes with dismal results. We'll have one more year of this and if it more cutting nets after losses, he must go. Stevens will either go to IU or Duke, whoever asks first. I say allow Crean back to Marquette and be the first one with open arms to let our Z eagle return to Indiana. PS - while I disagree with your analysis Anthony, I still enjoy your articles and the discussions they create. Keep them coming.
              • Terrible Article
                As a graduate of a respected School of Journalism, I can only shake my head at the baseless conclusions and assertions made in this article. The suggestion that Indiana is losing out on recruits to nearby competition due to social media is outright ridiculous. Crean did nothing special in the "resurrection" of Indiana. If Zeller didn't come on board, we'd be looking at six straight seasons without a tournament appearance. That's a logical conclusion, given what little Crean was able to do with two top-five NBA draftees. It's an absolute shame where IU is today and will be under Crean.
              • Yes!!
                I agree. Crean can only get players in a position to shoot an open three, it's up to the player to knock it down. Crean's accountable for putting the team in a position to win. Players need to take control and execute. Every good coach wants to give the team to the players. They need to lead and set goals. It's been a while since IU has had a real leader on the floor. I'm not even sure last year's team had a true leader (Oladipo?). IU doesn't win, because there are no men on the floor. No one to step up and will the team to a win, no one to say; "We don't lose at home to Penn State!". Players need to be held accountable as well.
                • Crean is not a "great recruiter"
                  It's a complete myth Crean is a great recruiter. This year we had no shooters....that's on him. The '14 Class in Indiana is loaded and he got one guy from it...and that was at the last nano-second as Blackmon said he had decided on Kentucky and only picked IU after he sat down. I bet that had more to do with playing time than Crean being a "great recruiter." And for next year, we have THE prefect opportunity for a great big guy: awesome back court and a ton of playing time. And Crean whiffed on all of them. Instead, he got a 7 footer nobody heard of and a 6'9" guy who lives on the 3 point line and has zero inside game (another guy no one heard of). So, please, stop slobbering all over Crean on what a "great recruiter" he is.
                • No men on the floor?
                  How about no shooters....which is Crean's fault.

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