Tom Crean Deserved Better From Indiana

    Tom Crean rebuilt the Indiana program, then became a victim of his own success. The school's administration - and the Hoosiers' fan base - owed him more than an undeserved dismissal.

    March 22, 2017

    Tom Crean rebuilt the Indiana program, then became a victim of his own success. The school’s administration – and the Hoosiers’ fan base – owed him more than an undeserved dismissal.

    Tom Crean hopes Indiana wins a national championship soon. And good on Crean – he’s taking the high road. No bitterness, just truth and emotion.

    Even if Indiana athletic director Fred Glass couldn’t show him the same respect. Crean’s agent knew the night before Glass texted Crean to set up a meeting to fire him, a meeting Crean rightfully declined.

    Nine years of rebuilding and recruiting and winning, and a text message delivering news Crean already knew was all the Hoosiers’ former head coach could get from his boss. Pathetic.

    Glass fired Crean for the same reason Crean said he took the job – “It’s Indiana. It’s Indiana, and that’s the bottom line.” It didn’t matter that the Indiana basketball program dwindled to a shell of itself after Kelvin Sampson got his hands on it. Crean vowed to restore tradition, to scratch and claw through a few seasons of misery in order to bring the Hoosiers back to the level he, the administration and the fan base felt it deserved.

    Former Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean talks with center Thomas Bryant. (Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

    But it’s Indiana, and expectations aren’t met unless you’re exceeding them. Glass must’ve forgotten Crean inherited a team that returned only two walk-ons for his first season and brought it to the Sweet 16 in his fourth. And again in his fifth, when Indiana won its first outright Big Ten regular-season championship since 1993.

    Glass also must’ve overlooked the Hoosiers again winning the conference championship last season, when Crean was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year. But he certainly saw Indiana dipping to 18-16 with a first-round NIT exit this year, all while ignoring the fact Crean lost one of his best players – O.G. Anunoby – to a season-ending injury Jan. 18.

    Wins over Kansas and North Carolina? Eh. James Blackmon played hurt later in the season but who cares? It’s Indiana. That mediocrity won’t cut it, no matter the circumstances. Ever.

    So, Glass clearly laid out the expectations for Indiana’s next coach last Thursday: Perennially contend for and win multiple Big Ten championships; regularly go deep in the NCAA Tournament; win the Hoosiers’ next national championship – and more after that.

    For Crean, it looks like two out of three is bad. The problem is, Glass owes the justification for all of those expectations to Crean, the coach who took a team with no returning scholarship players his first season and busted his butt on the recruiting trail to win two Big Ten titles and make three Sweet 16 appearances in four trips to the NCAA Tournament.

    Making Crean a scapegoat for one subpar, injury-riddled season is the equivalent to sentencing a juvenile to life in prison because he stole a candy bar once. Crean’s entire body of work earned him more chances to right the ship – or at least more than a text message.

    Now it’s all on you, Fred. Go get your Steve Alford or Gregg Marshall or Chris Holtmann or even Dane Fife. Heap those lofty expectations upon another coach who must immediately live up to them within a program Crean built – literally. It takes more than tradition to lay a foundation that’s now in place for Crean’s successor.

    Tom Crean deserved better, but hey – It’s Indiana.

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