Sunday, March 28, 2010

Timeline for an Indiana Basketball Turnaround

So we know Tom Crean and some of his coaching rivals were busy watching some of the state’s best high school talent go at it during the state finals in Indianapolis.

They had plenty to see with Park Tudor’s Kevin Ferrell, Bowman Academy’s DeJaun Marrero, Washington’s Cody Zeller, North Central’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Gary Wallace’s Brandon Dawson.

Purdue’s Matt Painter, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Illinois’ Bruce Weber and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith also were on hand in yet another endorsement for the quality of talent the state is producing and why Crean has to tap into it if he’s to restore the Hoosier program.

Crean is trying, of course. He has a lot of ground to make up and it takes time, just as it takes time to rebuild a gutted program, as IU’s basically was in the aftermath of the Kelvin Sampson mess.

How much time? Let’s take a look at the ultimate rebuilding project from the ultimate gutted program –- Baylor.

The coach is Scott Drew, the son of Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, and it’s taken him seven years to build an Elite Eight program that just missed a Final Four berth.

Baylor, of course, was an absolute disaster under former coach Dave Bliss. There was a murder, NCAA infractions, an attempted cover-up and, well, it got so bad the NCAA came very close to giving Baylor the death penalty and shutting down the program.

Scott Drew arrived after one year at Valparaiso –- he won 20 games after replacing his father –- with a far tougher job than what Crean inherited, which is saying something because Crean inherited a big-time mess.

Baylor went 8-21 in Drew’s first year, 9-19 in his second. Then things really got bad because that’s when the NCAA, after a long investigation, finally sanctioned the program. Baylor was banned from playing any non-Big 12 teams, which meant all the players could do in November and December was practice. Still, they finished 4-13, which was a positive.

In the meantime, Drew was recruiting hard and well. His first class was rated 10th nationally by most recruiting experts. His next two were ranked 11th and 17th. The foundation was being built, and if it meant ticking off a few Big 12 coaches in the process, well, nobody said recruiting was a nice-guy’s task.

Anyway, Baylor was 15-16 in Drew’s fourth year. The next season, it went 21-11, made the NCAA tourney and lost to Purdue in the first round. Last season it was 24-15. This season it finished 28-8 and lost to Duke in the Elite Eight. It is a remarkable turnaround.

Yes, it's not an identical situation, but it does give an indication of what reasonable progress is. Figure Crean will get the Hoosiers back to their winning ways within two seasons. That depends on keeping his key returning players -– Verdell Jones, Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls, Bobby Capobianco -– developing Bawa Muniru, and signing some top-caliber recruits. It means establishing a style of play -- an identity -- and sticking to it.

It sounds easy, but then, when it comes to IU basketball, nothing is easy anymore.


  1. I really use to think you could write but it is now obvious that your desire to be Tom Crean's best friend has destroyed your judgement.
    You just compared IU to Baylor. That would be like comparing Oklahoma Football to Baylor. Baylor may now have a superior program to IU but that doesn't mean IU has to take 7 years to be good. You do have to have a coach that is capable of rebuilding the program quickly, but Crean has failed to sell the school to better players. There is a reason for that Crean has a history of players not developing and Crean has exactly 1 NCAA tournament win without Dwayne Wade. Crean is the issue and with Butler making the final 4 with only one recruit inside the top 100 (Matt Howard), and starting 3 sophs, 1 jr and 1 sr. You can see that coaching players up is just as important as getting recruits. Crean sucks at that as well.

  2. We finally have a coach with integrity, basketball knowledge and the awareness of INDIANA BASKETBALL. Give him time and we will again have a top notch program. I back coach Crean 100%. Don't hide your IU gear because you will have to get it out again soon. Stick with them through the tough times and it will make waht is coming all the more special.

  3. I appreciate what you are trying to do but rebuilding Baylor should be a lot harder than rebuilding IU, UK, UNC, UCLA, ect.

  4. Sounds reasonable to me, but it will take a world of patience for IU fans -- it's not like we can enjoy football season until basketball returns to glory.

  5. I think that's a fairly fair comparison. Obviously it should be easier to build a program at a school with IU's tradition and reputation (and Tom Crean's experience). I could see Indiana winning 15 games next year adn going to the tourney two years from now. I think the Big 10 championships and national title hopes won't be for another two years after that.

  6. I think the comparison to Baylor was spot on. Who cares what university. If it were only about the university, then Crean should have been able to just hold an e-auction and pick from the cream of the crop. If the University has sanctions and no one yet believes this program can win again, that is why top recruits are not coming here. We basically had two years of dealing with Freshman, because this year the freshman took over and had to learn too. Next year will be different and the winning trend should start looking just like Baylors, or very similar. Its all about rebuilding a "program", not just telling someone, "hey, I coach at IU, wanna play for me?" Kids of today dont even know anything about IU and the 70's / 80's, so to them, its completely irrelavent. What school has a good coach and what school wins (TODAY)? Not 20 years ago. Crean has done a great job so far, but obviously not good enough for many of the critics. If by conclusion of 2011 season IU is not below 10 in total losses, I think Crean should be judged at that point and start looking harder into what he is doing.

    The article was very good!