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.