Tuesday, June 15, 2010
In Big Basketball Picture, Crean is Right IU Fit
So now we know Tom Izzo will be a Spartan for life. He will not succumb to NBA temptation with its mega-million-dollar salaries and LeBron James possibilities.
The Big Ten is better for it. So is Michigan State. It seems unlikely that anyone could duplicate Izzo’s success in East Lansing, just as it’s been impossible to duplicate what Bob Knight did at Indiana and John Wooden did at UCLA.
Izzo is a guy who has taken his team to six Final Fours in the last 12 years, something only Wooden and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski have done. He’s won a national title and a bunch of Big Ten championships. He returns a team with strong national championship potential.
There are some in Indiana circles who are disappointed in Izzo’s decision. They hoped that if Izzo went to Cleveland, Michigan State officials would hire Tom Crean away from the Hoosiers.
In this scenario, Izzo goes to Cleveland, Crean goes to Michigan State (he’s a former Spartan assistant coach under Izzo) and somebody new, say Brad Stevens of Butler, ends up in Bloomington.
This is not unexpected or a negative. Okay, it is a negative if you’re Crean, who is giving his heart and soul to the IU job, but we’re looking at it from the big picture perspective.
These are passionate Cream ‘n Crimson fans who are tired of losing. Any coach who wins 16 games in two seasons, as Crean has done, is not going to win a popularity contest, especially if he’s just 1-for-3 in landing top-15 recruiting classes and has yet to fully tap into the state of Indiana’s mother lode of high school talent.
That Crean had to gut the program because it was full of guys who, and we’re being kind here, were not IU material, is no longer relevant. Fans want victories and stud recruits. They want hope in this era of Purdue and Butler thriving on the national scene.
Crean has already used Twitter (we still don’t understand the attraction of this thing, but we do understand it’s making somebody a lot of money, just not us) to state he’s not interested in the job. Now, of course, it’s irrelevant. Izzo will likely be at Michigan State for at least another 10 years, maybe more.
Crean, of course, remains focused on restoring Indiana’s basketball glory. The Hoosiers are pushing the off-season pace to get bigger, stronger and more skillful, and if they have to do it without strength coach Jeff Watkinson, who is now ex-Hoosier Eric Gordon’s personal trainer, well, it’s just another challenge Crean must overcome.
And he will.
The key remains recruiting and Crean is fully committed to landing a big-time class dominated by some of the state’s big-time prep talent. That commitment needs to produce results. This summer and fall will be huge.
In the meantime, grumbling will continue. Some will keep wondering if Crean is the right guy for the job. IU fans, you see, really aren’t fickle. They just want the Hoosiers win again, thrive again, thrill again. They want IU to kick some behind, starting with Kentucky and Purdue.
Is that asking too much?