Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crean Pushes His Hoosier Basketball Message

Tom Crean gets it. He really does. He shows up at the IU Auditorium in the wake of a best-of-John Mellencamp music fest and as part of a light-and-Indiana-band entrance adorned in red sweat shirt and tapping into Cream 'n Crimson glory.

He talks IU basketball to the assembled masses (an estimated crowd of a thousand, mostly students) and touches on the key elements of the program’s rich tradition. He mentions nearly every former Hoosier coach but one (see if you can guess who he left out). He shows an inspirational video showing highlights from last season and IU training sessions.

He addresses his philosophy by paraphrasing Vince Lombardi, the symbol of the NFL and a man who radiated toughness just by breathing.

“This is what coaches live by, what pushes them late at night,” Crean said. “Vince Lombardi once said, ‘We will relentlessly chase perfection and along the way catch excellence.

“That’s what we try to do. That’s the level of excellent we aspire to every day.”

Crean doesn’t joke about that every-day stuff. He expects it. He seeks inspiration wherever he finds it and then passes it to his players, whether it’s a Mellencamp song, or a Hall of Fame coach’s half-a-century-old message. Call it the consequence of a two-year victory total of 16.

Crean has put in the off-court time to turn things around. The in-state recruiting has picked up, the returning players have bought into Crean’s style and all the negative preseason publications picking the Hoosiers to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten if fueling their fire. Part of that is because the Big Ten is so strong – Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State are top-10 programs, Illinois and Wisconsin aren’t far behind – that even a very good team could get hammered.

Those are concrete things. What about some of the soul-searching ones?

Let’s take a look.

“There are three things you are in charge of in life no matter what,” Crean said. “The No. 1 thing is you’ve got to be mentally prepared. Winners come in prepared to go to work. There’s got to be a drive.

“Second, you have to be ready to compete. It’s not enough to work hard. So many people work hard. It’s what can you get done? It comes down to competing at a high level on a daily basis. We have to push for that to happen. It makes for hard days. It sometimes makes for hard feelings. It’s hard to get it out of somebody on a daily basis.”

“Third, it’s got to do with an energy and enthusiasm. They go hand in hand. Nobody cares about the problem. Everybody has problems. Your opponents thrive on your problems.”

Like we said. Crean gets it.

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