Sunday, February 20, 2011
IU Old School -- Crean Seeks Return To Toughness
Tom Crean wants to go old-school. You know, tap into the spirit that made Bob Knight and Gene Keady successful.
NCAA rules won’t allow it, which makes it easier on the Hoosier players. Does it make them better? Guess it depends on your point of view.
To recap -- Crean was very unhappy about his team’s defense in Saturday's lethargic loss to Northwestern. This is not a surprise. The Hoosiers have spent a ton of time on this area and have yet to find the necessary consistency.
Crean has had enough. He likes his guys, he really does, but he can’t stand the way they sometimes play defense. So he wanted to address it right after Saturday’s game, or several hours later, but because of NCAA rules, he had to wait until 7:30 Sunday morning.
“If the rules weren’t set up right now for it to be so soft for players after this where you could practice that night or practice at midnight the next day, that’s exactly what we would be doing,” he said in the post-game press conference. “But we will be here at 7:30 in the morning guarding and continuing to get this thing where it has to be on the defensive end. Just continuing to search for people who have a mindset of what it’s going to take defensively. And if it’s not good enough at that point, we’ll come back and do it again.”
Years ago the NCAA had no rules about this, so coaches could be a little tougher on players who didn’t play to expectations.
Flash back to November of 1993. The Hoosiers had lost out in the Elite Eight to Kansas, a nemesis back then, to finish 31-4 the previous spring. Stars such as Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham were gone, but Damon Bailey and Alan Henderson were back. Much was expected.
IU opened the next season at Butler on a Saturday afternoon and was upset 75-71. Knight wasn’t happy, especially since the Hoosiers had a week off before playing No. 1 Kentucky. So when the team returned to Assembly Hall, he ordered the players into the locker room to get ready to practice.
Then he found out NCAA rules prohibited teams from practicing after a game. So, according to legend, he had the players wait hours in the locker room, until it was one minute past midnight, and then they practiced. He had a week of brutal practices and, at the end, Bailey told the team, in so many ways, we’re not going through this stuff again. The Hoosiers responded by upsetting Kentucky 96-84.
Then there was Keady, who had promised his players a great meal at the Beef House, one of the state’s top steak restaurants, if they played well at Illinois. The Boilers played badly and lost. Keady, according to legend, threw out all the good food, made his players eat hotdogs, then practiced them when they returned to Mackey Arena.
It worked for them. Chances are it would work for Crean, but these are more sensitive times and the era of extra practice has gone the way of head-butting players. Crean will follow the rules, but he won’t back off on the players.
“It’s my responsibility. There’s no question about that. And there is absolutely no accepting the way we defended in those first 20 minutes. That doesn’t excuse free throws not going in. It doesn’t excuse turnovers, but we have to go to … as we build to win we have got to have a defensive mindset. When we’ve had it, we’ve been pretty solid. When we haven’t we have a first half like we did (against Northwestern).”
For Crean, it’s about players holding each other accountable for their defense. It becomes a collective will not to let the other guys down.
Purdue comes to Assembly Hall Wednesday and the Hoosiers have to be in a lock-down defensive mode. The Boilers almost certainly will be. They are still in the hunt for a Big Ten title and they have to win their final four regular season games to have any chance at catching Ohio State. They will be ready with their rib-rocking defense. IU will have to match that or it will get embarrassed.
And if that means going old school, well, nobody said this program restoring stuff was easy.