Tuesday, May 31, 2011

IU Standout Returns as Basketball Coach; Crean Grades Tough

Whitney Thomas, one of the best basketball players in Indiana history, is ready to make her mark as an assistant coach.

Thomas will join Felisha Legette-Jack’s staff seeking to make as much impact as a coach as she did as a player. She is the only Hoosier to ever surpass 1,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 200 career steals.

“The family atmosphere if very important to the growth of our program and bringing Whitney back as an assistant coach is a tremendous get,” Legette-Jack said in a university release.

Thomas totaled 1,240 points, 1,090 rebunds, 258 assists, 237 steals and 73 blocks. She ranks second in school history in steals and rebounds. Her 32 career double-doubles rank fourth at IU.

“I look forward to helping the program grow into something special,” Thomas said.


If you play basketball for Indiana and Tom Crean, you’d better go to class.

Yeah, you hear that from every coach, but not every coach puts the teeth into it that Crean does. He’s always taken pride in his players’ academic performances and, after the misery the program endured during the end of Mike Davis’ run and the Kelvin Sampson era, the program has finally gotten back on track.

Crean keeps track of his players every academic movement. If they’re late for a class, he knows it that day. If they miss a class, he knows it right away. If they’re struggling, he knows that, too.

If you’re late for a class, the next day you have to come to Assembly Hall at 6:30 in the morning and either run the arena stairs (if you’ve been in the place, you know how much fun that is), or endure a rigorous workout with strength coach Je’Ney Jackson (who probably isn’t happy HE has to be working that early).

If you miss a second class, you have to come in at 5:30 in the morning for another session. If you’re late a third time, the whole team has to come in early.

Yeah, that would cause some major player unhappiness with the offender.

Crean said nobody has ever had a third screwup.


You probably know that the Big Ten recently heard officials from Indianapolis and Chicago make their pitches to host the Big Ten football championship game and the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

League officials are set to make a decision soon.

Right now Indianapolis has all three events. It’s had the basketball tourneys for a number of years (next spring is the final year of the contract). It will host the inaugural football title game in December as the league makes room for Nebraska and divides itself into divisions, the names of which are so silly we can’t bring ourselves to say them.

For football, you could play the game in the fan-friendly comfort of Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium, which was designed to host a Super Bowl and will next February if the NFL ever gets its act together and resolves its labor dispute.

Or you could play on the frozen tundra of Soldier Field, which looks like a poorly designed flying saucer and will never host a Super Bowl. Chicago officials pushed the fact that the average temperature in early December in the city ranges from a high of 41 to a low of 28. But anyone who has endured the weird weather of the last year or so knows that averages no longer apply. Figure an End of Days type blizzard, and we say that with total objectivity.

IU coach Kevin Wilson and Purdue coach Danny Hope are pushing for Lucas Oil Stadium. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald favors Soldier Field.

As far as the basketball tourneys, if you care about the fans, the teams, the convenience and reasonable prices, it’s Indianapolis all the way. It’s not even close.

Here’s the deal, and this is huge in these economically challenged times. Chicago is a gazillion times more expensive than Indianapolis. You have the kind of traffic and construction issues to turn Rush Limbaugh into a liberal Democrat. You have bagels that cost more than a Donald Trump hair weave. In Indianapolis, you can walk to Conseco Fieldhouse, passing great restaurants along the way that won’t tax your credit card limit. In Chicago, nobody walks to the United Center from the nearest hotel. Nobody walks to the United Center from anywhere.

It’s possible one city could host the football game, and the other the basketball tournaments. Big Ten officials also could rotate the sites.

Nobody has asked us, and probably never will. Still, the choice seems as obvious as a Snookie tan: Indianapolis rules.


  1. I'm all for hosting the Big10 bball tourney.

    But all the Big10 teams play football outside except Minnesota so Soldier Field makes sense for real football and not indoor flag football for quality of the game and TV appeal. Indy for local ease for attendees does make sense. Maybe switch every few years.

  2. I think you're way off base (and obviously biased beyond belief)... Chicago is the largest and most important city in the midwest. Not to mention has the largest amount of big ten alums.

    I guarantee if you asked a big ten alum where they would rather watch their team play a football championship game or a basketball game they would say Chicago.

    People want to come to Chicago and are willing to pay more (and by the way gazillions is a big exageration) because it has much more to offer than indy. Restaurants, night life, museums, accomodations, etc.

    The big ten should capitalize on Chicago like the big east does on New York. Utilize your biggest market for your biggest events. It's a bigger stage with a much bigger payoff long term for the conference.

  3. Don't worry. The press box at Soldier Field is heated.

  4. Awww come on, now. We love a good story, but I've never once heard from Tom Crean and have taught several of his players. On the upside, I love these kids and they are wonderful students. But come on, no need to exaggerate. No one is checking up on lateness or attendance. We have to report it. And what professor sends out lateness notices? That's right. We don't. Let's play fair here, okay?

  5. Nobody walks to the United Center from anywhere.

    This is simply not true. Hundreds of fans walk down Madison to the UC from Union Station, Olgilvie, and the West Loop for every Blackhawk and Bulls game.