Monday, January 16, 2012

Passionate Crean seeks substance over instant image

Tom Crean is a passionate coach, which you know if you see him during games. The guy paces the sidelines enough to rival the mileage of a marathoner, and he’s not doing it like a zombie.

He yells, fist pumps, points and about everything except hand stands and somersaults.

Crean has busted his behind to get the program back on track (see 15-3 record as Example No. 1), and after a couple of losses to Minnesota and Ohio State, well, feistiness can kick in.

Guess what? It kicked in during Monday night’s radio show.

First, though, an observation.

Crean spent an hour after Sunday’s loss at Ohio State talking to the players in the locker room. He said it wasn’t an angry tirade, but more a matter of teaching points as the Hoosiers look to move on.

Here’s the deal. IU got hammered at Value City Arena. So did Duke. So does just about every team that goes there. You combine Buckeye super talent with home court advantage and that’s what usually happens.

Yeah, there are points to make, but wouldn’t it be better to keep the locker room talk short and to the point, save more for the plane ride home and get in depth in practice the next day?

Granted, we're not a coach, but does it work to talk to players that long right after a game? In theory, players listen to and absorb every word no matter how long the speech, treating it as if it came from a Higher Power. In reality, well, attention span wanders. Guys are tired, ticked and probably hungry, especially after a loss. Yes, some of them might even start thinking about girls. Figure 10 minutes tops and they start tuning you out.

Years ago Mike Davis spent at least an hour chewing out his players after a loss to Kentucky. Again, how much of that sunk in.

It reminds me of my son’s days in youth and high school soccer. After a game the coach gave passionate talks. It might have been the greatest speech in the history of humanity. Afterward, I asked what the coach said. His response consistently stuck to this theme:

“I don’t know. We had to play better.”

Thirty minutes of rambling condensed to six seconds. Yes, it’s the era in which we live in, although figure Ancient Sparta youths, when forced to listen to some elder chew on them for not using proper hand-to-hand fighting technique, also eventually tuned them out. It’s human nature.

Yes, we know. We just did some rambling ourselves.

So back to Crean, passion and his radio show.

He got a question about the roles of his assistant coaches. His answer took an interesting turn.

“I think when you get to the game and you get out there at early at Indiana, you don’t see our (assistants) hob-nobbing with national media members and sitting on the sideline and relaxing,” Crean said. “We don’t have a team of guys that are out wearing their Beats headphones as they’re warming up. Our guys are out there working with them. I don’t have a group of guys that are grandstanders, that are looking to get an article done about them. I’ve got a group of guys that are really, really hungry to make the team better. That’s game night.”

Crean also said his assistant coaches are too nice with what goes on in the recruiting trail.

“Our coaches, they’re very tolerant, and sometimes I don’t like that,” Crean said. “They’re tolerant of some of the things we see in recruiting. They’re tolerant of some of the negativity. They’re tolerant of some of the grandstand assistant coaches that run their mouth constantly against us in recruiting and want to talk about development, yet they’re the guys that are cheerleading and hob-nobbing and all of those kinda things.

“It’s about making your players better, and I don’t think there’s any question whatsoever that our coaches are making our players better. … I’m not good with silver-spoon coaches. I’m not good with male models. I’m not good with guys who need to have a lot said and written about ‘em. I’m good with guys that roll up their sleeves and get to work. I think that’s what we’ve got.”

Crean also was asked about his emotions when Christian Watford hit the three-pointer to beat Kentucky. Some Kentucky players have said it was a lucky shot. Crean saw nothing lucky about it.

“It was a hard-earned shot,” he said. “Every time I walk by that picture I see Marquis Teague coming from behind and Darius Miller come straight up with him. With our team, it’s like today (and the Ohio State loss). When we look at the game, we look at the scoreboard. We didn’t win the game. We look at the scoreboard and it is what it is. Our job is to get into that film room and correct it.

“When we beat Kentucky, all I would say to everybody there, look at the scoreboard. We beat Kentucky. I know I saw the comments out of Lexington where the players referred to it as a lucky shot and they had a two-point lead, but at the end of the day, you lost the game and we won it. There were times inside of the game at the seven minute when I felt we should be up by more. It was a very good game and it was a great shot. We’re not giving the scoreboard back. We’re not giving the win back. We’re not giving the Ohio State win up here back, and the bottom line is we didn’t earn it yesterday. You just move forward, you keep moving forward and trying to get better.”

We told you he was passionate.


IU (15-3) dropped two games last week and barely lost any ground in the national polls. It dropped to 11th in AP and 13th in the coaches poll. Why? Because a lot of teams lost last week; some lost badly. Florida State, for instance, pulverized North Carolina. Conference play is tough on records, especially in an era of increasing parity.

Still, the Hoosiers need to have a big week, which means winning at Nebraska and against Penn State. They don't want to start a freefall that might be impossible to stop.


So it looks like Derek Willis is finally ready to commit to a basketball program and stick with it.

Willis is the 6-9 standout forward from Kentucky who at first wanted to be a Purdue Boilermaker (he committed in last April), then blew up on the summer travel ball circuit (we mean generated a lot of recruiting interest; he didn't ACTUALLY blow up) and decided to reopen his recruiting.

Now it’s down to Indiana, Purdue, Kentucky and Louisville. He’s set to make the announcement Friday.

Given the way Kentucky coach John Calipari seems to get every player he wants not named Gary Harris, figure the Wildcats are the favorites.

Anyway, Willis is ranked No. 23 nationally in the Class of 2013 by, a national Internet recruiting service. He can rebound, shoot the three-pointer, block shots and handle the ball.

IU already has Class of 2013 commitments from Collin Hartman, Luke Fischer and Devin Davis. At the moment it looks like there’s not a scholarship available for Willis because the Hoosiers have already used up their allotment of 2013.

Believe us, if he chooses Indiana, the scholarship numbers will work out.


  1. One, who cares about rankings? All that matters is wins vs. losses, especially against quality opponents. Two, Crean has every right to hold team meetings for as long as it takes to get the message across. Set the bar high, 'cuz that is what separates the winners from the wannabes. Three, the kids get away with way too much off-court stuff and play the recruiting game because gutless schools and parents let them.

  2. Hey Pete, what excuse will you come up with for VJ3 and the Hoosiers after they lost to Nebraska? Nebraska? Really? The great VJ3, Watford, Hulls, and Oladipo all spit out the bit. Good luck whitewashing that effort away!