Monday, February 4, 2013

IU's Crean On A Roll; Zeller Honored; Phantom Punch

 Tom Crean has had one heck of a last couple of days.

First, his Indiana Hoosiers beat then No. 1 Michigan in as thrilling a college basketball game as you’re likely to see in as spectacular an atmosphere as you’re likely to experience.

Then, his two brothers in law -- Jim and John Harbaugh -- went at it in the Super Bowl. Jim coaches the San Francisco 49ers. John coaches the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens held on to win as dramatic a Super Bowl as the sport has ever had.

Finally, the Hoosiers regained the No. 1 ranking they’d held for the first five weeks of the season. IU is 20-2 overall and, at 8-1 in the Big Ten, and has a one-game lead over Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State at the midway point of conference play.

Crean and his family flew down to New Orleans, the site of the Super Bowl, on Sunday morning. His wife, Joani, is the sister of Jim and John Harbaugh. They met with Joani’s parents, Jack and Jackie.

The Crean’s spent Sunday night in New Orleans watching the game and celebrating afterwards with John, commiserating with Jim. Crean flew back to Bloomington Monday morning and attended IU’s practice that afternoon. He had given the players Sunday off, although given the hard-working nature of his players, most of them probably worked on their own.

Even during the most hectic moments of the last few days, Crean didn’t lose sight of his preparations for yet another big basketball week -- IU plays at Illinois on Thursday and at No. 10 Ohio State on Sunday. He watched film on the plane ride to New Orleans and again on the plane ride back to Bloomington.

Still, Crean made sure he enjoyed the moment.

“It’s so unique,” he said. “It’s been a short night. You’ve got one family member you’re overwhelmed with happiness for. There is such a great joy and pride. You’ve got another one that it’s close to heartbreak that you can feel. It’s difficult. It’s hard for Joani and her parents.”

Crean is friends with Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. One of his sons, Jeremiah, played for Crean at IU a few years ago.

“Doc Rivers sent me a text last night,” Crean said. “I gave it to Jack. It said, ‘As a parent you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.’

“That’s an amazing statement. It’s one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard, and it probably fits what Joani’s parents are going through.”

Still, the opportunity to attend one of the world’s great sporting events, the chance to have access few people will ever get, left Crean absorbing as much of the experience as he could.

“It could be a once in a lifetime thing,” he said. “There is incredible joy in being able to be part of it, to see it. I got a chance to be around some great people. My children and wife got to participate in something that was incredible. They got to be around some great people. It’s something that will be full of incredible memories.”

Through it all, Crean’s didn’t lose focus on his coaching duties, and the quest to find an edge that could put the Hoosiers into Final Four territory.

“Your mind is never too far from what’s next,” he said. “I had my notes in my back pocket. I got five to six pages of notes ready to put into form when I get back to Indiana. It’s been unique.”

In the end, you see, Crean used the Super Bowl as a learning experience.

“Absolutely,” he said. “No question,” he added. “Having the vantage point we had, to have the access we had, to be behind the scenes and be on the field, was incredible. I could watch how the Ravens and 489ers do it and how they prepare.

(Former Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks coach) Pat Riley was there. I got to spend a minute with (former NFL coach) Bill Parcels (who just got selected for the Hall of Fame). Those are two of my coaching idols. I’ve gotten to know both through coaching. They were coaches I always looked up to long before I became a Division I coach.

“Something like this gives you a chance to pick brains of leaders -- business leaders, political leaders. It inspires you to think more creatively, to look at things differently, to pick up the interactions.

“We were in the commissioners’ box when the power outage came on. I watched the Commissioner (Roger Goodell) deal with that with such grace and calmness under pressure … it was amazing. That all applies to everything we do in life. No question things like this can only make you better.”


Who said Cody Zeller is slumping?

The Indiana sophomore forward bounced back from a couple of sub-par games with a pair of big ones last week. He led IU over Purdue and Michigan, averaging 19.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. That earned him co-Big Ten player of the week honors with Michigan’s Trey Burke.

It was Zeller’s first conference player of the week award this season and the second of his career.


Ah, the drama we must deal with.

Now there’s the Twitter-fueled controversy about whether Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III punched Jordan Hulls late in Saturday’s game.

Robinson’s hand/fist did hit Hulls in the jaw. The Indiana senior guard did get staggered for a few seconds, but was not seriously injured.

Video replays indicated contact between Christian Watford and Robinson might have inadvertently led to Hulls getting hit. There didn’t seem to be anything vindictive or nasty or unsportsmanlike about it, although some will disagree.

Anyway, the Big Ten will likely look into it. Crean didn’t address that topic during his Monday night radio show. It was probably a good move.

He's got enough on-court drama to deal with.

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