Tom Crean wishes using the bench was more of an option.
If he could, the Indiana coach said, he would be much quicker to pull players who weren’t performing up to his standards so that they really understood that they had screwed up and what the consequences could be.
“There’s nothing that gets their attention more,” Crean said Wednesday in media availability for Thursday’s 9 p.m. game against Wisconsin at Assembly Hall. “There’s nothing. … There’s no tool, and I don’t think you really understand that until you’re a head coach.”
But Crean argues that on this team, that isn’t nearly as much of an option. The depth, he says, simply isn’t there, and the facts seem to back him up.
When he starts three guards, his first guard off the bench is senior Devan Dumes, who has been known to make the occasional questionable decision that requires him to take a seat. After that, he’s dealing with walk-ons, starting with sophomore guard Daniel Moore.
In the post, he has similar problems. For freshman Christian Watford and sophomore Tom Pritchard respectively, his options are freshmen Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco, who are in just as much of a learning phase as the previous two.
“We don’t have enough developed depth for me to do the kinds of things I need to do sometimes in minutes and sitting guys down or guys playing through things,” Crean said. “We’ve just gotta keep developing our depth so there’s a time when we can do those kind of things and lessons can be learned rather than just on the court and playing through it. That’s where the injuries have gotten us a little bit and frankly, we haven’t had a lot of the young big kids, and I include Tommy in this, separate themselves. We have four freshmen and a sophomore playing the bulk of the minutes other than Tijan, up front. There’s times when guys play above and beyond, but we haven’t had that separation. That’s what we’re going to have to get over a period of time to be better.”
When he does, he said, no one will be above being pulled to learn a lesson.
“There were times we sat D’Wyane Wade down,” Crean said. “There was one time, his first year playing, we were playing St. Louis and they were guarding him very well, they were tough and physical with him. … There were six minutes left in the game, and I said, ‘You know what, my man, we’re going to find out if we can win without you.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘You’re not going back in. You’re not going back in. We’re going to win without you, or we’re going to lose without you. Either way you’re not going back in.’ We didn’t. Travis Diener hits a three, and we end up winning by four and I go ‘phew.’ (wiping sweat off his eyebrow).’ But you know what, if you can make that lesson known with a guy that turns out to be one of the best players in the world, then you can do it, but I had a guy like Travis Diener who can make threes.”