Live chat transcript: IU men’s and women’s hoops, spring football impressions

QUESTION: MODERATOR: Welcome to today’s IU sports chat. Thanks for joining us. Busy sports weekend so without further delay let’s get started.
How are you today?

Jeremy: Just trying to stay afloat, literally, on this Friday. Feel free to rain down questions upon us.

Mike: Can’t complain. Hope to make it through this week’s chat without a transfer, commitment or other IU basketball transaction. Let’s do it.

Andy: H-T chatology now in session.

QUESTION: Hey fellas,
I really enjoyed Jeremy’s column on Monday about Crean. Very valid and to the point. My only question is whether the time is right to make sure the next hire is an elite coach. If you know you aren’t going to get an elite coach right now, doesn’t it make sense to keep Crean, evaluate him going forward, and make the move when you know you know you have a slam dunk?
From your favorite,
I like soup!, Blooomington

Jeremy : soup,
Thanks for reading and enjoying the column.
I agree that the timing is a humongous x-factor in all of this, and you could certainly do worse than keep Crean around for another year. Settling for a second-tier option will put IU back in the same spot a few years from now, which doesn’t do anybody any good. There would absolutely have to be a slam dunk or two on the line if and when a move was made.
That said, if we’ve reached the toxic point where neither side is satisfied with how this is working out, is delaying the inevitable healthy? There are recruiting classes for 2016, ’17 and beyond to consider, especially if people are seeing Crean as a lame duck coach. And the measure that athletic director Fred Glass uses also has to evaluate what’s happening not just on the outside of the program, but inside where we don’t get to see day in and day out.

It’s a fascinating debate, but the fact we’re even having the discussion is a bit of an indictment of where things stand.

Mike: Hey soup,
Welcome back. I completely agree. I have my questions about whether all of this is salvageable for Crean, but the crop of possible replacements right now is just totally underwhelming. At this point, I don’t think it would necessarily be a bad thing for Crean to have another opportunity to do what he can with next year’s team — however it looks six or seven months from now. Things could be better in Bloomington, but they could certainly be much worse, too. All indications, at the moment, are that Crean will be back next season. I don’t think that’s the worst thing right now.

Andy: Souper:
Coach Crean seems set to return, at least at this juncture, and clearly is working and recruiting hard to that end.
As you imply, spring is not always the best time to make a move, given among other things that recruiting is generally either complete or well-advanced (which is essentially the situation Tom Crean faced when he took the IU job.)

I don’t have a whole lot of patience with critics who seem to feel Tom Crean coaching another season (or more) at IU is somehow the worst thing that can happen for the program, because that is not only ungracious and ungrateful, it is poppycock (see, among other entries: Sampson, Kelvin). And, as you note, it could end up being a positive for all concerned right now. If next season turned out to go well (as it well might, especially if certain pending personnel and recruiting situations are resolved in the program’s favor), that could allow the coach and program to proceed from a position of strength and with better timing if any move is subsequently contemplated. If and when the coach and the program do opt to part ways somewhere down the road, I’m sure Fred Glass and others will take care to arrange it in a manner optimal to securing the program’s future, if at all possible. Any athletic director is always going to attempt to make any hire to head the IU men’s hoop program a profound wave-maker, given the program’s over-riding importance.

QUESTION: 1. Is anyone actually going to be able to make it to Assembly Hall next year? Between major I-69 construction getting to Bloomington and the building itself under major construction game experience may be not very good next year.

2. Is Tom Crean’s future more or less decided by Thomas Bryant and Yogi Ferrell? By that I mean if he gets them both, team is probably top 15 and he’s safe for a couple years. If he gets no big man and Yogi departs I dont think he has a team capable of winning enough to keep his job after this year. If i’m him i’m doing everything in my power to make sure I get these 2 on my team.
Darren, Martinsville

Jeremy : Darren,
1. I think they’ll get there, just may need to leave two hours earlier to do so, depending on the I-69 construction. I think the building renovations will just be a minor inconvenience, but then again nobody knows until it all hits full swing.

2. Yes and no. I mean, things certainly look much less bleak if both Bryant and Ferrell are in an Indiana uniform, but then again everybody will raise expectations to what is probably an unreasonable level. That means plenty of pressure on Crean in its own right. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t call it completely a no-win situation, but it’s pretty close for Crean right now.

Mike: Hey Darren,
At this point in the process, I don’t think anyone really knows how it’s going to work. IU officials are already warning folks about expected inconveniences from the construction. Certainly, that’ll impact parking and entrances/exits. But yeah, I’m most curious to see where the construction is in late October because that south lobby area has the potential to be messy. Frankly, I haven’t even thought about I-69 stuff, but it’s a good point, too.

Yeah, getting both is huge. Getting just one is going to be big, too. Thing is, next year is going to be make or break. But even then the roster for 2016-17 is nearly impossible to guess. After next season, Ferrell, Williams, Blackmon, Perea, Bryant (?) would either be gone or have the potential to leave. The last few years have produced some turnover, but man, that’s …. that’s something else. At this point, it’s hard to project next season, much less the next week. But you’re point is taken. Crean needs to do all he can to get Bryant, but also re-recruit Ferrell, just in case.

Andy: Darren:
1. From what I gather from IU folks, including some of the observations made this past week in Mike’s story about the Hall renovations, not much actual disruption is expected there. Fans might have to utilize a different entrance at times (say, the West instead of the South lobby), but that’s about it. As to the I 69-related construction, yeah, that might somewhat discommode people heading to games from the south and west. But I think people will take that into account as they make their travel plans.

2. I’m sure he’d rather have both than neither. If he gets some other big man rather than Bryant, that might still suffice, and Robert Johnson could probably handle the point reasonably well if Yogi exits. But, sure, next season is a crucial campaign for Coach Crean and the program, and on paper the roster would seem more robust with both Bryant and Ferrell on it.

QUESTION: Any insights on whom Crean is looking for at the open assistant’s position?
It would be nice to see some additions to the WBB staff after all the subtractions….any insights on that subject?
Steve, Indianapolis

Jeremy : Steve,
Not much new on the staff vacancy. Crean is always pretty low-key on these things and usually has a candidate or two out of left field, which is how Kenny Johnson and Chuck Martin have come to spend time in Bloomington most recently. Still, don’t rule out Bennie Seltzer.

As for women’s basketball, it seems likely recruiting targets are 2015 guard Kristian Hudson of Alabama, Marquette transfer guard Tia Elbert, JUCO forward Morgan Smith of Wallace State and JUCO guard Arjae Saunders of Walters State. There’s quite likely more. We’ll keep our ears to the ground.

Mike: Hey Steve,
It’s a good question. I’m guessing Bennie Seltzer might be in the mix, but I wouldn’t expect to hear much of anything until next week at the earliest. This weekend is the big coaches convention at the Final Four. More than anything, it’s a networking opportunity for everyone to mingle, talk shop, talk about openings and so forth. We may have a better idea in the coming days/weeks. I’m mostly curious about whether Crean looks at a guy who really, really knows defense. I maintain that adding someone like Thomas Bryant is great, but he won’t change the big picture for this team unless the perimeter defense improves quickly.

Andy: Steve:
I think it’s a very intriguing hire Coach Crean will make, given the context and what it might reveal about how he feels the current staff might be best augmented. Don’t have any insight as to who it’s going to be, or the timing of the announcement, but perhaps Jeremy and Mike have some insight on that. As to the WBB subtractions, I presume you’re referring to those from the player roster, and I think Teri Moren is looking at JUCO ranks pretty closely for some immediate influx in terms of physicality and experience.

QUESTION: Good morning guys, I hope all is well. I’ve had the last few Fridays off of work so I haven’t been around to submit questions but I’ve still been reading, thanks for your continued hard work!

1. Has anything stood out to you from Spring practice thus far (players, position groups, coaches comments, etc.)? Also, do you think Tommy Mister has a chance to have an impact this season or will Howard and Redding gobble up all the carries?

2. Thomas Bryant has said that a decision will be coming “soon”. IU is still recruiting Mychal Mulder (although haven’t offered him, as far as I know). Yogi and Troy are considering their NBA futures. What is your best guess as to how this all (additions, subtractions) plays out over the next 10 days or so?
As always, thanks for everything,
have a great week, God bless and go Hoosiers.
TJ, Noblesville

Jeremy : TJ,

Good morning and glad to see you back.

1. Football dudes …

2. Goodness, there are so many possibilities of how this could all work out. Obviously, the simplest solution that would bode the best for next year would be for somebody with limited playing time to transfer, giving Bryant a roster spot and everybody else stay.

That said, simple always surprises me, so I’m looking for at least one of the Yogi/Troy duo to go pro. I sort of think someone else might transfer, too, and the odds of Bryant ending up at IU would seem to decrease if he doesn’t announce in the next few days. I also think IU is going to have a hard time getting Mulder, who visited Louisville this week.
Just to be clear, I don’t have any insightful sources on any of this, just hunches. And if something or someone else popped up to throw a wrench in the works, well, that wouldn’t come as a shock either.

Mike: Hey TJ,
Welcome back. Tell you what, it’s good to see Nate Sudfeld back on the field and throwing well. Like the second half of last season showed us, there’s a pretty significant drop off between Sudfeld and the other quarterbacks. I say that with all due respect to a guy like Diamont, who really improved over the final three games of the season. I really like Diamont and think he could blossom into a pretty decent player, but he could really use a redshirt year. Looking at the offensive line, Kevin Wilson isn’t blowing smoke about the talent up front. IU is going to be really good up front on both sides of the ball — there are just so many guys who can rotate in and out on the O-line. Most importantly, they can all play and they’re all big, athletic guys who compare nicely with their counterparts across the Big Ten. On the other side, I’ve been a big Darius Latham fan from Day 1, you have Nate Hoff coming back from a really solid freshman season and then you have guys like Ralph Green and Adarius Rayner who can also rotate in and out. They’re good players, too. I think the one thing that all good programs have is a solid foundation up front. For a long time, IU didn’t have that and it’s hard to build. Wilson, it seems, has done a very nice job of doing just that.

Tommy Mister will be an interesting case. Deland McCullough said he had maybe his best day of the spring on Tuesday, but he’s also a guy that they don’t really need to push right now, less than a year removed from surgery. Frankly, I think that’s the wise move. Let him get out there and get a feel for the game — and himself — again, but save him for August. In the meantime, Jordan Howard is really a nice player. We all thought he was going to be more in the mold of a traditional power back, but I’m telling you the guy can scoot a little bit, too. He’s got a dash of speed — nothing like Coleman, of course — and he seems to have a decent understanding of when to use it. IU got a real quality player in Howard, seems to me. Redding is a great option as a No. 2 guy with his ability to do a lot of things pretty well. Also, don’t overlook Columbus East walk-on Andrew Wilson, who’s looked pretty good with his limited reps. We’ll see what happens when the new guys arrive this summer — that includes freshman Devonte Williams, who poses so many possibilities in Kevin Wilson’s offense — but Andrew Wilson could get a few snaps as a No. 3 guy this season. It wouldn’t shock me, at least.

I think Bryant will be the first domino to fall. I have to believe that if he commits to IU, that’s going to have an effect on Ferrell and Williams. That’s what happened last week at Maryland, where Diamond Stone, one of the top big men in the class, committed and enticed Melo Trimble to stay. I don’t think many people have a good read on what Ferrell and Williams are leaning toward at the moment. Bryant’s decision, one way or the other, should reveal the next step.
Thanks, TJ.

Andy: TJ:
1. Mike has seen more of practice than have I, but it’s my understanding the offense had a good day while the defense had some shoddy tackling in the most recent scrimmaging. I’m excited about the offensive line (that’s always a place I look first). Even with four guys departing who played some significant roles at times (Rahrig, Taylor, Eckert, Kaminsky) I think the four guys now brought into the mix (Gardner, Herron, Martin, Baker) will actually make this a bigger, more athletic, more talented unit. And I think Spriggs and Feeney, both now healthy, are NFL guys. If Reed and/or Rogers do the job at center and/or guard, that will really solidify things. But I like the looks of the line, as a whole. And I like the defensive line, too, in terms of its increasingly stout play last fall and the spring moves (Mangieri and McCoy to the line, with Shaw and Sykes stepping into Bandit). When was the last time IU entered a football season that I thought both lines were a stength? Maybe Cameron’s last season. Before that, the Mallory years. But it’s been a while.

I’ve always thought Mister could be a major contributor here, if healthy, though he’s obviously still emerging from ACL rehab right now. He’d probably not even be No. 3 behind Howard and Redding if IU had to play today. But I absolutely think he will be a regular in the rotation this fall. He’s got some giddyup. He brings some things to the table. Having said that, I think Howard is better (and certainly faster) even than the IU people thought when they recruited him. He might not quite have Tevin Coleman-caliber burst (let’s face it, not very many guys do), but he can run away from people once through the crease. And he’s huge. And he’s tough. And he can pass-block (not an unwelcome skill in this offense) and catch a pass (ditto). And I think Redding impressed everybody as a true freshman last fall (I just watched the Missouri tape again this past week). And I also think the trio of walk-ons at the running back spot this spring have all impressed the coaches. So it isn’t as if Mister will get playing time presented to him on a platter. But I also think he has the sort of talent that will command playing time, once fully revealed.

2. IU has seemed strong with Bryant, but any prolonged delay in his decision (or its announcement) might not be a good sign for Hoosier hopes. Scuttlebutt was that he might announce as early as Thursday this week, but that obviously didn’t happen, and recent reports indicate that he may wait till Oak Hill returns from its current play in the Dick’s tournament (during which he has shined, on the heels of a very solid performance in the McDonald’s game.) Dude can play. I think IU is very interested in Mulder, but that situation is conditional upon how other things shake out (including Yogi’s decision whether to return or not for a final season in Bloomington), hence no formal offer as yet. My best guess how things play out over the next 10 days or so? I think IU had a good shot to get Bryant, but I’m not sure the Yogi situation will be resolved that soon. I’d be somewhat surprised if Troy Williams didn’t return, but that is based mostly on my own musings, not actual knowledge. I’d be less surprised if Yogi departed (which people seem to think is more of a 50/50 deal) but, again, not overly surprised either way.
Thanks, TJ. Good to hear from you, as always.

QUESTION: 8 months have past since coach Miller left IU for personal/health reasons. In that time he had been taking to social media and seemed to be on a regular routine of trips/vacations. Yet we still don’t know the true story of why he departed, and IU has done a great job of silencing things. It must be something juicy. Meanwhile our program is a train wreck, with the wrong head coach, in a bad position. Help me understand how Moren could not produce results with the WNIT team Miller had, and how after next year we will be in a better position heading into potentially her 3’rd year as coach (Heaven Help Us). I just don’t see it. Looking into the eyes of those girls near the end of the season, you could tell by their expressions their hearts were not in it any longer. My thoughts are Moren lost most of the locker room and attention on Buss helped divide it even further. Convince me otherwise?? Thanks
Xander, B-Town

Jeremy : Xander,
You’ve assessed the Curt Miller situation well enough, and he certainly deserves the vast majority of blame for the situation in which IU women’s basketball finds itself.
I honestly don’t believe that IU’s record is much different, maybe a couple games at best, if Miller is the head coach this past season. There were simply too many shortcomings, pardon the pun, with the frontcourt. Those issues were only made worse by the fact that Kaila Hulls and Claire Jakubicek were unable to play due to injury, removing some options at the 4 spot. The inconsistency was more notable than the actual record, with all four regular-season Big Ten wins coming by double digits and nine of the 14 conference losses by double digits.

Now that said, the chemistry that existed under Miller clearly didn’t exist by the end of the season, resulting in the four transfers. I would expect a couple of transfers, but four, including Larryn Brooks and Liz Stratman, both expected to be central figures on next year’s team, gives anyone pause. And multiple sources for the recent column I wrote pointed to the environment surrounding the squad as a primary issue. Combine environment, clash of basketball philosophy and whatever else — I’m sure it was a year of adjustment to and for Buss, but that alone would seem manageable — to reach the point of the current reboot.

Whatever the variety of issues that plagued IU this season, Teri Moren is going to have a chance to make it work. It’s a thin roster pending spring signings, but there is talent in rising sophomores Buss, Cahill and Walter, a still-talented rising junior class in Anderson, Gassion, Leikem and McBride. If Moren can successfully recruit the kind of player she wants and avoid similar roster turnover at this time next year, things just might work in Bloomington. We’ll wait and see.

Mike: Hey Xander,
Miller himself expected this year’s team to take a step back — or, at least, feel the loss of its top three posts from a season ago. Losing Chaplin, Deloach and Gerardot was going to hurt no matter who was the coach. Then, of course, you have Miller essentially abandoning the team at basically the worst possible time, leading IU to scramble for a replacement that very likely was the third, fourth or fifth option. With all due respect to Moren, she was put in a position where she had to work a miracle. Where she went wrong, it seems, is her handling of things behind the scenes. Does her recruiting compare to Miller, who was in the homes of some of the best prospects in the state/region? I have my doubts. The locker room also appeared to have its fractures, but that shouldn’t have been a total surprise. It is, however, telling when a player like Liz Stratman — who seemingly would have been a great fit in Moren’s system — decides to transfer after not even having played a game. That one, along with Larryn Brooks, is gonna hurt next season.

I can’t say for certain whether or not Teri Moren is a good enough coach to get IU moving in the right direction. I mean, I really don’t know. This season was like trying to fit a square into a circle. You knew there were going to be issues, be it with the style of play, lack of cohesion between the players and the new staff, etc. It was maybe a little worse than imagined, but I’m not completely writing Moren off just yet. Does she have Miller’s charisma? Nope, not at all. Can she, like Miller, sell the program to the top players in the state/region? Remains to be seen, though losing Jenna Allen was not a good first step. Does she deserve a chance to field a team of her own players? Absolutely. Be fair about this. It was a tough situation to begin with.

And while we’re at it, maybe Miller’s the guy who ought to be drawing more ire from IU fans. After all, he left absolutely everyone hanging, left the place without saying much of anything to the players he recruited here in the first place and he’s skipping town once and for all to head to Los Angeles. And guess what? He’s not saying a word about it. Miller wasted everyone’s time. If this program is still struggling three or four years from now, don’t forget about that, either.

Andy: Xander:
Nobody is gonna claim things are optimal, I don’t think — especially after Liz Stratman’s departure was added to the others, given what should could have brought to the front line next season (at least looking at it on paper) in terms of experience and capacity. Coach Moren deserves every chance to build her own program with her own players, but the job is clearly tougher now.

As to how we’ve reached this point, frankly, if we’re going to assign primary responsibility, I’d say it’s Curt Miller’s fault. Not only did he get everybody excited, raising performance levels and expectations for the program and recruiting kids who wanted to play his particular style, but then he basically torpedoed the program via his abrupt exit (and while there is almost certainly a contractual agreement among the concerned parties to keep a lid on the full reasons why, with no official confirmation of the complete circumstances, suffice to say the speculative consensus is that he authored his own demise). And the timing was terrible, in terms of recruiting a new coach and recruiting players.
Miller has resurfaced with the LA Sparks as an assistant, hired by the dad of a former player, a player who is one of the transfers out of IU’s program this off-season. The dad had applied for the IU job after Miller’s departure but didn’t get it. Contemplate that. It probably didn’t contribute to a unified and gung-ho locker room this past season.
All that isn’t to say Teri Moren doesn’t bear responsibility, too, of course. It’s her shindig, now, and the buck stops with the person in charge. But a certain amount of upheaval is completely predictable with any sort of regime change, especially one that transpired the way IU’s did in this case. Her style and approach (among other things bearing an emphasis on defense and rebounding) was never going to be an exact fit with the existing personnel, nor was her personality and the approach of her staff going to mirror Miller’s. Hence, some disarray has ensued, which was only to be expected. She may or may not make a go of it here, but she has to do it with her own players, brought in to play her style, and that is going to take some time to materialize. She deserves, at least, the time to try. And that means years, not months. As to the attention on Buss, if that engendered some jealousy in the locker room, that only speaks poorly of the people harboring the jealousy.

Will things get better? Time will tell. Among other things, Coach Moren is going to have to make inroads with the state’s high school and AAU coaches, according to some accounts, that she didn’t necessarily make as the head coach at ISU. (Because no Indiana program is going to flourish long-term without consistently tapping into the talent pool produced by homestate prep and AAU programs.) And she’s going to have to conduct a serious PR campaign, both behind the scenes and publicly, to elicit support. But there is nothing to say she can’t do all that. It’s all part of the job she took on under less-than-optimal circumstances.

QUESTION: MODERATOR: That’s all the time we have for today’s chat. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to follow IU sports on Hoosier Scoop blog and app.
Thanks for the time Andy, Mike and Jeremy. What else should we know as we head into the weekend?

Jeremy : I want to take a moment and send condolences to the family of Brian Jones, the ALS patient who appeared at a postgame press conference with Tom Crean this season. Brian passed away on Thursday but leaves quite the legacy behind.
Thanks to everyone who joined and enjoy the Easter weekend.

Mike: Lots going on over the upcoming days. IU baseball returns to open its longest homestand of the season tonight at 6 against Michigan at Bart Kaufman Field. We’ll have our eyes on potential IU basketball news, Thomas Bryant and other happenings, while spring practice nears the halfway mark next week for IU football. Thanks for checking in, everybody. See you next week.

Andy: For those needing a break from Final Four mania, the Hoosiers host a big B1G baseball series with Michigan this weekend. Thanks, as always, to all who chatted and/or checked in.

7 comments

  1. If Crean’s 2015/2016 team improves on its overall record, say 24 or 25 wins, or goes deeper in the NCAA tournament, Crean won’t be getting fired after next season. I believe his contract runs through 2020. All he has to do is to keep from having another bad season like the 2013/2014 season, and he’ll probably get to keep his job until his contract expires.

  2. Andy, very interesting information that Brian Agler was interested in the IU women’s job and was turned down. Makes you really wonder why Glass would turn to Moren if Agler wanted the job? What can he be thinking, my God, Agler is a WNBA championship coach, what more could you want? This is very disturbing and makes absolutely no sense what so ever. How could you turn away a great coach like him unless his asking price was much to high? It would be interesting to know if there were serious talks between Agler and Glass or if Agler simply said he wanted the job in passing? This certainly makes me wonder about Glass?

  3. MikeC, I too was surprised about the Agler information. I believe I read somewhere over this past season that he offered to coach in an interim situation though. My guess is Glass would have rather hired for the future now. I’m sure Agler would have been forthcoming in his desire to continue coaching in the WNBA after this past year or maybe after his daughter finished her playing career. However, what a difference we could have had this past season. Can you imagine ask the talent that we might have been able to draw? Maybe Allen doesn’t leave? I’m still excited to see where the program can go after a full year of training and practice with this coaching staff.

  4. Several months ago, a source told me that Brian Agler had offered to coach the team temporarily so that IU could take their time and conduct a proper search for a permanent coach. And, I don’t know if this part is true or not, but the source also told me that Brian Agler offered to do it pro bono.

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