Crean explains use of signs during recent games

Tom Crean calls them “echo signs.”

Others call them silly.

The Indiana coach defended his use of signs during recent games, explaining that the basic directions conveyed on the placards held from the bench are meant to remind players to communicate with each other, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

“Those are echo signs,” Crean said Monday on his weekly radio show. “You hold up signs sometimes, people do, for offense or to change defense and things like that. We’re looking to give our guys anything that helps them communicate. They’re basic, but they’re echoes. A big thing for us is to make sure that we echo calls. Rather than sit back and complain about a lack of communication constantly, and sit there and hope things are going to change, give them a vehicle to help them change.”

During Sunday’s loss at Northwestern, Indiana assistant coach Chuck Martin was seen on the bench holding different signs issuing reminders like “Hands Out” and “Call Out Screens.”

During a game against Austin Peay in December, Crean was also spotted holding a sign that said “Don’t Hop.” Point guard Josh Newkirk later explained that particular sign was used to remind him to slide his feet while guarding instead of hopping.

Late Sunday and throughout the day Monday, the signs came under fire on social media and talk radio for their simplicity. Many wondered if those reminders were necessary for a Division I basketball program, especially one of Indiana’s tradition.

On his afternoon radio show, former IU player and coach Dan Dakich joked that he wanted to flush his head in a toilet after seeing the signs. Dakich said he wasn’t criticizing Crean so much as he was the players for needing such basic reminders.

When IU play-by-play man Don Fischer asked Crean about the signs later Monday, the Indiana coach gave his rationale.

“We’re gonna gonna do it, and I’m not really concerned about how people view it,” Crean said. “It’s just a situation to give guys a reminder on the defensive end. It gets them talking. I had a conversation with a writer, a friend of mine that visited a few weeks back doing an interview. He was talking about how he covers a lot of football and basketball. … This was really what spearheaded it for me.

“He said the universal theme among coaches in the different sports that he talks to is how hard it is to get the players to talk on the field, or on the court. That’s exactly what the issue is. It’s, ‘OK, well, we can keep sitting back and hoping it changes, or we can do something that helps them change it.’ That’s exactly what it’s been.”

When Fischer asked whether Crean has noticed the signs making a difference, Crean said he hadn’t given it much thought until it became a conversation topic Monday.

Crean explained that while he was a graduate assistant at Michigan State during the 1989-90 season, then-coach Jud Heathcote used cards to call plays.

“One of my jobs was to hold up the play cards,” Crean said. “We had like 70 to 80 cards. Tom (Izzo) stopped doing it after a couple of years, but no one said anything like that. They though that was pretty profound, right? What a brilliant idea. We’re just holding up some signs for defense. That’s all it is.”

And it doesn’t sound like the signs are going anywhere.

“We’re just trying to find ways to win,” Crean said. “That’s all we’re trying to do.”


  1. Sometimes when you hear someone explain something you go, “Oh, ok. I guess that makes sense. Never thought of that.” And then you go back to flinging mud in another direction.

    In this case, it is the complete opposite. I’m absolutely at a loss that this man is making north of $3 million a year with this kind of logic and thinking. What in the wide world of sports is this?

    Your mileage might vary, but when I played high school ball, we played defensive drills until the rubber on our Nike’s melted if we didn’t “call out screens” and we kept our hands down. And if we still didn’t do it, we ran linedrills until we threw-up our dinner from three nights ago. Over the years, I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen an Indiana defender close out a shooter with his hands down. Who knew that all he needed was a sign from an assistant coach? What on earth are they doing in practice all day? Did they replace the hoops in Cook Hall with TVs, Playstations and preloaded Call of Duty?

    Next time in I’m in a bar trying to pick up on a lady, I’m going to have my buddies carry some signs. “Ask her what her favorite color is,” “What’s her sign?”, “Do you like the Drakkar that I bathed in before coming out tonight,” “Call out her phone number.”

    And that ladies and gentleman, is the Crean era officially jumping the shark.

  2. I’m surprised they didn’t candy stripe the cards. ‘Cause, you know, it’s Indiana.

    If Knight was the coach here and he was still having to tell these guys “Call Out Screens” and “Keep Your Hands Up”, he’d have stripped everyone of their candystripes and made them all wear mini-skirts during warmups.

    Jeeze, Duke loses a bunch of games in a row and Coach K won’t let them wear Duke gear anymore. Little does he know that’s a feature, not a bug.

  3. So silly. No clue how to troubleshoot problems and certainly cannot be mistaken for a problem solver. We’d be no worse off with a coach who does not yet shave. Sickening! Samo, samo. I am embarrassed to remind myself that during preseason, looking on paper I considered with some luck this team had the material to be FF worthy. My failure in doing so was not weighting the HCing aspect heavy enough in my outlook. IU BB is not just about all the $ coming from filling AH. I also expect after July 1 we will witness AD Glass feels the same. POTMFB!!!!!!!!!

  4. The Indiana Hoosiers need cue cards?! What have we come to? What is the level of ball IQ for these players and future IU recruits? This is not Hoosier basketball. These are troubling times in the kingdom. Like watching Bob Knight grapple with the advent of JUCO players. He still believed in true freshmen.

    Hoosier Basketball is in the blood. It’s not something you put on and take off everyday. And maybe these players think it is. And that’s the problem. Cue cards. Reading from cue cards. Like you’re Jay Leno or something delivering a monologue. Sad. So sad. These guys play like they grew and stopped getting better at the rec-league all star stage. Here, read a sign, we will tell you what to do next. Arrested development. If you don’t know how to communicate by the time you are an IU player when do you think you are going to figure in out? In the NBA?!

    In spite of the fact that Lyonel Anderson has ill-prepared the team (hence, so many injuries) Hoosiers teams have always known what to do – instinctively – because basketball is in their genes 24/7. Cue cards?! Hoosiers don’t need no stinking cue cards. Start recruiting top athletes with high ball IQs! If you need a cue card to play in a B1G 10 game, you are NOT a B1G 10 player. #PretendHoosiers

  5. Anyone wanna wager how many times Bryant McIntosh was told to “call out a screen” or “keep his hands up” on defense?

    For cryin’ out loud, I think half of the thousands of people playing at the Hyper don’t need to be told this stuff.

  6. I just picture a manager going to kinko’s to get the signs made. Hopefully Crean remembers their name. I wander if his house has signs for like tv, toilet, etc. hopefully for sale sign soon

  7. Crean misunderstood the fans…He thought they were all saying he’s “cueless” instead of “clueless.” That’s the ticket.

  8. Looking back the last 16 years and the NCAA champions were all coached by Coach K, Pitino, Calapari, Williams, Self, Boeheim, Donovan, Calhoun/Ollie and Izzo.

    The ratio of “echo signs” to championships is exactly 0.

  9. Getting off the snark train for a sec, let’s put this in context with some other ways Crean has approached defense in the past.

    Last year, does everyone remember, the goofy switching from man-to-man to zone in the middle of a defensive half-court set? Crean is always trying to something that is too clever by a half. As the one great David St Hubbin’s said, “It is a fine line between clever and stupid.”

    Knight, Coach K are ardent man-to-man guys. Coach K every once and a while throws in a tiny bit of zone. Boeheim sticks to exclusively zone. It isn’t about the scheme’s themselves. Neither scheme is “right or wrong”. Scheme is SO overrated. What is right about it is that their players focus on one thing and they get great at it. All three of those coaches have teams that play ferocious defense. They don’t have as many variables to master. They can master their craft focusing on one thing.

    I thought the biggest reason for the Hoosiers turnaround last year was because they simplified things (as well as the soft schedule). They started playing much better defense because they weren’t doing all of those crazy switches.

    Over the rebuilding years, Crean brought in media people to watch selected practices and writers have been impressed by the intensity and speed of the practices. None of these writers gets to see practice day-to-day. Now, I believe that Crean always demands super intense practices (perhaps that’s why our guys are always hurt, but that’s another post for another day).

    But anyway, intensity being prioritized over fundamentals isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Playing the game of basketball is a balance of speed, intensity, precision and thoughtfulness. It is why this game is so incredible. When you see a team play with a balance between all of those elements, it is a work of art.

  10. Nor is T.C. recruiting the very best elite talent. Whether Indiana talent or elsewhere except for Zeller and a few others during T.C. years IU time and time again has lost out on its first choice recruit sometimes early on and sometimes later in process. So IU takes their 2nd or 3rd choice or lower beating out programs less than the blue chip or blue blood or elite programs. Sometimes beating out a top 50 to 100 program and to many times talking about how good recruit may be, like is often done with football recruits @IU. These types of players often are not High IQ bb players to go with a lower IQ bb coach. This has resulted in players being injured at higher than average rate and disconbobulated attitude both physically and mentally.

  11. gosh I bet our players love this! Synergy is going to really increase!!!

    Perhaps our fans at Simon-Skojdt can ‘echo’ these signs!!!

    Rinky Dink…..we are…Rinky Dink.

  12. I’m guessing there will be a few more signs in AH than CTC had planned. This game will be worth watch for the comedy relief.

  13. Somebody please post Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues video. The one where he holds up signs and then discards them. Maybe we can get him to do that at halftime.

  14. “Punchless Hoosiers” was the IU @ Northwestern game:

    IU vs. PSU Live ticker:

    But you are correct, t. It is very difficult to retrieve old stories….or to dig for old comments to supplement/reinforce debates. Why not just have a forward and back page like most blogs? If you want to hold onto a HSR story/comments, I would suggest just bookmarking it.

Comments are closed.