Minnesota trip a chance for Hoosiers to respond

Tom Crean has tried to force the leadership qualities from his junior class all season.

On Sunday, it all boiled over.

The Indiana coach laid bare his frustrations with his upperclassmen for their inability to steer the Hoosiers in the direction they need to go. Tonight, in a 9 p.m. game at Minnesota, his players will have the chance to respond.

At least publicly, Crean is seldom so pointed in his criticism of his own players. After Sunday’s flat performance against Michigan, Crean repeatedly acknowledged the immaturity of several players during both his postgame radio interview and ensuing press conference. While simultaneously sharing responsibility for his team’s downward trend, Crean was trying to push different buttons with players who have shown leadership qualities in flashes, but certainly not in abundance.

So the nadir that was the Michigan loss prompted Crean to take a different approach.

Leadership can be a tricky thing to foster when it does not emerge organically. But it has to come from somewhere. With time running out on a season of unmet expectations, Indiana is still trying to find it.

“It really comes down to who do they feel safe with when they’re on the court?” Crean said on his weekly radio show. “Who makes them better by making the game easier, and who can they look at every day and say, ‘That guy is that same guy every day.'”

Throughout the season, Crean has noted different players stepping into leadership roles at different times. Robert Johnson has tried. So, too, has James Blackmon Jr. Thomas Bryant and Juwan Morgan have also had their moments.

But no one on this team has brought that presence consistently.

At the same time, Crean has been disappointed with the fact that noe enough of their teammates have helped them own the leadership role when those individuals have stepped forward.

To Crean, that’s what this process is all about.

Reflecting upon his 2003 Marquette team that made a Final Four run, Crean appreciated how that team led each other. Dwyane Wade was the best player, but he was led by sophomore Travis Diener. Meanwhile, Wade, a junior, helped bring senior Robert Jackson along, while Jackson led junior Scott Merritt.

“Those are not all household names outside of Dwyane and Travis, but it was a really, really good vacuum of leadership,” Crean said. “It was all covered. Everything else fell in line with those guys. Wade’s leadership really emerged, but he also needed someone else to keep him in check.”

Although Crean has pushed for leadership from the juniors, a class that consists of Blackmon, Johnson and Josh Newkirk — a trio of IU’s most relied upon players — the best players don’t always make the best leaders.

They can, however, provide calm for those around them. That’s what Cody Zeller gave Crean’s teams as a freshman in 2011-2012 and as a junior in 2012-2013.

“I think that team, it was a real safety net with Cody on the floor,” Crean said. “Not just me as a coach, not just our coaching staff and not just Hoosier Nation, but there was a big safety net in seeing him play. The team felt very confident with him and, in turn, that brought more confidence into Vic (Oladipo).”

Having a safety net, like with Zeller, is important. Through the first three and a half months, Indiana never developed it.

That’s partly why Crean called out his junior backcourt after the Michigan disappointment, and it’s why, with four of the final five games scheduled away from Assembly Hall, the Indiana coach is demanding one last time this season that someone get the message and begin pulling their teammates from the depths where this team has fallen.

“People say, ‘Well, you have to trust your teammates,'” Crean said. “It’s not as much about trust. It’s about who do they feel confident with? Because that person is on the floor. When push comes to shove and you’re down six on the road, that’s safety. That’s the leader. You want to try to have as many of those (guys) as you possibly can that help you feel that way.”

15 comments

  1. If IU was the way they should be IU should not be down 6 on the road. That’s the whole problem. Expectations /Standards vs. State of reality.

  2. “I think that team, it was a real safety net with Cody on the floor,” Crean said. “Not just me as a coach, not just our coaching staff and not just Hoosier Nation, but there was a big safety net in seeing him play. The team felt very confident with him and, in turn, that brought more confidence into Vic (Oladipo).”

    Wow…I find no disagreement with Crean in that statement. Where has this been the last few years?

    But to take it one step further, what does Crean’s entire tenure at IU look like without Zeller?

  3. Exactly! H4, you have referenced T.C. comments several times. T.C. himself did a stellar job of suppressing what he knows to be true and finally comes clean with his own demise. At least he is in touch with a sense of reality. Now, the question is; are those that have the power in touch with reality or do they just continue this fiasco for another year?

  4. “Coming clean”….Showing some humility….trying to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes….seeking understanding rather than easy targets…..keeping it about basketball….stepping back from turmoil…..and simply sitting down to calmly assess any situation…..be at peace with what you are trying to accomplish….addressing your critics with your armor down….staying strong while not taking yourself too seriously.

    I’ve never thought it was solely an X’s and O’s issue with Tom Crean. He would be an exponentially better coach if he’d simply give himself a break. Maybe these are the first steps in showing his team that even he is vulnerable. They may just rally around him ……..and still salvage some of what is, thus far, a disappointing season. Finally, he has stepped a bit away from himself and seeks to lead.

  5. Gosh, H4, you really think so?

    I re-read that hogwash, including the allegory from his Marquette days, and did not locate the phrase “coming clean”. Was that in a Press Conference? I see Crean being at peace with himself and blaming his players (as usual), and bringing into the conversation his sucesses (Wade, Zeller) from the past.

    Tonight WILL be a fascinating game, as every game has been this season. Will the refs give us the game? I doubt it, and therefore feel less than optimistic about a W.

    But time will tell!!!

  6. “It was a really, really good vacuum of leadership.”

    WTF is that supposed to mean? All it tell me is that CTC does not know what the term “leadership vacuum ” means.

  7. Rock- The “coming clean” quote was pulled from t’s post. Though it’s likely far too late, I do think his players will rally and play their hearts out from here on out.
    Isn’t the game at Minny? Don’t think we’ll get too many favorable calls up there. ‘The Barn’ is as tough a place as any to win.

    One at a time. This thing ain’t over yet.

  8. Minnesota by 7 to 10. It does not matter what IU does; teaser games they win and games they lose, it’s over. The sooner they get Alford (doubt it), Stevens (no), or G. Marshall here, the better…or do those who have the say on change go for another teaser system. Second class vs. First class program; which one is it going to be IU decision makers? Tired of many sports radio and writers trying to rationalize T.C. and IU bb program status including its issues and injuries as to demonstrate diplomacy ffor their own benefit.

  9. No matter how intriguing the IU job to Stevens, I had zero expectation he’d walk away from Boston with any sort of ‘verdict still out’ on the turnaround there. Now that he’s really moving the Celtics in a positive direction(I don’t believe anyone was convinced in those first few years), I actually think the door to bring him back to the college game may be opening ever so slightly.

    But I still like …

    Bill Coen
    Bill Carmody
    Shaka Smart
    Andy Enfield
    Dane Fife

    Smart would probably bring the most media buzz and shot in the arm to recruiting.
    But Coen has a great mind and heart for the game….

  10. Three very winnable games to get back to .500 conference record. It begins tonight.

    Indiana 78
    Minnesota 70

  11. wow….After going up to Wisconsin for a signature win, Northwestern now getting completely embarrassed at home to Maryland. Talk about laying a fat egg…? Seems to be quite the abundance of “teasers” in the BIG this year.

    The BIG tournament will be wide open for any takers….

  12. Yes, IU team rallied round the pole tonight. That is why they only lost by 1 instead of 7 to 10. Nice, no block out J.B. so Minnesota could score final bucket. Of course that is not why IU lost. IU lost because they are IU playing at Minnesota. Recruiting and strategy in big ten play should be to line up the top 12 players from each team for a total of 24. Each coach could take turns picking a player. Then play making game between Shirts vs. Skins.

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