Bielfeldt felt he maxed out under Crean

Max Bielfeldt has a unique perspective on Tom Crean.

Bielfeldt’s first impression was of Crean as an opposing Big Ten coach.

But that didn’t much resemble the Crean he got to know after transferring from Michigan to play a final season at Indiana.

“While I was at Michigan, I saw a very energetic coach running up and down the sidelines, really intense, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, that guy would be tough to play for. Holy cow,’ ”Bielfeldt said Thursday, the day IU let Tom Crean go after nine seasons at the Hoosier helm. “But appearances were deceiving.

“Getting to know him as a player, from that perspective, I saw the stuff he did for the community. I saw how he interacted with fans, with kids. He is one of the most kind-hearted persons I’ve ever met. And I think that shows when you’re actually around him.”

Bielfeldt feels his view of Crean as a Michigan player, before earning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year honors last season at IU for Crean, was somewhat analogous to that of a fan base.

“At first I had an outsider’s perspective, which I guess is somewhat similar to the fans’ perspective,” he said. “They’re interested, they follow it, but they don’t really knows what goes on from the inside.

“In the time I was here, I got to know a coach who trusted me and made me better.”

And that was tangible.

From his final Michigan season to his only IU campaign, Bielfeldt saw his scoring increase from 5.1 to 8.2 and his rebounding average went from 3.6 to 4.5. His field goal percentage go from .481 to .516 and his free throw percentage rise from .688 to .705.

Perhaps most markedly, Bielfeldt’s 3-point percentage ballooned from .267 to .453, from 11 makes from beyond the arc for his entire three-season Wolverine tenure to 29 makes in one year at IU.

Crean had said watching film on Bielfeldt convinced him the player had some unrealized potential.

“I’m feeling today for a guy who believed in me, trusted my maturity and basketball knowledge, and who made me better when I was here,” Bielfeldt said. “I really enjoyed having him as a coach. He’s an incredible teacher. He knows the game so well. He’s a smart guy.

“He’s the same guy he was last year, when the team bought in and had a lot of older guys in positions of leadership who, I thought, did a good job of leading.”

One of those older guys leading last season’s Big Ten champs was point guard Yogi Ferrell, who has now carved himself a nice niche as a rookie point guard with the Dallas Mavericks.

“I feel like he really developed me as a player,” Ferrell told Chris Mannix on the latter’s NBC Sports Radio show, “and developed so many guys as players and human beings.”

“He just instilled a work-ethic in me, and how to go about your daily business as a pro, and how to be an upstanding, genuine person and to give back to the community every single day. He had a big impact, big influence on my life.”

Ferrell was impacted by Thursday’s news out of Bloomington.

“Personally, I was a little shocked by it,” Ferrell said. “There is a lot of pressure. It goes without saying. The Hoosiers fans are great, day in and day out, supportive of us whether we’re winning or losing – but, man, when you’re not winning …

“They know the rich history of IU and the basketball culture that goes with it. At Indiana, they want a winning culture. That’s it. That’s what they want to see, bottom line.”

Ferrell said that culture persisted during his Hoosiers years.

“I feel like he rebuilt the program … I feel like he brought Indiana back,” Ferrell said of Crean. “I don’t think Indiana was being talked about much in the years before he got there but, when he got there, Indiana was back on the map – especially my four years there.

“I was part of two Big Ten championships. I made it to the NCAA tournament three times, with two Sweet Sixteens. I feel Coach Crean definitely brought winning back to Indiana.”

But a chunk of the fan base was also noting, among other things, that Indiana missed the NCAA tournament two of the past four years. And that a defensive identity never seemed to fully materialize and too often the Hoosiers failed to value the ball while trying to push the pace of play.

This is a fan base fond of fundamentals. And banners.

“It’s tough,” Bielfeldt said. “It’s really hard. At Indiana, you’re expected to win and to win championships. For his team this season to have the talent but not those intangibles, the necessary ingredients in one way or another, was frustrating.

“Indiana fans like that stuff, and rightly so. The fundamentals. Hard-nosed play. Not turning the ball over. Really good defense. Good fundamentals, generally. And that played into the angst, no doubt.”

Bielfeldt noted there were recent occasions at Assembly Hall when he heard Crean booed.

“There was a lot of pressure,” Bielfeldt, who did some color analysis as an announcer for BTN Plus this past season. “His methods did work and he did have success here, a lot of the time, but the fan base has expectations of more success more consistently.

“Had Coach Crean inherited a healthy program, I think everything would have been judged differently all along. But I think he did a great job. I’m very grateful. Grateful for what he did for me, personally, and very grateful for what he did for Indiana. He did a great job, and that’s after he had to address a really ugly situation when he arrived.”

That was the Kelvin Sampson mess. Rife with disciplinary issues, which had continuing ramifications, rendering the program uncompetitive for a couple of seasons.

But Bielfeldt saw what happened when Crean was confronted with a rash of off-court disciplinary situations a couple of years later. Even in situations when players were ultimately removed from the squad.

“His heart was with those guys,” Bielfeldt said. “It was very much like a father being there for a son even while being temporarily disappointed in a son. Tom Crean would take a bullet for about anybody who ever played for him.

“Unfortunately, this team didn’t have it this season, and sometimes it’s just hard to put your finger on it. The injuries obviously played factor, no doubt. I know nobody wants to make excuses, but we’ll never know if this team could have hit a stride.”

Ultimately, in Fred Glass’ judgement, the Hoosiers weren’t able to maintain a successful stride consistently enough.

But Max Bielfeldt isn’t the only Hoosier who will harbor fond memories of playing for Crean.

And not just because his one campaign in Bloomington produced an outright Big Ten title.

It’s a broader perspective than that.

19 comments

  1. Good for Max. And Yogi. And Victor. And Zeller. And _______ (fill in the blank).

    While player development is great for each individual, it is not necessarily in the best interest of the team. Crean was indeed a good NBA player developer. So what?!?! The pundits, like Purdunker & media blabbermouths, don’t get it that IU fans want to win. Period. What is so wrong with that? There is a strong correlation to you who believe every kid gets a trophy. Indiana fans want wins & kids who stay around & improve as people, as students and as a team. It all goes together at Indiana.

    Indiana, the Univ. & the state, is unique. Our basketball acumen and bias toward fundamentals run deep. We all know…the world knows…how important this sport is to our state’s history. I would like to see the stat after this tournament of how much statistical contribution Indiana kids had in the NCAA. Start with MacIntosh who had 25 today. Greensburg, IN. Indiana kids are in high demand because the state they live in worships the game. It all starts there.

    I’m not a Fred Glass fan, but I think he pretty much spelled out the job description in the presser.

    1. Why is there not a single African-American woman being mentioned for this job? IU is looking like a racist misogynistic white male only institution. I’d like to see Tamika Catchings take the helm. She’s a great person, great ball player and a winner. Fantastic on defense and offense. People say she has no experience. I say look at Donald Trump. He had no experience in politics but look at what a great job he’s doing as President. A winner can jump into any situation and win. “Make IU basketball great again!”

  2. I think my favorite player so far, and his team is out, has been Andrew Rowsey of Marquette.

    Fearless and really knows the game.

  3. After last night’s offensive output, can everyone quit talking about Bennet now. His record in the tournament isn’t that good. The first call, once they are eliminated, should be to Chris Mack. He has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 again.

    1. I’d mentioned before that Bennett’s teams are a chore to watch. I get that, at the end of the day, it’s about wins and losses but Virginia is simply hard to watch.

      I don’t recall if UVa ever played a Bo Ryan team but I can absolutely see a final score of 12-11 as a result.

      Chris Mack should certainly be on everyone’s minds. The guy can coach.

      While they certainly regrouped in the second half I’ve never seen a team any more freaked out than Northwestern. The game was effectively over when the Zags player stole the ball at half court and not a single Northwestern player made any attempt to pursue him. They all just turned and watched.

  4. Even if big names truly end up in the interview stage of the hiring process Mack and Holtmann each are worthy of 2nd, 3rd and maybe even 4th looks. Really like both.

    1. I like Mack and Holtmann. I’ve eliminated Marshall and Bennett so someone should tell Fred where I stand.

      Alford is Crean.

      Stevens just isn’t happening.

      I haven’t ruled out Billy Donovan because there are twitchy things going on in OKC. You never know. Let him know I haven’t ruled him out.

      Archie Miller had an opportunity to impress me against Wichita State. He didn’t. He’s still on the list though.

      If Fred can sign Donovan I may extend his contract.

  5. Spending few days around Land Between the Lakes. Listened to KY talk radio pre show. They are sure IU will get Alfred. “As good as Ky bb is, still need a strong Indiana”.

  6. All IU major college neighbors north, east, south, west, and central in and having success playing March Madness NCAA Tournament.

  7. Miller, Mack and Holtman would appear to make sense. They recruit the same geography, have established themselves as winners, and would find the money IU is willing to pay a huge increase. As for Alford, I believe he has a huge buyout clause in his contract. According to the LA times, if he quits this April, he owes UCLA $7.8 million. After April 30th, the buyout drops to $5.2 million. And the buyout clause is reciprocal, meaning that if UCLA fires him for anything other than cause, they owe him the same amount of money. So unless his original contract with UCLA has been renegotiated since 2013, I’d guess that Alford’s going to be staying at UCLA for at least a few more years.

  8. As far as value Alfords current contract at UCLA makes him a low value target. But any likely target even outside of the Holtmann and Mack are affordable for IU to afford.

  9. It often sounds like we are talking in 1975 dollars when talking about these contracts. A million bucks today would have been about $215K in 1975. Yeah, that’s still a lot of money but anyone who has done much business in real estate has been on the hook for a million bucks at one time or another. That’s a studio apartment in San Francisco…if you can find one for that.

    As both my North Carolina real estate ventures were named after my dog you can assume I didn’t have the financial resources of IU. They can afford $4 million or whatever it’s gonna cost.

    Unless UCLA at least makes it to the Final Four I’m betting there is plenty of wiggle room in that buyout clause. Los Angeles dollars are apparently smaller than regular dollars the way they get tossed around. I hope we don’t find out. Alford doesn’t even make my top ten.

    Hey, Gregg Marshall has a son who sits on the WSU bench and plans to be a coach one day. His mom is his biggest fan. We’ll just let that hang out there…

    Geno Auriemma makes $2.4/year and he may never lose another game. I’ve heard worse ideas but 1) Nobody is gonna pay a guy who has never coached a men’s program $4 mil and, 2) Why would he do it?

    Rounding the second turn I think we have Mack and Holtmann in the lead, Archie Miller getting the jockeys whip, and Billy Donovan waiting for a helicopter to pick up both him and his jockey to carry them to the finish line.

  10. Chet, I bet because we are all looking at names and not focusing on primarily researched candidates there has to be a name or 2 or 3 not mentioned that could be in the mix and we may never know.

    1. I’m sure you are correct. In fact, I’d hate to think that Fred Glass couldn’t put together a list including names I know nothing about. That’s kinda the whole point of his paycheck.

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