Tom Izzo on Tom Crean

At Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Chicago Sunday, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talked about the road ahead for his friend Tom Crean at Indiana.

Crean got his start in college coaching at Michigan State in 1989-90, joining a staff where Izzo was already an assistant coach. Crean left the next year to become an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, but returned in 1995-96 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator when Izzo became MSU’s head coach. Izzo also made Crean his recruiting coordinator and in 1997-98 promoted him to associate head coach.

In Crean’s four years on Izzo’s staff, the Spartans went 88-41, including a Final Four trip in 1999 when Michigan State was 33-5 and 15-1 in the Big Ten. After that season, Marquette hired Crean as its head coach.

Here’s what Izzo had to say Sunday about Crean’s future at IU:

“He’s got a great opportunity. You know why he’s got a great opportunity. They’ve cleaned house, they’ve evaluated what they thought was right and wrong, and gotten rid of what’s wrong. What’s right is that it’s Indiana University, maybe one of the best tradition schools in the country, much less the Big Ten. What’s right about it is it’s in a state and in a place where basketball is a passion.

“I always laugh because I say in a lot of states people like basketball. In Indiana, they actually know what they’re talking about. They’re very educated fans, and I think they got the right guy for the job because he’s going to get the job done.

“He understands, he came with me as an assistant. We had lost (Eric) Snow and (Shawn) Respert. We were starting, not from scratch like he is, but sometimes it’s almost easier to start from scratch because you maybe have a tougher year in a way starting, but you can build everything. You don’t have the distractions of maybe some guys who aren’t really on board. Everybody will be on board and it might take a little bit of time, but I don’t think nearly as long as people think. And I don’t mean that in pressuring him. I think he’ll get it done and that university can lend itself to that.”

Why is Crean the right guy for this situation and how will he handle it?

“He’s a passionate guy. He lives, eats and sleeps it. He loves the game of basketball. He loved it when he was a student and he used to come to Michigan State and just want to ride with me to go recruiting. He’s always been the same.

“He’s going to hold guys accountable, but he’s going to spend time with guys, and I think that’s the key. Everybody will say you’re on this guy, you’re on that guy, but if you’re spending time with them, they understand why. I think Tom Crean will do a great job of that, plus I think he’s a very knowledgeable coaches, Xs and Os wise and he’s a never-ending recruiter.

“You’ve got a good product to recruit to and you’ve got a good coach to recruit to that product, and you’ve got a good Xs and Os guy that builds relationships with players. That sounds like win-win-win to me, and means just another thorn in my side in the near future.”

What do you think this season will be like for Crean and his first Indiana team?

“I told him he’s sand-bagging because he’s acting like it’s the death sentence, but let’s be real about it. He could do his best coaching job and not win as many games just because there’s a lot of unknowns. I know one of the kids because he was Delvon Roe’s teammate. I think (Tom) Pritchard will be a good player for them. But how that all fits together will kind of depend on how much they buy into what he wants done.

“Sometimes you do your best coaching jobs and you get kids to rally around you and all of a sudden they wins some games they shouldn’t. My first year we beat Illinois and Minnesota on the road. They were both Top 10 teams at the time, and then we started realizing what we were doing and we starting losing at the end (laughing).

“It’s going to be a tough year in respect to what kind of players he has, a new system, all of those things, but I think he’s going to have some fun with it, and I think the people are going to rally behind him because those people want to get that program back to where it belongs.”

5 comments

  1. Izzo has long been my favorite opposing team coach in the country and Big Ten. Always has positive things to say about IU and seems like a good guy. I love to root for MSU come March.

  2. I enthusiastically second what Billy B. says, and if Tom Izzo thinks Tom Crean is the right guy for the job, who are we to argue? I would say he knows he’s talking about, and if Crean has as much success at IU as Izzo has at MSU, we’ll have another banner and be a perennial contender again, which sounds good to me!

  3. Why can’t Crean have better success at IU than Izzo has had at MSU? We have a better tradition for TC to recruit to, and Crean might even be a better X’s and O’s guy, or a better game adjustment guy.

    May as well dream big!

  4. I have mixed feelings about this hire – I bleed green and white. I have always respected IU basketball, and it has been terrible to see what has happened there in recent years. However, did you guys HAVE to hire Crean? I’d like to see things get better at IU, but not that much better. It’s going to be tough now – I love T.C. and want him to do well, I just wish he would have kept doing well in somebady else’s conference. Anyway, good luck Hoosiers…but not too much, O.K.?

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