Transcript of Tom Crean’s appearance on College Hoops Today #iubb

The following is a transcript of IU coach Tom Crean’s appearance on the College Hoops Today podcast hosted by CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein. You can listen for yourself by clicking this link.

You’ve had 11 games to sample your team, are you ahead or behind?
Tom Crean: “I think record-wise, we wanted to be better, especially with Maui. When you look at that and you look at the improvement that we’re making, then you can’t really live in the past. You have to be able to move forward with it. Bottom line, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned from the losses, we’ve been able to build on things and learn from the wins. Now, it becomes really forming the identity and taking the identity that you think you’re going to have and build to and get the players to totally understand that’s the identity that you need to play with. With us, it starts with being aggressive on both ends of the court.”

What was the message you had for your team before leaving Maui and heading back to Bloomington?
TC: “It’s unacceptable to not play better defense. At the same time, it’s unacceptable to make some of the turnovers that we’re making. We played like a team that wasn’t on the attack enough. We weren’t on the attack on either ends of the court. … Some of that was the experience of Thomas Bryant and being in situations where he had to do a lot, and we didn’t have a lot of backup protection in that area of zoning up and things of that nature because of some of the teams we were dealing with, shooting-wise. The bottom line is we just got to get better. That’s exactly what we did. Now, we didn’t carry it over to Duke, and we were not aggressive and we fell back into some tough ways again in the sense of not taking things away from them. But we didn’t turn it over very much, we kept them off the foul line, we shot the ball well, but we never were aggressive enough to exploit their transition-D so that we could get our running game going. To me, it’s getting this team to understand that they both manifest each other. If we’re going to be a really good offensive team — and it’s not just the numbers we have, which are good — it’s being even more efficient. We have to do a much better job defensively to create more fastbreak opportunities. If we’re going to be a better offensive team, we have to take care of the ball better. What happens is, in Maui we missed too many easy shots, we had too many turnovers, we didn’t guard the ball or the ball screen well enough, and hence we lost with a three-point differential. You get some of that back and all of a sudden you’re in a different position. We have to learn and we are learning and hopefully we can carry it forward.”

It’s clear that this team is going to be elite offensively. Can you be capable defensively by the start of Big Ten play in two weeks?
TC: “We have to be, because that’s going to make our offense even better. Our offense has a long way to go and that not coach-speak. That’s trained-eye watching it every day, watching film and knowing what we’re capable of. The only way those capabilities are truly going to take off is if we are better defensively. We’re creating turnovers, but we’re not capitalizing on those turnovers like we should. We’re not creating enough of them and then it becomes a give-back because, at times, we’re turning it over too much. We’ve just got to be more efficient in every area. It’s a step here, it’s a step there, and certainly there are some schemes that can play into it. There are some changing defenses that can play into it. There are some health things that can play into it, but the bottom line is we just have to do a much better job consistently of guarding the ball and keeping people out of their strong spots. Duke is a great example. Our No. 1 key was to keep them off the foul line, and we did that. But at the same time, we gave them too many easy baskets because we were not aggressive enough. We’ve got to find the happy medium, because it’s very easy to go to the foul line these days. If you put your hands on somebody, they’re going to go to the foul line. But you can be aggressive, you can cut off angles better, you can do better in help and you can do better in ball-screen defense. We’re probably no different than a lot of teams except that we’ve really got to make a jump here.”

You don’t find leaders when things are going well, you find them when things are going bad. You were very outspoken prior to the season that the leadership in your program had to improve. How has that evolved?
TC: “I think that’s evolving all the time. I think it’s got to evolve after wins, too. I think it’s a constant process. It’s a real confidence. That’s what it comes down to. I’m learning even more. You have to have talk on the floor, alright? You’ve got to talk on defense, you’ve got to talk on offense. But talk can be very, very overrated. It’s talking when something really needs to be said. It’s carrying out your task and it’s doing not only your job, but reminding others how capable they are of doing theirs. We have very good leadership on the offensive end when we’re moving the ball. It’s tremendous. We play very hard, and sometimes it doesn’t look that way on defense. What we’re not is as player-led as we need to be defensively, especially in the second half of a game when the defense is away from the bench. That’s where it’s really got to take the next step and really manifest itself now. That’s not a one-person deal, that’s not a senior deal, that’s an every-player deal. Every player that comes into a program, they are bringing leadership whether they want to or not. They’re bringing a positive level, or they’re bringing a negative level. The negative level can be being quiet, not going as hard, poor body language, not calling out screens, not being in the hustle game the way that they need to be. And freshmen can come in and be a very positive example: being in the right spot, calling out screens, getting on the glass, playing hard every time they’re in — eventually what happens is you develop a real confidence instead of a confidence that is fleeting and based on the scoreboard. That’s what we’ve got to continue to develop from top to bottom, and if we do that I think we’re going to take some major steps and get a lot better this year.”

2012 was a breakthrough season when you made the tournament before losing to Kentucky. Do you see any similar trajectory between that team and this team?
TC: “People forget how much development Cody had to make defensively. He was extremely well-coached in high school, like Thomas has been. But at the same time, it’s a whole different level and guys had to develop a whole level of confidence. Victor had to take care of the ball — we didn’t put Victor in the middle pick-and-roll until the end of January or beginning of February of his sophomore year. That’s when he was efficient with the ball. It’s really easy to see the current (team) and not remember that other guys went through things too. To me, I think this team is going to get a lot better. I have no other way to answer the question other than there are similarities in ages, similarities in upside, there are similarities in leadership, but at the same time, you’ve got to win some tough battles. The only way you win the tough battles is if you win the tough possessions. That team started to do some of that and then it got on a real roll late in the year. We had the Kentucky win early and we were good early on, but then we got on another roll. That’s the key for this team to keep making sure they’re improving, because that team really did improve throughout the year.”

Rebuilding a program like Indiana was an arduous task, but you also had to remake your program last season. How did the second rebuilding job at Indiana compare to the first?
TC: “I think it continues to be ongoing. The year after we were No. 1 — I mean, look at what Wisconsin is dealing with right now. Bo Ryan is a hall-of-famer, and I hope it’s this year, but he’s replacing two first-round picks and a couple of seniors and it’s really, really hard when you try to do that. That year that we lost Cody and Vic, we also lost Derek Elston, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls, so you’re starting over with guys that now have a high level of expectations, and yet they don’t have any idea of the experience level that goes into it. The bottom line with all of that is you continue to keep energy really high, you continue to teach them at an extremely demanding level and you hope that they get a work ethic of doing extra things beyond the 20 hours and beyond what’s required of them because then it just burns in them to be successful. That’s part of the rebuilding process. It’s not just what we do with them. It’s their desire to learn more things, watch more film and their desire to talk more basketball. All the meanwhile, that’s with what they’re doing academically. We have a 3.1 team GPA over seven years here and everyone has graduated. You have to carry the same level of desire to the extra work here. To me, that’s part of the refurbishing process of it that you want to have and get those guys to understand that they can carry a lot of weight as long as they’re making sure others are carrying theirs. That’s important.”

With social media, how much harder is it to be a college athlete now than when you started at Marquette?
TC: “It’s not even in the same stratosphere. It’s not even close. It makes it that much harder to have real confidence, to have real belief in yourself because you can get the accolades and you can embrace those accolades, and embrace those pats on the back and think that’s who you are, and you can take all the negativity and you can internalize that and make that make you feel like that’s who you are. Neither one of them are accurate. What you do is you continue to build on what parents do and build on the values that are in them and them understanding that nothing makes them better other than themselves and their teammates, and the love of their family and the love of their teammates. I’ve said this numerous times, Twitter is not gonna fix your issues. Instagram is not gonna fix your issues, putting out extra pictures of yourself is not gonna change it. How much work you put in the gym, how much work you put in the film room — they all want to be professionals, so the bottom line is teach them what it means to be a professional. Being a professional means you have to rehab your injuries with the same level that you go with in practice. You’ve got to spend extra time in the film room and not just the time that’s required. You’ve got to really want to be in gym to get better, work on your shot and your ball-handling and not just what’s required in practice. Nobody successful gets by in a 9-to-5 world — nobody that I know. Nobody does. It’s the passion that you carry. You cannot let outside voices from novices, naysayers – you can’t let any of that break down your passion for what’s important. You have to say it time and time again because it’s very hard to do that because of the level of society right now and the concentration of the average teenager is seven seconds. It’s really hard, but it’s hard for everybody. The ones who master it are the ones who will be successful.”

When you’re driving to or from work, or taking a jog, do you ever stop, take a deep breath and say, ‘Wow. I’m the coach at Indiana?’
TC: “That’s a great question because it’s something I’ve not done enough of, but it’s something I’m conscious of now. I really am. These are gifts. You earn it, you build it and nobody hands you success. You can walk into success or you can walk into what we walked into in 2008 and you’ve got to earn it. But these are tremendous things. I think if we’re going to preach it to our players on a daily basis about how fortunate they are and how important it is that they understand where they’re at, and that they understand who’s come before them and they know the history of it, then I think you better do it for yourself. You should be able to look at it, and not necessarily feel proud of it, like ‘Wow, look what I did.’ It’s more, ‘Wow, this is really something. I have to take advantage of my opportunity every day.’ If that means doing this extra, doing that extra, or spending a little bit more time with this, or a little bit more time with that, that’s big. The other thing is understanding the platform that you have and how it can affect so many other people. That’s the thing. So many people are affected by Indiana basketball and by the great programs in the country, and when they’re affected in a way that’s not great, there’s not a lot you can do about that. But when you can help somebody and make somebody feel better about themselves, and you can bring them around your team and make them feel inspired, that’s part of the platform, too, and that’s really important to me.”

What are the biggest things that need to happen for your team to reach its ceiling?
TC: “I think it’s the improvement, because we’re a long way from it. That’s the thing. They work very hard. I could probably name two — and maybe three — practices where I could say that it wasn’t as good as it needed to be. That doesn’t happen very often. It really doesn’t. When it comes to work ethic, they got it. When it comes to competitive level, and understanding possession-by-possession, and understanding communication, and understanding awareness, and understanding how aggressive and on the attack you have to be — but at the same time using your intelligence. Those are the keys. You’re going to get better as a player, you’re going to build your offense, you’re going to build your defense, you’re going to build your schemes in that, but it’s the attitude and the mindset that carries so much weight. That’s what we’ve got to continue to build. That can be exponentially and really, really take you to another level when your confidence is so high.”

How important is Rob Johnson? It seems like he glues everything together.
TC: “Rob is one of the great workers in this program. He’s constantly in there. He’s not 100 percent healthy right now – not even close – and yet he’s playing at a very high level and he’s got a great attitude. He’s got to become a better full-time defender. By that, I mean there’s no way he should be getting beat on screens or getting beat off the dribble. Guys like him and Yogi have got to play like they have no help. When they have that kind of mentality, they take it to another place. Rob’s continuing to get better moving without the ball. He’s going to be asked to do a lot on this team, much like Yogi has been asked in the past, where he’s not going to guard the typical matchup. He’s not going to guard the guy that’s his size. He will guard those guys, but he’s also got to guard the best players, outside of the center, whoever they are. To me, that’s where his stretch can really, really come for us. I love having him here. He’s really, really getting better.”

One comment

  1. Pre-Season IU boys Will have played: 2 exhibition games which IU won, 6 cupcakes which IU dominated, 4 ok teams and IU lost 2 of those games, 1 excellent team and IU lost by 20, 1 very good team outcome to be determined, and 1 more cupcake outcome to be determined. What current standard is IU boys bb measured by regarding expectations?

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