Crean named Big Ten Coach of the Year by coaches, media #iubb

It was early December and Indiana appeared to be a team without a compass.

A flat performance in the Maui Invitational opened old wounds, and a 20-point loss at Duke on Dec. 2 gave a growing army of critics and doubters fresh ammunition to use against IU basketball coach Tom Crean and the direction of Indiana’s program.

As the clock approached midnight and Crean strode into the press room that night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the IU coach reminded all who would listen that his team still had time to fix its course.

“It’ll be Dec. 3 here in about 30 seconds,” Crean said at the time. “It’s early in the season. We’ve got to continue to really work hard to get better. I think we’ll get a lot better.”

Three months later, his Hoosiers delivered, and Crean is receiving due credit.

Monday was a banner day in Crean’s Indiana tenure, as the IU coach first picked up Big Ten Coach of the Year honors from the Associated Press, then from Big Ten media members and his fellow coaches.

It’s a fitting reward for the man who engineered a remarkable turnaround that saw the Hoosiers develop from a fragile, yet talented team in early December to the outright Big Ten champions in early March. Crean refused to allow his players — and his staff — to internalize the negativity swirling around the program after the first month of the season. Instead, his players bought into Crean’s mantra of daily improvement.

Meanwhile, Crean himself sought to adjust his own philosophies. He tapered practices beginning in early January to keep his players fresh for March. With the help of his coaching staff, he fixed Indiana’s defensive liabilities and ditched the man-to-zone switching that seemed to confuse players in the middle of possessions.

And he pressed all the right buttons when serious injuries popped up at the beginning and end of conference play.

“I just know he’s a great coach,” forward Max Bielfeldt said. “I really enjoy playing for him. He’s got a heck of a mind. He’s always scheming something up. I think he’s starting to (receive more credit). When things are going good, he should have the credit. He’s definitely as big a part of the team as any of the players are scoring points.”

The Hoosiers (25-6, 15-3) closed the regular season with Sunday’s 80-62 Senior Day win over Maryland, bursting into the postseason with as much momentum as they’ve had at any point during Crean’s eight seasons in Bloomington.

From the turbulence brought by a spring and summer of off-the-court transgressions by his players to the late-season surge that pushes IU into Friday’s Big Ten Tournament opener, Crean has adjusted as needed.

In September, after a handful of current and former players were involved in an alcohol-related incident near Assembly Hall, he administered tough love on a team that appeared unwilling to learn from the sins of the past. In November, he expressed disappointment when his players ambled through a disappointing run at the Maui Invitational and played unconnected in a pair of losses.

All the while, Crean kept coaching.

Long respected for an inner drive that propelled him from modest beginnings to one of college basketball’s elite jobs, Crean has authored one of the best coaching jobs of his career over the past few months. When second-leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. was lost to a season-ending knee injury in late December, Crean kept the team afloat by introducing enhanced responsibilities for freshmen OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, who each responded to the challenge.

When starting guard Robert Johnson suffered a high ankle sprain and missed the final two weeks of the season, Crean kept his team engaged despite a backcourt that featured only two scholarship players.

And last Tuesday, the program was rewarded with its second outright Big Ten championship in the past four seasons.

“To win 15 games in this league and to win the title is a great, great reward for the way these guys have worked,” Crean said Monday on the Big Ten teleconference. “My staff has been incredible. Our players have gotten nothing but better, and we realize to win this league, it’s such a challenge on any given day. So to win it is fantastic.”

Monday was not the first time Crean earned a coaching award at IU, but this particular haul features the most significant prizes. During the program’s breakthrough 2011-12 season, ESPN.com named him National Coach of the Year, while the Sporting News selected him as the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Prior to taking the IU job in 2008, Crean was a two-time Conference USA Coach of the Year selection while at Marquette.

But Monday’s slew of honors, which came after a stressful string of months on and off the court, had to feel particularly sweet.

32 comments

  1. I hope AD Glass recognizes Crean’s merits as a coach but first and foremost as a teacher and honors him appropriately. What do you guys think is most appropriate? A reunion of sorts, I think, to which we shall invite all those players whose careers over the years have been meaningfully impacted by Crean during his tenure at Indiana. And we could invite to celebrate and recognize their mentor players such as: Jeremiah April, Stan Robinson, Max Hoetzel, Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington, Peter Jurkin, Jonny Marlin, Luke Fischer, Remy Abell, Maurice Creek, Ron Patterson, Bobby Capobianco, Bawa Muniru, Malik Story, Nick Williams, Emmitt Holt, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Devin Davis, Guy-Marc Michel and these are only some he has recruited personally but we know he has impacted others too, like Jordan Crawford, Matt Roth, Eli Holman or pitcher of the year Eric Arnett to name just a few. More individuals than those on the 1976 team that had the recent reunion in Bloomington … and if we start counting from when he was at UM he could be easily fill a balcony in AH. With such a legacy Crean could easily be considered for other awards and distinctions such as Coach of the Decade, or Coach of the Millennium (so far). AD Glass please use your creativity. The sky is the limit.

  2. No, there little heads would not make that much noise. I should have asked, “Is that bubble-wrap popping, or is that the sound of the Crean-haters’ heads exploding?

  3. No it must the approving wave of flatulence from the oafs that play Crean apologists on this blog…

    This is for Harvard. May it heal the heart…

  4. Im an Indiana fan and right now Tom Crean has Indiana playing well. Who in their right mind could be upset to win a big ten and be ranked in the top ten? Come on. Bob Knight is gone and kids haven’t wanted to play Knight ball since 1992/1993. I loved Knight but it’s really time to move on. This year Crean has earned the support of Hoosier nation. It’s nice to be relevant….in fact it’s fun. Negativity can do no good for our team. Go IU and congratulations Coach Crean.

  5. With 1100 college transfers last year IU contributed 0.02% which is a staggering amount. If transfers make us this good I’m hoping for more in the future!

  6. A very well deserved award for Coach Crean.

    A deeper run in the tournament would be icing on the cake.

    Go Hoosiers!!

  7. Interesting exchange on Twitter my notorious Crean hater Mark Titus on Twitter the other day:

    Someone asked him, “curious, has your opinion of Crean changed this year? I have to say that mine has”

    He replied, “@klace32 wouldn’t say it’s changed but it’s in process of changing. Took a lot for me to not like him. Will take same to come back around.”

    Excellent and fair thoughts from someone who really didn’t like the guy, but acknowledges some changes. My hate never ran that deep, but I’m in the same process.

    It is funny though. His background photo on Twitter is Crean yelling at Jeff Meyer after the Michigan game. Hehe.

    https://twitter.com/clubtrillion/with_replies

  8. I don’t care if any of the Crean-haters ever ‘like” Tom Crean. If they’ve met him and were offended or put off by him, they have every right not to like him. It’s fair to say, “hey, I’ve met the guy and I don’t really like him.” But that’s far different from making ridiculous personal attacks or attributing motives to the actions he takes as IU’s head coach. And it is just flat out wrong and stupid to argue that “Crean can’t coach.” Obviously, he can.

    While a sophomore at IU, I was acquainted with one of Knight’s players. We were not close friends but he was cool and we got along well and socialized on numerous occasions. No one around him ever asked him about Knight, other players, the team or anything about basketball. But one weekend during football season, a friend of mine visited from out of state. My HS friend, of learning that this big guy played BB for IU just came straight out and asked him, “so, what’s it like playing for Bobby Knight.” The basketball player, having consumed a few beers by then responded, “I hate his guts. He’s a giant ass______!” My friend was surprised by the answer, but asked, “so why do you play for him? Why not transfer?” The player responded, “because he’s the best bleeping basketball coach in the world, and I came here to win a national championship.” Three years later, as part of the 80/81 team, he did. I met up with him at IU’s homecoming about nine years later. We got to talking and I reminded him of that conversation with my firmed. I then asked him, “looking back, how was it playing for Bobby Knight.” He responded, “it was the best experience of my life. I love the man.” Then he looked at me and started laughing.

  9. I turned on CTC this year. I had supported him throughout his tenure but I began to waver a couple seasons ago. Last year I was beginning to worry. This year I looked at this tremendously talented group of basketball player (I was certainly right about that) playing really, really bad basketball and I had had enough.

    Of course, at that point everything changed.

    Is CTC a really good coach? I don’t know. He’s gotten quite few awards that say so. Is he coaching well right now. Yes. Yes, he is.

    As I’ve said before, he’s not proposing to my daughter. He’s coaching my alma mater’s basketball team. I’m not judging his his depth. I’m looking for a decent human being who can win titles. Maybe we (like virtually every other team) aren’t in the Final Four recently but he’s brought home two of the last four Big Ten titles.

    Hey, show me the money. He did.

    As long as you can do the job you are paid to do I’m on board.

  10. He’s not a decent human being…I wouldn’t let him 100 yards from my daughter…And he’ll never play in another Final Four. You can bet the farm. He’s not shown any “money.” Getting deep in the tournament(not just one fluke run with D-Wade…and then soon to be demolished in the opening game) is the money.

    In 8 years he’s taken Indiana no deeper than what has been done by Valpo, Ball St, ISU, ND, Purdue.
    Homer Drew should be in the Hall of Fame compared to Clown Crean. Rick Majerus…as well.

    Prove you can go deeper than the perceived talent. Prove you can coach under pressure and get your players to play under pressure. There was no pressure in games where a share of a BIG championship is already guaranteed. Add in the cupcake teams, plus the home games against the better BIG teams who we only played once, and Crean has done nothing he’s paid to do.

    He should be paid to schedule stiff non-conference teams…He should be paid to not duck a storied rivalry game against UK. He should be paid without a need to schmooze with Delany(via Glass) for backroom Establishment deals and soft BIG schedules…He should be paid to achieve, at minimum, a level of success found by Butler Bulldogs(two championship games) or Mike Davis(one championship game).

    BIG trophy should be made of cotton candy. It’s all sugar made of soft scheduling, favorable home scheduling(only playing PU, OSU, Maryland, and MSU once each).

    Get ready for the sugar to dissolve in an opening round game. …

  11. I never liked Knight’s personality but I liked what he was doing for Indiana basketball.Likewise I was never enamored with Crean’s personality but lately I like what he is doing for the program. It’s never been about the coach’s personality for me. It’s been about the team I have watched and been a fan of for over 42 years. It’s about Indiana Basketball.Like the man said ” It’s Indiana “

  12. Someone has come completely unglued…the idea that the narrative that they have spent so much time crafting isn’t going to happen. So now what? Now they go all in by adding more expectations. A great season isn’t enough because it’s IU and we aren’t ever satisfied unless we hang banners and that my fellow scoopers is the last vestige of hope for the chronic haters. Deep down inside they don’t want to see another banner hung because that means the years of crafting the narrative was a waste.

  13. There once was a coach named George Karl, who, as the coach of the Supersonics, racked up year after year of conference titles and playoff berths. After the millionth time losing in the first round to the #7 or #8 seed, the Sonics organization decided to move on – right after a 61 win season. The argument was that Karl didn’t have the chops to coach in the playoffs; there was something about those pressure situations that brought out his worst. The best he did was a 1995-96 trip to the NBA Finals, where he rode the momentum of career years by the Reign Man and The Glove to give Jordan’s Bulls a decent little scare, only to lose in 6. Other than that, however, SOnics fans look back with disappointment at what could have been.

    Fast forward to modern day times. George is still coaching in the NBA. Were the Sonics wrong in firing him? Or did they correctly realize, based on a large statistical sample, that he was a high-floor, low-ceiling coach?
    Well, since leaving Seattle, in 15 seasons, Karl has 11 first-round exits and two missed playoffs altogether.

    We can gush all we want over Crean’s performance this season, and he does indeed deserve some credit. But it would be irresponsible to believe that anything major has changed other than having a senior point guard playing with DJ White-like determination and carrying the team on his shoulders. Save the effusiveness until we see concrete evidence that Crean’s yearly narrative – i.e., 20 wins and a trip to the Sweet 32 – has been rewritten.

  14. I completely agree with that assessment Seahawk Tom. I am one of the fans that wants to see IU succeed which means CTC will also succeed. I know that I don’t want a situation where we have average seasons and have to start again with a new coach and a new recruiting process. A new coach means that we start another rebuilding process and 5 to 7 years pass before we could sniff another banner.

  15. Tom,
    It’s hard to know what Karl’s numbers mean from a distance. Did he lose in the first round with talented teams or did he get non-playoff caliber teams to the playoffs?

    I have not jumped on the bandwagon either. All I’ve done is to stop being one of the guys building the gallows. I said earlier in the year that I thought it would take a Final Four run to save his job. I didn’t think they had a shot at the Big Ten title.

    No ‘pressure’ games. That’s funny. Every game since the Duke loss has been a pressure game. CTC has had the sword of Damocles hanging over his head since Maui.

    Let’s see what the post season brings. If he does coach a Final Four team we all know it will not sway opinions already set in stone. They will likely conjure up the narrative that it was all about a conspiracy by the NCAA to get the ‘establishment’ coach to the Final Four. We all know this to be true.

  16. ^^^ Utter BS. You best reread Seahawk Tom’s post. I’m not sure if you’re comprehending.

    The book on Crean is low ceiling when the stakes get higher. No bar has been moved. No narrative has changed. His recruiting prowess is even exaggerated. Beilfeldt fell into his lap. Prayers were somehow answered when Holt and Davis were cast off with all the “thug” labels an effing up Sampson fatty roller..
    Yippee…He lands the occasional highlight reel for SportsCenter. His tenure features a few desperate East Coast “pipeline” swings for the fences(overrated lottery picks in down Draft year….Sorry folks..Dipo and Dody are no D-Wade).
    But if not for the one “everything hinges” recruit that pulled him out of the quicksand of his downward pulling coaching acumen deficiencies and brought national headlines(at least a sense of “rebirth” hyped relevance) we have nothing of the final grasping of a last blossom of “just maybe” hope via a very hungry and talented point guard that came with “the Movement” fueled by Zeller. .

  17. Would you rather finish in fourth place and make it to a Final Four…or win the BIG on a soft conference schedule and exit in the “Sweet 32?”

    I guess you’ve already written his extension without having to prove anything on the biggest stage…Eight years of Hamburger Helper without anything beyond bankrupt Sweet 16’s(with a #1 team no less) and now, I suppose, it’s all going to as “great” as a Donald Trump degree and juicy prime steak assertion…? k

    March Madness it the pressure cooker, Chet. It’s where the truly ‘elite’ coaches take their talented teams and prove to be ‘prime steaks’ tasted rather than just displayed as props with the the golden champagnes at podiums….Pressure is also found in must-win elimination conference tournaments(the smaller conferences where dominating your opponents during the regular grind is still not enough to guarantee a punched ticket into the Big Dance).

    I’ve seen Crean under the real pressures of March…It ain’t pretty. It’s confusion meets frantic…meets thanking Jesus for beating low seeds in early rounds.. So….so…so…much pressure.

    Nice to know the pressure is off Crean….With COY in his pocket and that ‘pressure-filled’ soft BIG schedule resulting in the trophy of proof the man can coach, we can now finally see how a man “freed” of his insecurities and endless cries for validation will no longer play into the equation of March Madness. It will be as powerful as this……“The ‘H’ is silent.” LOL.

  18. oops.

    …now, I suppose, it’s all going to [be] as “great” as a [University of] Donald Trump degree and juicy prime steak assertions…?

  19. A new coach means that we start another rebuilding process and 5 to 7 years pass before we could sniff another banner.

    Crean hasn’t sniffed one in 8 years(two of those seasons with a team going as high as a #1 ranking).

    There are dozens of coaches that could get Indiana “sniffing” a banner within a couple seasons.. There are dozens that could instantly rebuild the belief among Indiana’s finest h.s. programs and coaches to once again look at Indiana. Crean misses on so much local talent that it’s criminal…He lands a couple sleepers from Missouri and it’s treated as the Holy Grail…He’s missed on the last four Indiana Mr. Basketball recipients along with countless top ballers from the state. He can’t even tap into the Chicago markets that were so available to him when at Marquette. Very few h.s. coaches from within 300 miles of Bloomington have anything but thoughts of a ‘charlatan’ when it comes to Tom Crean at Indiana.

  20. The Karl analogy is good, but Crean hasn’t really performed to even that level.

    My deal with Crean during his tenure is that his program is very erratic. It reflects his personality to a T. His coaching style on the court of micro managing every aspect is most visible. Of the court, from day one, the roster has been in constant crisis. The program never had that, “I got this” feel to it.

    Now, since Jan, things may have changed. I’ve been one of the long time proponents saying that the weak schedule could be masking glaring deficiencies.

    However, when they played the tougher part of their schedule, they attacked it with confidence. Crean is always going to be a bit of a spaz, but his courtside demeanor has been a lot calmer and patient (for him at least). Maybe an old dog can learn new tricks?

    I think this is a really good basketball team with potential to do some damage on the big stage. This is no longer just a Crean thing, it is a team thing. The best thing he can do is calmly let his veteran point guard lead his team to banner hood.

    I’m making no predictions. It could very well be that I’m Charlie Brown trying to kick the football again, but such is life.

  21. DD-They did attack the tougher part of the schedule with confidence’ the final four games against a terrible Illinois team on the road, a slumping Iowa team with Uthoff in a huge funk, and a pair of home games(one with the energy that always comes against the in-state rival and the other against a Maryland team many believe still can’t find its identity and out of the title picture).

    What a tragedy to have Delany feed this soft schedule to Indiana. That UNC Establishment infiltrator fixed the books and stuck us with the ‘B-Town Bozo’ and his mediocrity for another decade. They were panicking a couple years ago when we didn’t even make the NIT.. I wonder how much commission dollars Glass and Crean have to provide Delany for engineering the used car schedule…? Maybe the fee was a favorable bracket in March..? Always good to know people in high places and committee rooms….

  22. If we get a favorable bracket, I’m going to smother myself in Crisco and put on the Bay City Rollers.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with your tinfoil hat predictions, though. I say this with a hug, big guy, but wow can you at times be so lucid and thoughtful, yet conspiratorial and reactionary on the other hand. For a bunch of people who are nothing more than bunch of bureaucrats and incompetents, they sure pull off some deeply diabolical stuff.

  23. Hey Chet- just responding to your earlier post, Karl’s teams were pretty loaded. Kemp, Payton, Detlef, Derrick McKey, Nate McMillan…some very dominant years in the West. Certainly comparable, in my mind, to the SheelaZellaDipo Crean teams. Those were very painful 1st round losses for the Sonics – one year was to the famous Mutombo Denver #8 seed, and the next few years to my favorite scrappy Laker teams of all time – the Vlade/Van Exel/Eddie Jones/Elden Cambell years. Boy was it ever fun to wear my Laker jersey around the dorms at UW back in those days….

    If Crean succumbs to the usual disappointing early loss to a defensive “system” coach this year, he’ll be joining the club of permanently damaged, psyched-out coaches.

    Random side note: I saw George Karl at the OHare airport in December; nearly ran into him getting off a plane.

  24. I sat and responded to the aforementioned post and then I just erased it because such outlast and far fetched post aren’t worth my response.

  25. Was Kemp from the dorky white NW Indiana?

    All kidding aside, as predicted by this recent ESPN clip, I do hope the Hoosiers really shake things up in March.

  26. Chet-

    The confessional booth was closed…There was a sign that said, “Back in 3 hours…Went to see Spotlight.”

  27. I see. Nobody took it seriously, anyway.

    I don’t get your ‘shakes’ reference but I usually just skim through your posts anymore.

  28. I usually just skim through your posts anymore.

    Chet-

    I never skim through your posts..That hurt me. Out of all the psychological advice offered to the damaged Harvard, I’ve always been comforted the greatest by your inspiring tales…..about yourself. They are far stronger than the images conjured up….up….up and away of Double Down’s soft- hearted Crisco nights.

    I’ve always thought we had something this powerful. Skim?.Skim?…..My heart forever broken.

    I am so very damaged and disturbed….I couldn’t stop laughing at that shot of Creepy Crawly Crean offering a shake…In the quaint ‘Soda Shop’ of Bloomington without the ‘wreckers’ of the world. I have really lost it…..But I;’ll take compared to whatever the rest you have found in the Olivia vibe of your ‘freed’ pathetic happiness for Hoosier hoops on Quaaludes…Scary…scary…scary when they’re struck by the light.

    It’s all falling into place for Tommy Shakes Madness…Even Syracuse is likely out of the Dance….The Lord is parting the sea for TC. I’m almost ready to believe…..But first Donald Trump must become our Commander in Chief…Then I’ll know we are whole again….and safe…and sane inside our walls and soda shops…

  29. oops..

    .…in the quaint ‘Soda Shop’ of Bloomington without the ‘wreckers’ of the world. I have really lost it…..But I’ll take [it] compared to whatever the rest you have found in the Olivia vibe of your ‘freed’ pathetic happiness for Hoosier hoops on Quaaludes.

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