Opinion: Should the Indiana Hoosiers part ways with Tom Crean?

The Indiana Hoosiers suffered their eighth loss in the conference on Sunday, spurring a call by many fans for Tom Crean’s job.

It seems to be a formality by now that the Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean is trending on social media during games. The nine-year Hoosiers head coach has faced scrutiny in the past for in-game coaching decisions and failing to meet incomprehensible expectations from IU fans.

The Hoosiers spent the past seven days sealing their fate as a possible tournament team. Indiana dropped to 5-8 in the Big Ten Conference and spent Sunday afternoon clinging to hope they could get past Michigan. Instead, the Hoosiers were embarrassed on National TV by a Wolverine program that had not won a season series against the Hoosiers since 1994-95.

The case has been argued virtually every game for the past three seasons. Indiana fans from all over making their case on why Crean is not to the answer to the historically basketball rich program that is Indiana. From the casual Indiana basketball fan to the hardcore ‘born and raised’ Hoosiers fan everyone seems to have an opinion on the topic.

The Hoosiers are likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years, something that should not happen at a historically basketball dominant school. They play four of the remaining five games on the road and are certain to lose more games than they win.

As the season winds down, the question will begin to loom for Tom Crean and Indiana basketball. How does the program move forward and get back to a winning formula? This may or may not involve a change in head coaching for the Hoosiers.

Tom Crean deserves credit…

Tom Crean has provided Indiana fans more than just a social media goldmine of memes, gifs, and expressions. The standards that have been set for Crean since taking over have been nearly impossible to accomplish. Anti-Crean stans will say “the history of the program deserves better than this!”. I’m sorry if I’m the first person to break this to you but the landscape of college basketball has changed since the Hoosiers last championship run.

He took over the Hoosiers after climbing a mountain of NCAA sanctions left on the program thanks to Kelvin Sampson. In a matter of a few years, Indiana was the top team in college basketball. Yes, they did not win the National Championship or even make it out of the Sweet Sixteen. It happens, more often than not the best team in the NCAA tournament does not end up winning the title.

Tom Crean has shaken off the embarrassment that Kelvin Sampson brought to the program and made Indiana basketball exciting to watch again. Crean deserves credit for bringing two Big Ten Conference titles to Bloomington in the past four seasons. He deserves credit for shaping the skills and character of players that stay with his program (Flashes of Victor Oladipo, Yogi Ferrell should appear).

The biggest game in recent Indiana basketball history happened under Tom Crean. The upset of No. 1 Kentucky at home in December 2011. He turned unranked three-star recruit Victor Oladipo into the second overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. He produced back-to-back lottery picks at the center position in Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh.

Do fans even consider the number of players Coach Crean has graduated through his program? Probably not, but it’s worth noting. Most student-athletes do not go on to play professionally. The main goal of college is to become educated and receive a degree. Basketball is only temporary but a degree lasts a lifetime.

He isn’t the best basketball coach in college basketball but the impact he has had on the Hoosiers should be credible. Coach Crean is a phenomenal recruiter and good basketball coach. He is known to be a genuinely great person. His work ethic is highlighted as one of the best in basketball. He may just have found himself in a situation that is past the point of recovery mode.

Be careful what you wish for…

If you’re unlike me and scream for the dismissal of Crean has the head coach, I caution you. The college basketball head coaching pool is dry and the carousel of head coaches is something you do not want to make routine.

It certainly makes sense that fans would be upset with the direction of the Hoosiers. Does all the blame lie solely on Crean? I would hope not. Sure, Crean has swung and missed with a handful of recruits in the past (Hanner-Mosquera Perea, Peter Jurkin, Stan Robinson, Tim Priller, Devin Davis, etc.). His responsibility for holding players accountable has been shown with the dismissal of such players.

You can mention his overall record at Indiana (163-130) and the fact that he has never won at Wisconsin or even the sub-.500 record against Northwestern. Many will point to the missed NCAA tournament appearances or the inability to get past the Sweet Sixteen. If Crean was so valuable to Indiana, why has he not produced a team even close to winning a title?

The possibility that O.G. Anunoby and Thomas Bryant will return for another year could be one of the reasons Crean remains with the Hoosiers. He also has a recruiting class that could bail on the program if he leaves. Top-50 recruit Justin Tucker’s decision looms large for Crean too. If he commits to Indiana over Villanova, does he flip if the Hoosiers get rid of Crean?

All of these points and questions are valid.

Who is replacing Tom Crean?

The real question that should be on the mind of Hoosiers fans is the replacement for Crean. Who is available that could come in and do a better job than Crean?  I hate to break it to you but Brad Steven is not leaving a Boston Celtics team that is set up to succeed for the next decade for college basketball team he grew up loving. Simply not happening. Steve Alford? Also not happening.

Alford is leading a UCLA team that is considered a serious contender for the NCAA title this year. Let’s not forget that he also has the pipeline of the Ball family ‘committed’ to the program for the foreseeable future. That is more than enough to let you know he is sitting comfortably on the west coast and that doesn’t seem to change anytime soon.

Neither Stevens nor Alford is coming to Indiana to coach basketball so please stop asking.

Billy Donovan is a name that has been thrown around in recent days. A story written by Ryan Phillips of the Big Lead suggested that Indiana fire Tom Crean and go after the former Florida Gator coach. Donovan won back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2006 and 2007. The investment will be heavy for the program and will need the backing of boosters in order to make the idea realistic. They also would have to convince Donovan that coaching college basketball is more lucrative than coaching Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Former Indiana head coach put it best when he was recently featured in “A Taste of Coaching” featured on the Big Ten Network about his stint with the Hoosiers. He was quoted saying,

“(IU) should be your last job, not your first job. I’m at Texas Southern now. It should’ve been Texas Southern, UAB, Indiana, not Indiana, UAB and Texas Southern.” – Former Indiana head coach, Mike Davis

He talked about his lack of preparation and readiness to lead the job after Coach Knight. He talked about how important Indiana basketball was to its fans, players, and history. I’m not in any way suggesting that replacing Crean will have the same shoes to fill as Davis did with Knight. If Indiana brings in a successful coach from a mid-major program will they be prepared to win? Will they have the readiness to be successful immediately in recruiting, on the floor, and in the classroom?

Final thought…

There are interesting and valid arguments on both sides of the Crean spectrum. Some ideas that make more sense than others. The one recurring theme is the longing to return to sustainable success in basketball. Crean has a buyout of $4-million dollars until July 1st, 2017 in which it reduces to $1-million. The money is not the problem, rather the replacement and commitment of AD Fred Glass to Tom Crean.

No matter which side you stand on, I urge you to avoid one thing. Taking to social media to write short novels on why you think the program is where it is because you have been watching Indiana basketball your entire life is not a good look.

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