What’s next for Indiana basketball?
It’s a loaded question. I don’t know. No one does at this point.
Decisions on the coach’s future may already have been made. Or discussions may already be happening. Or the powers that be may be waiting to see how the rest of this season shakes out. I’m not privy to those insider dealings. Few are. It’s just speculation.
All I am privy to is what my own frustrated eyes tell me when I watch the games, my understanding of what constitutes a reasonable standard for Indiana basketball, and some level of common sense.
And when I add all of that up, it seems to me more likely than not that we’re heading toward a head coaching change this offseason.
Pete Thamel of SI.com placed the likelihood of a coaching change at 80%, saying:
There’s an industry-wide expectation this job will open this this year. Will Indiana fire Crean? Or will he find a safe landing elsewhere? That’s the drama. (It costs him nothing to leave, contractually.) But the bottom line is it would be an upset if there’s not a new coach on the sideline in Bloomington next year.
The Indiana-Crean situation might be the latest case of Tubby Syndrome (12) in college basketball – where it’s simply time for both sides to contemplate something new.
It should be noted that Forde also said, ” … a lot of people on the outside seem more prepared for something to happen than the people on the inside.”
And I just got an email from someone with an informed opinion who said of Crean, “He’s certainly not to blame for all the problems this team has, which is why I think IU brings him back next year.”
So … who knows?
But if a change is indeed made this offseason, and I have begrudgingly arrived at the belief that one should be, then Tom Crean will be coaching his final regular season home game as Indiana’s head coach on Saturday against Northwestern.
Given that context, plus Indiana’s current losing streak, I came here to offer a few thoughts about how I plan to set aside my frustrations and approach Saturday, and what I hope to see from as many of my fellow IU fans as possible.
I hope (and expect) that Coach Crean and his family will be treated with kindness and appreciation on Saturday, and for the rest of their time in Bloomington, no matter how long it may be.
We’re all frustrated by this season. We’re all frustrated by much of what we’ve seen the last few seasons. Heck, the biggest frustration many people have with Coach actually occurred during his greatest season, in 2013, with the way that season ended.
But on a night when we will honor the accomplishments of departing seniors, including Collin Hartman, and spend time appreciating and memorializing the things they did do, rather than lamenting all of the things they did not do, I can’t help but believe that we should do the same for a possibly departing coach.
I’m not saying he should give an official farewell speech after Collin does. Of course not. No decisions have been made, nor anything announced. So how awkward and unnecessary would that be?
But I do mean that instead of booing Coach out of present-day frustration because of this team’s collapse, or vilifying him further on social media, let’s consider cheering him and supporting him out of respect for the many big wins and the two Big Ten titles he helped deliver — Indiana’s first outright titles since 1993.
Even more than the Big Ten titles, let’s consider cheering out of appreciation for his willingness to restore so much of what we believe is important for IU basketball: academic success, recruiting integrity, and players who represent the university well off the court as well as on it. There were bumps along the way, of course, especially with that last point, but overall Tom Crean has run a basketball program that IU fans and alums can be proud of, even if it hasn’t won quite enough.
Heck, let’s cheer the man for having an indefatigable work ethic and doing everything in his power to deliver a consistent winner to Bloomington. He hasn’t made the choices you or I might have made, and he hasn’t succeeded to the level of expectations, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying. And while I know he gets paid millions, so a remarkable work ethic is part of the job description and should be a given, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be appreciated. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive feelings.
The bottom line is that if Tom Crean is, in fact, coaching his last game in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Saturday, it shouldn’t be the result of an acrimonious divorce in which the two sides feel animosity toward each other and can’t ever speak again. At least not on Indiana’s side.
Tom Crean was hired to do a job, and he has done it to the best of his ability, but he has fallen short of the spectacular hope that was built early on, and then the reasonable standards that took over thereafter — standards that every IU basketball coach should be held to.
That we’ve arrived at this point is unfortunate, but a disappointing ending shouldn’t erase every good moment that occurred along the way.
So now that we’re near the end — or, at least, what a growing chorus of people seem to think may be the end — let’s do our best to be sources of positivity and appreciation, rather than the opposite.
If he is no longer coaching Indiana after this season, then just like Mike Davis before him, someday Tom Crean will come back to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and receive a warm ovation. And he’ll deserve it.
Why wait 5, 10, 20 years? Let’s give it to him on Saturday.
That way it isn’t just an appreciative moment of nostalgia in the future, but instead a proactive counter to the present day tumult, and one that might actually serve to hasten the process of moving forward for all parties — in whatever direction “moving forward” means come this offseason.
Coach Crean undoubtedly knows how much everyone is frustrated by the things he hasn’t achieved at Indiana. He surely feels the same. What’s the point of piling on? Go in the other direction.
Inside the arena and out, wherever you normally show up, let’s set aside our frustrations for at least one Saturday evening and let Coach know how much what he has accomplished is appreciated, and how much we’re behind him in achieving his next objective: beating Northwestern.
It will surely lift his spirits, and probably the team’s.
Just as importantly, it will lift our own.
There has already been enough negativity, anger, and frustration this year to last ten. It’s why Tom Crean and Indiana may part ways after the season. So why linger on the bad feelings any longer? They’ve made their point, and they are sure to return quickly even if Saturday proves to be a welcome respite.
Let’s rally around each other, this team, and our coach (while he’s still our coach) for the last few games of this season. We’ve already lost so often this season, what else do we have to lose now?
This is a great opportunity for us as a fan base to lead by example and handle the end of this excruciating season with pride, with gratitude, with kindness, and with one final display of Hoosier Nation pulling together and doing everything for 40 minutes to earn a home victory.
Every Big Ten win at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall matters. There are no exceptions.
Let’s all do our part to help the Hoosiers earn another one on Saturday.