Here's our Up Close interview with sixth-year Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean:
Terry Hutchens: What are your thoughts about the new practice dates moving up and with a young team in particular can that be a benefit?
Tom Crean: I think it's like anything else. You embrace it because it's a rule and you figure out how you're going to make it work to your best advantage. I think the one thing that we want to make sure in the spring is that we don't get into a disadvantage because of how young we are by over taxing these guys in situations conditioning wise. The most important thing they can gain in the preseason hasn't changed. It's their strength and it's their skill development. And there should be enough conditioning inside of your strength and skill development. And now the biggest thing is to make sure that we don't go into an overkill situation conditioning wise, knowing that we're starting the season so much earlier and make sure that we have a sufficient base, which I think we already have, of conditioning because of the summer and then work them into condition because practice is longer. But not get away from this month before practice starts of making sure that their strength and skills catch up to where they need to be as freshmen and where they need to be as a young team getting ready to start the season. So, all in all I like it. I think it allows you to get with your team even more and put them in team situations. But we still better be focused on what we do between now and September 15 with four-man groups. We're always trying to get across to the players to maximize your day. And that's exactly what we've got to do as coaches without overkill.
Hutchens: It's an extra two weeks but it's really not an extra number of practices, is it? Don't you still have only so many practices before your first game?
Crean: It is. You're still getting the 30 days out of the 42 but I think the fact that it's official practice now you need to keep making sure that you're innovative and creative because it's a long season for any team. But for a very young team with six new freshmen on scholarship with a couple more walk-ons and a new player in Evan Gordon, even though he'll have been through things, you've got to really make sure that you understand that it's a long process. The old saying that it's a marathon not a sprint really fits with these new practice rules especially with how young our team will be.''
Hutchens: How have the freshmen developed since they arrived here?
Crean: The work ethic on the court with us has been very good. And every player has shown upside. The issue that needs to get rectified as they get back here is that we need every one of them to be gym rats when they're not required to be here. That's how it gets separated. And that's how the culture is. And none of us ever had to push Victor Oladipo or Will Sheehey or Jordan Hulls or Yogi Ferrell, and even Jeremy Hollowell by the middle of last year. Well, I won't give him the middle. I'll give him near the end and then all throughout the spring and summer to be in the gym extra. And because it's not required means it needs to be required by them and how much better they want to get. Because if you're really going to have the culture be what we've tried to have it become here, it's a 365-day culture. Not necessarily literally, OK, because there is time away from it and time off but figuratively it needs to be that kind of mindset. And right now the freshmen have not shown that that's their mindset. Not all of them.
Hutchens: Is Hanner Mosquera-Perea making steps in terms of his development?
Crean: He's making steps. He's making steps but it's time for Hanner to get back to what his biggest strength is which is being a tough, nasty, disposition player that wants to own the paint with his rebounding and his ability to block shots, wants to run the floor and wants to win no matter what. And the skill level has improved tremendously. I can't name a player that I've coached in recent memory, or my memory as a head coach, that's had his footwork improve from one year to the next the way that Hanner's has. And especially on the perimeter. But he still has the issue when we play of not being able to play in tight, congested places. So that footwork needs to continue to improve. But we're looking for Hanner to show tremendous leadership not only with his work ethic and not only where there's athleticism, but with the nastiness that he needs to bring to the court. And Hanner is such a very good person, good young man, excellent student, we need him to leave all of that in the locker room and truly when he gets inside the lines bring that toughness that I know is inside of him.
Hutchens: How much fun was it for you to be able to work Dwyane Wade's camp?
Crean: A lot. I think when I say this people think that I'm joking but it's really my tune up. It's my tune up for the season. I learned something constantly. I had some great basketball conversations with Dwyane. I had some phenomenal ones with him. LeBron James was there for about four hours the other day. I had a great visit with Dwyane and LeBron about attacking zones, about spacing , about footwork in the post, about all of these different things. People forget just how truly knowledgeable these guys are about the game. They see the talent and they know that there had to be some hard work to get there but they don't always see just how much these guys think the game. And when you can get around and spend some time talking with those guys it's a big deal. Rick Barry. We go from one event to another and we're on a bus for about 25 minutes and I'm walking out of there with about three pages of notes that I take off of Rick Barry. He's one of the all-time greats. I mean you just can't beat that. Tim Legler is another one. There's a lot of basketball to be learned and that doesn't even include all of the multi-million dollar businessmen that you're around and that you're coaching and to see why they're successful. It's a tune up for me with the coaching. I mean I was exhausted on Monday and could feel it. We went 6-0 which is the first time anybody has gone undefeated in that camp. We won the championship and I was as fired up as I've been. So definitely this was way too long of a break between summer school and the start of school. That's the only drawback of the summer to me is that we haven't been able to work with the players long enough. And once you're working with them you don't want to stop. To get a chance to coach basketball for a few days and talk to great basketball people … I mean Erik Spoelstra is there. You're coaching against Erik Spoelstra on a Saturday afternoon. It was the Heat versus the Pacers. It's awesome. He's coaching it like it's an NBA Finals game and I'm coaching it like it's an NCAA Finals game. It's what you're doing. It's fun.
Hutchens: Would you like another rivalry game on the schedule or does the schedule just not allow it?
Crean: Do you mean this particular schedule? If you're talking about this particular schedule, I think this schedule had to be put in place the way it was because of the future of some potential rivalry games down the road. There's too much uncertainty going into this season of what there could be potentially for us to have taken some chances and overscheduled ourselves out of those opportunities down the road. So there's definitely things that are coming up. There has been definite conversation about building things with the Big East. There are some other things that have been out there for us that could be created television-wise and then you're always going to have the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and the one thing that really cuts into this and cuts into some of your scheduling is the Crossroads Classic. I mean it's a great event but it does cut into some of the decisions you would make it a home and home series. That's just the way that it is. We knew that going into it. It's just one thing that everyone has to accept. But I think this schedule, especially the non-conference home part, had to be looked at with the future in mind. And that's just the way that it is if we're going to continue to play national level games.
Hutchens: But you're open to that in the future?
Crean: Absolutely. As long as they make sense. And obviously they have to make sense for the other school. They've got to make sense for us because what you don't want to do is we want to play great games and play them in really great locations but an Indiana home game makes a considerable amount of money. And not only for this program but for this department. It's a considerable amount. And one thing we looked at this year was the value of what Indiana is when we go on the road. Especially even in our league. There are times that we play when we become a premium game for other teams in this league. And they're making a considerable amount of more money on a home when Indiana comes. You can see the value of what Indiana is on the road so you better make sure you understand the value of what Indiana is in your own home. And that's all stuff that you have to factor in.
Hutchens: Last question. Can you possibly be old enough to have a daughter about to enter her freshman year of college at IU?
Crean: I hate to personalize it but there's so many people that have their children go a long ways from home. And I always think about the people that maybe lost a child or their child isn't able to go or maybe they're fighting over in Afghanistan for our country. So I always try to preface my thoughts with that but my daughter going three miles as we're moving her into her dorm still seems to me like it's 300 miles. And she's going to live across the street. But as a dad it's still hard to fathom that (A) I have a child that old with Joanie and (B) that she's actually going to college. But I'm proud of her. She's done a great job. She's excited about it, and selfishly, it was all her choice, but we're still going to get to see her on a pretty frequent basis. She could have done something different but she learned early on here that she really wanted to be at Indiana. She only looked at one other school that we even went on the campus of, and that was me taking her, that wasn't even anything she chose to do. She wanted to be here because I think she has grown to see what we see when we're selling it to a recruit. That once you're hear there's really no reason to leave it. Hopefully this really works out well for her. It's harder for me to believe that my son is in high school.
Hutchens: What does she want to study?
Crean: Sports Broadcasting. She wants to get into Communications. And being at Indiana has already given her some real opportunities with that being involved with the TV show the last couple of years. So that has helped. She's worked hard at it. Hopefully she'll continue to do that if that's what she chooses and if not there's 179 other majors here for her to choose from.
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