Column: Don't give up on Crean

Indiana coach Tom Crean was responsible for turning this program around. Now, after two straight Big Ten losses, is not the time to turn on him.

It hasn't exactly been the ideal start to the college basketball season for Indiana. The Hoosiers, a year removed from a magical team that came up short in the Sweet Sixteen, are 0-2 to start the Big Ten season, and 10-5 overall. They don't yet have a quality win on their resume.

There are a lot of angry fans out there, fans that are wavering in their support of Indiana head coach Tom Crean. You are used to winning, and this year's team has been frustrating in that regard. Everyone wants to question Crean's in-game coaching, his substitution pattern, etc.

My reaction: Stop. Just stop.

I don't understand all the hate for a guy that agreed to come to this program at a time few others would. He took it over at the very depths of his existence, and he never wavered in his dedication to the University and to returning the basketball program to the heights at which it belonged.

Two years ago, when Indiana knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall to return to the national rankings for the first time, everybody in Hoosier Nation agreed he was the right guy for this job. When Crean and the Hoosiers opened last season as the No. 1 team in the nation, you all agreed that he was the right guy for the job.

He's still the right guy for the job. He absolutely is. I don't believe that can change in just a year's time, or two year's time. Crean and Indiana just won a Big Ten Championship last season. The program hadn't even owned a share of the conference crown since 2002. It hadn't won it outright since 1993. That's a big deal. It's an even bigger deal when you consider the state the program was in when Crean and his staff arrived on campus.

Sure, last year's team was capable of so much more. It was national championship good. But ultimately, the Hoosiers ran into a bad matchup in Syracuse, and the season ended too soon. Be frustrated by it, that's fine. You should be. But don't turn on the coach responsible for getting the program back to that point. There are a lot of coaches and schools that struggle with Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone. It's not just Crean.

This year's team will need time, and plenty of patience. We warned you about that fact before the season started. It will make you stand and clap one play, and make you scream at your TV on the next. That will happen when you lose four 1,000-point scorers and two of the top four picks in the NBA Draft.

"We've got great kids," Crean said recently. "We've just got to have a basketball IQ, a basketball maturity right now. The understanding is not there yet."

But put your faith in Crean, and trust that he will do with this team what he has with others. He is the right guy for the Indiana job.

"They've had some legendary coaches, and I think gonna have one now," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the Spartans' 73-56 win over IU on Saturday. "Indiana is gonna get a lot better. I really, really believe that."

College basketball is a tough business. After winning the national championship in 2012, Kentucky missed the tournament last year. The national champion has missed the tournament the following year 20 times. It's hard to be consistently good.

But Crean and the Hoosiers will be among the nation's elite for the next several years. I still think they will make the Big Dance this season, and they have a great recruiting class coming to town next season.

It's natural and easy for the human mind to think about the worst possible scenario. Even in the best situations, people can and will find things to knitpick. It's a protective instinct. The mind needs to be prepared for the worst-case in every situation.

There are plenty of negatives to see in this current team. It is full of young players that make countless careless mistakes and can't make perimeter shots. But when it clicks for these young guys -- and it eventually will -- this team can be pretty darn good.

My point is, now is not the time to turn on Crean. Believe in him like you have before. This team, and this program, will be OK.


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