Tom Crean Q&A: Part 1

Tom Crean sat down with AllHoosiers.com's Terry Hutchens and Justin Albers on April 7 for an exclusive interview to talk all things IU basketball. In this first Q&A installment, Crean talks about his recruiting philosophy, the importance of having a chip on your shoulder, and player assessments of Devin Davis, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Collin Hartman plus other topics.

Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean sat down with AllHoosiers.com for an exclusive interview with Terry Hutchens and Justin Albers on April 7. Over the last several days we have had numerous stories out of that interview that we have published at AllHoosiers.com. Here is Part 1 (of two parts) of the complete transcript of what Crean had to say in Q&A form.

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In the first installment, Crean talks his philosophies in recruiting, insights into leadership, as well as player assessments of Devin Davis, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Collin Hartman as well as other topics.

AllHoosiers.com: It's pretty clear that you would like to get a forward or two in this class, but do you reach to get one at this point or go with what you have?

TC: In short answer to your question, no. But there's so much that goes on and there's so much that can potentially be happening you just have to be flexible. You have to ready and be flexible at a moment's notice. Just look at the landscape. It's changing rapidly. It's changing every day. So anytime you're going to have coaching movement and you're going to have things of that nature you're going to have that. And this is the time of the year when that happens. So, no, nobody's going to reach. We're well underway to exactly what we think is the next best situation for us moving forward. We're looking for guys who are absolutely going to fit with these guys in the right way.

AllHoosiers.com: But how hard is that at this time of the year? With the second round of guys making their commitments, how hard is it to get two guys that could really fit in your system next year?

TC: I think if you have a vision and you have patience you can keep those two together and you can make it fit. Absolutely. It's not the old days of the late signees just kids who got good all of a sudden. It's not like that anymore. There's still some of that, but for the most part, it's a lot like early recruiting at a different time of year because you have so many possibilities with kids leaving colleges or coaches making changes and things of that nature. You just stay absolutely flexible, and adaptable and you don't get away from what you think really fits you. You stay really true to that. I've used this example before but I think the greatest examples are in year two when we got Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey and I know we got both of them early but no one really saw either one of those coming in the sense that these guys really make sense. And they made a lot of sense and I think that's where you need to stay true. And we are.

AllHoosiers.com: How do you view Devin Davis? Do you think he could play the five in the Big Ten?

TC: I haven't really thought about that. We didn't play with a five this year. I mean Noah is not a five. Cody is not a five. Guys sometimes get labeled that but they don't get labeled that by us. Again, it's when you defend the way we're getting to with everybody being able to switch …Cody was at a point where he could switch one through five and Noah was at a point where he could switch one through five. So the true five man per se we really haven't had. I mean Tom Pritchard played that position and didn't play a lot away from the basket and he could guard anybody. Your position stretches if you can guard different people. And then it stretches that much more if you can play away from the basket and you can do multiple things. So in Devin's case he can do a lot of different things. He had seven points and seven rebounds against UConn toward the end of the game. He has just got to continue to improve. I don't look at where we're at right now. I don't look at our roster right now as being anywhere close to where it's going to be. First off, the three signees aren't here. And then we'll do other things. And the same thing goes for walk-ons. And I may go back to the old school approach with the walk-ons. We may take somebody in a selected way but I may go back to the whole tryout part of it. Because we really haven't had any room for tryouts the last couple of years. I'm not sure that was the best way to do it either. You just want to make sure that every aspect of what I'm doing, whether I'm hiring graduate managers or I'm hiring anyone else that could potentially come into this staff whether it's video or signing recruits, everybody that comes in has got to bring a very strong addition to the program. I just look at it that way constantly. It's the same thing with their game and going back to Justin's question about Devin Davis. How much he continues to improve, how much he continues to expand his game, how much stronger he gets. I mean we're well under way. We've had eight individuals so far. They just had their 12th or 13th lift. They were in here early this morning doing things at 6:30 a.m. We've never had a program that wasn't hungry but right now this group is in the process of developing a really strong Cinergy and chemistry moving forward for the future which I think is good. This team has got to have great bonds that when the new guys coming in they're leading them. They leading them and showing them the way, not they're figuring it out and they're figuring it out. We did not have that last summer. We did not have that at all last summer. I've looked back at that and there's no question that affected us a great deal. Our two main leaders were not here for a considerable amount of time when they went to Russia. And it set us back. It set us back for what you can develop in the summer time. We had such a long season last year that we wouldn't have even been in our offseason program yet a year ago obviously with where we were at and we had the guys going pro and all of those kinds of things. We had some guys graduating. So we didn't have much of a spring and we're taking advantage of every opportunity we have right now.

AllHoosiers.com: You mentioned Yogi in terms of leadership. Are there any other natural leaders of the guys that are here right now?

TC: I think everybody has it. It's like people, if you have pit bull in you (and I'm just using that as an example) if you have that toughness and nastiness in you this program can bring it out in you. But there's got to be some of it, because if there's some of it, we can bring a lot more of it out. That's like leadership. Everybody has different leadership characteristics. Everybody. And you just have to continue to figure out ways that you're going to bring that out. You have to pull it out, sometimes you have to drive it out, you've got to love it out. You've got to figure different ways to get them to feel comfortable. It's a maturity process. Some are more vocal than others, some are more demonstrative than others, some are more introverted, some are more extroverted. But the bottom line is that everybody has leadership traits. Everybody. Because if you don't try to get them right then you have a chance for them to go negative. And not everybody wants to bring out those leadership traits. That's why you have changes in your program. Not everybody wants to do that. But you've got to try and bring it out. The one thing you can't coach and you can't build is the chip on the shoulder. If that chip is there, now you've really got something. If that chip's not there, you can't put it there. Sometimes as coaches, they're like a mirage to us. We think it's there and it's really not. And you can't trick yourself on the chip. You can convince yourself that you're going to help people change and grow and get better and improve and the program has proven that. But you can't trick yourself that you can put the chip on someone's shoulder and all of a sudden it's like they're going to have a great motor and great energy. And they want to win so bad because they hate to lose so much. And that's what is hard. You've got to make sure that you can find those guys in recruiting and at the same time the ones that you have at the pit bull that's inside of them you've just got to pull it and then eventually you get some people that become pretty mature, pretty tough minded and you can really win with them. And we've had that here, too. Look around the walls. Victor Oladipo had the pitbull and the chip and look how that turned out. I don't think a lot of people saw that early but it was there. Will Sheehey has that. Cody Zeller had that. Cody Zeller wanted to absolutely be great. Christian Watford needed that pit bull pulled out. And I think in a lot of ways we had it. Jordan (Hulls) had both. That's what it is. It's finding those guys constantly and not tricking yourself. Sometimes we all think we're going to bring it out of people but it doesn't always work that way.

AllHoosiers.com: Hanner Mosquera-Perea had some big moments especially toward the end of the year. Where do you feel like he grew the most this season and what do you think is the next step for him?

TC: He had a very good offseason in terms of how his skills improved, he just couldn't translate it over longer periods of time. He practiced pretty well, there's no question about that. He just had too much inconsistency inside of the games. And not be able to play long enough stretches at a high enough level. I think it's a matter of being able to build, not his conditioning, his conditioning is the simple answer. But his mental toughness would be the hard answer and that's what he needs to continue to build. And that's what we're working towards. But I think it's also very clear based on certain things in the season is that his commitment level to being as good as he could possibly be has not been there. And I think he's trying to turn the corner to try and believe that it really is. And your commitment level doesn't mean you're in the gym more than anybody else. But your mind has to be around this and what needs to be done. You have to want to continue to get better a lot. You don't have to be here to be thinking and planning for how you can be. And he's been easily distracted, but he's been trying to get out of it. He has the support of his family. I think the commitment is there. He's an extremely likeable person. He has the athleticism and now it's just a matter of putting it together and having real confidence that comes from real, real work. Constant work, mentally and physically.

AllHoosiers.com: This may be too early to tell but do you think with Collin Hartman that he'll be able to get back next year after his ACL surgery?

TC: I think so. He could have, and in retrospect probably should have had Austin's minutes this year, but we went with the older guy at a time when we needed something different. Hindsight's 20/20, so you just move on and you move forward, but he definitely could be. He's back today. He's in the weight room. He's walking around here without his crutch. He's obviously not doing that around campus but he's proud that right now he can form shoot and he can free throw shoot. So absolutely. His attitude has been great. It really became … Again, I gave Austin those minutes. It is what it is. Like I said, I went with the older guy. But I'm very confident in Collin's future. I can't put any time line on when he's going to be back and when he's going to be healthy and that type of thing but every little thing you can get him to do, he does. The really big thing for him this offseason is to really study film. We've got to take steps. Your year round basketball is not just what you do in the weight room, on the track and field or on the court. That is a big, big part of it. But you've got to keep growing mentally from this game and we keep talking about it all the time, you look at the great football program. I've done this for years. You pick up the preview issue of Sports Illustrated football. You look at the top 20, the top 25. Well there's always great stories there but every year there's always going to be a few teams that talk about what they did as a group, not what they did with the coaches, but what they did as a group. Maybe what the seniors did with the young guys. It's an investment. And the reason it gets said is that people are proud of the investment. They know that it's going to give them an edge. Our team has got to grow into that. Because the gym rat part of it and being in this building utilizing it, it's here. And there's not one guy in this program right now that doesn't utilize this gym the right way. That's one area that Noah really grew in for his age was really getting into studying film and learning from it. And it just kind of showed the uncommon drive that he had which is why he's going to be successful for a long time. And he had a 24/7 mentality to it.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


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