On it, his team limped to the finish line of the 2014-15 regular season, and suffered a second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament. He dealt with booing at Assembly Hall, injuries to the few big men he had on the roster.
Off of it, he struggled to come to terms with a horrifying car accident that left Devin Davis in the ICU with a traumatic brain injury and his wide-eyed freshman (Emmitt Holt) on the front page of newspapers. He tried to find the right balance between giving his players -- his sons -- a second chance and disciplining them so they don't go astray again. And that proved difficult.
And because of that trying year, because of the trials and tribulations, the struggles and the criticisms, it's important to make note of a story that emerged on Facebook a few days ago.
Crean, the head coach at a storied program who brings in a multi-million dollar salary, was photographed near a Bloomington McDonald's helping two people in need. He fed them, both physically and spiritually, and sat with them for 15-20 minutes as the woman weeped. Crean gave them a meal and handed them a Bible, then took the time out of his busy day to make them feel better. A random act of kindness.
He didn't do it to be photographed or to be recognized. Crean did it because he is a good Christian man who genuinely cares about people. Stories like that one have emerged before -- like the time Crean stopped on the side of the highway to help someone who's car had broken down -- but likely many more stories remain unknown, how Crean intended them.
Like it or not, we live in a world where negativity sells, and at a school with the basketball history of Indiana, no coach will ever be perfect. But it's important to take a minute a recognize that Crean has rebuilt the program the right way. He's gotten the academics in order, scoring a perfect APR for five straight years. He's maintained excellent recruiting, landing a McDonald's All-American for five straight years.
And he's represented the program even better off the court, as we were reminded by the Facebook story I referenced earlier. Through it all, the criticism and frustration, the ups and downs, Crean has remained true to the person he's always been. He's an ambassador for the basketball program and for the school.
There's no guarantee Crean will ever win a national championship at Indiana, and ultimately winning is as important as anything else at IU. But Crean has the program in a good position, and he's gotten it there by doing things the right way.
Sometimes, it's important to remember that.