When the NCAA Tournament tipped off and Indiana issued its very well timed and strategic press release announcing the parting of ways with Head Coach Tom Crean, it was the culmination of a long week for all involved.
I can assure you the process of firing a coach is not fun for anybody. It is miserable for the coaches on staff, bad for their families, awful for the players, stressful for the administrators, nerve racking for the fans, and frustrating for the media who have to cover the situation.
At the end of the day regardless of wins and losses and fundamental disagreements either on a personal level, a professional level, and even a philosophical level it is never fun to be a part of changing a man’s life, and impacting so many people.
Tom Crean has his flaws, we all do. Heck the guy writing this has more than most, but those flaws did not make Crean a bad person. At the end of the day it is tough seeing such a public episode play out and in essence smear not necessarily the character of a man, but professional competence of him.
Being a part of that is not a whole lot of fun, but it is what comes with the job for media covering the beat, for administrators making the decisions, and for the coaches who have the futures hanging in the balance, everybody knows the deal.
So as I was sitting in the Sports Book of the Monte Carlo hotel waiting for tournament games to begin and ripping off text messages, talking to sources, and corresponding with Jeff Rabjohns and Mike Pegram, it was pretty clear things were coming to an end, and unfortunate one at that.
In talking with coaches who are either close to Crean, his staff, or the situation at IU trying to get confirmation one thing stuck with me. Even one coach who quite honestly significantly dislikes the man had a touch of sadness in his voice when I called him saying I thought it was over.
He said, “I’ll tell you what, this is a bad day for our profession. He didn’t screw up off the court and won the league title and went to the Sweet 16 last year….”
After a long reflective pause, the coach then finished his statement by saying “But it is what it is. This is the life we have chosen.”
And at the end of the day choices had to be made. One day I am sure the tell all book will come out about how this all went down, and why the process played out like it did. However now that isn’t important, what is important is figuring out what is next and best for Indiana University.
In talks with people who are closely tied to Indiana the last few weeks, one thing became clear. The new head coach “Must understand Indiana basketball.”
Now I freely admit that can be a vague statement. I also freely admit not being from Indiana, I don’t necessarily understand or even agree at times with how people define “Indiana basketball”, but at the end of the day it is important.
People from the state of Indiana who cheer for the Hoosiers want Indiana playing a certain way, they want a certain attitude, and they want Indiana kids representing the Hoosiers. At the end of the day winning is always most important, but people in Indiana hold certain things dear to their heart.
Fundamental play, mental and physical toughness, good shooting, smart basketball, and Indiana kids all are important to making the equation work at Indiana.
So for the next coach that is the most important thing. I think at times Crean had the right mix of that, but obviously it wasn’t often enough or consistent enough, and because of it he lost his job.
In the end things just became too toxic in the eyes of many for Crean to return, and now a lot of lives have been changed, but everybody knows the deal in this business.
Now the ball is in Indiana’s court, and again coaches, scribes, administrators, and fans will again be in the position of dealing with coaching stuff, but at least this is the fun part. The impact this time around will be a positive, and there will be smiles at the end of the process, not sadness.