BLOOMINGTON – It's been a messy situation for the IU basketball program for the last month, and a couple of former Hoosier players think the university has found the right person to clean it up.
At 11 a.m. Wednesday morning IU will officially introduce Tom Crean as its new basketball coach. Crean comes to Bloomington after nine years at Marquette, where he went 190-96 and led the Golden Eagles to the 2003 Final Four.
Former IU player and current IPFW coach Dane Fife has known Crean ever since he was a blossoming talent in Clarkston, Mich., in the mid-1990s. At the time Crean was an assistant coach on Tom Izzo's Michigan State staff and was very involved in the Spartans' effort to lure Fife to East Lansing.
"He's an excellent choice," Fife said. "I've known Tom Crean since I was 13. He's one of those coaches that I have a great deal of respect for. He'll do a really good job, I'll tell you that. He'll make the effort."
While Fife has first-hand knowledge of Crean, former IU standout and 1993 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Greg Graham is much less familiar with the soon-to-be-Hoosier coach. But his faith in the decision is based on his trust in the university.
"I have faith in the university they'll find the right guy," Graham said.
On paper Crean appears to have everything IU could have wanted in a full-time replacement for Kelvin Sampson. He has Midwest ties, a proven track record as a successful head coach, and is considered a very good recruiter.
He'll inherit an IU program that's in limbo, with a couple of recruits who have been given their release from their IU letters of intent and a couple more who have been dismissed from the team by interim coach Dan Dakich. As things stand today Indiana has only six scholarship players who are slated to be on the roster this fall.
Considering those things, Graham said this hire was of tremendous importance for the future of the program.
"Getting this right is extremely critical," Graham said. "I know what kind of program it was. I want to see it get back to there."
To Graham, that means more than simply winning games and competing for Big Ten titles. It's also about having players graduate and reconnecting with the former players who still feel a disconnect with the program.
"He needs to be someone who can unify the team and the fans, and someone who will have an open door policy with the former players," Graham said. "Everyone has been going in different directions, as if they have their own agenda. We need to get everyone back on the same page. That's about having a good product on the floor, winning, and graduating players."
Crean is the person entrusted with that task, and Fife sees him as someone who can get those things done.
"He's a wonderful human being and great for the university," Fife said. "I'm proud to have him as the coach at the school I graduated from."
Crean's on-the-court mission won't be an easy one, particularly early on as he inherits a team that is a state of turmoil. But his track record suggests that he'll be able to get things headed in the right direction sooner rather than later, and he'll have IU back to the level that Graham enjoyed when he was a player from 1989-93.
"I've seen what it's like when you win, and the support you get, everyone helps you," Graham said. "I've seen what it's like. To get back to that will be a blessing."
Former IU Players React to Crean Hire
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