BLOOMINGTON – Tom Crean hadn't been on the job more than a couple minutes when he was already delivering a message to Hoosier fans.
That's an eight-letter word no college basketball fan likes to hear, especially at a program like IU where 20-win seasons and postseason tourney runs are the norm. But it's the reality of the situation in Bloomington, and that is already very clear to Crean.
"We need everyone to understand that this is going to take some time," Crean said. "We need everyone to understand that we're here for the long haul, we're here to build."
So what's that mean? More than likely, it's a hint that Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis shouldn't be waiting on a welcoming committee anytime soon. Instead, their paths back to the Hoosier roster might be about has inviting as running wind sprints on broken glass.
It's also a suggestion that there aren't going to be any quick fixes. Crean figures to make every effort to convince Terrell Holloway and Devin Ebanks to re-commit to IU this spring and also see what's still available from a dwindling crop of spring recruits. But it's unlikely he'll scour the junior college ranks in an attempt to replenish the 2008-09 roster with immediate impact players.
It's a situation that Crean is walking into with his eyes wide open, and one that his new boss, Rick Greenspan, is willing to accept as well.
"It would be naïve to think it's not (a building process)," Greenspan said.
IU's personnel issues are compounded by the fact that it has a variety of self-imposed sanctions that limit things such as the number of paid official visits, recruiting phone calls and recruiting contact from the IU staff. IU could be in a particular bind for the upcoming class, as it cut its allotted paid official visits from 12 to six.
It's unclear if IU has used all six of those officials, but it's very possible. A pair of players who wound up picking other schools – Kevin Jones and Tyler Zeller – made IU officials last fall. Devin Ebanks and Matt Roth both made official stops as well. Assuming Tom Pritchard and Holloway made officials as well, Crean might not have any officials to work with this spring.
On top of that, Crean will likely find out for sure on Friday that Eric Gordon is headed to the NBA, and D.J. White is headed to the pros as well.
"You'd anticipate D.J. White and Eric Gordon going to the NBA," Greenspan said. "(When) you have two All-Americans on your team, and regardless of anything else, most places have a hard time replacing two All-Americans."
Crean has visions of building the IU program to the point that it can reload from that kind of loss, but that's not where the Hoosiers are right now. Crean knows it and Greenspan does as well, and that's why both have made a long-term commitment to each other. Crean's eight-year, $18.24 million deal is a sign both sides won't be parting anytime soon.
On Wednesday, both spoke of a commitment to bringing in the types of players that will represent the program well on and off the court.
"When we talk about the right kind of kids, what I refer to is I want kids on this team who play for the name on the chest," Greenspan said. "That's a tradition that's been at Indiana for a long time."
Crean witnessed that first hand as a kid growing up in Michigan and later as an assistant coach at Michigan State. Now he's been entrusted of bringing that attitude and approach back.
"We are here to build it in a way that is going to be outstanding," Crean said. "I have no time-table, no promises to make, I have no numerical goals to hit right now, but that we're going to build it the right way."
That's great news for the future, but a sobering statement about the present. Crean has pledged to be persistent in his pursuit of that vision, but he's asking for something in return.
Crean Promises Brighter Days, Growing Pains
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