INDIANAPOLIS – Before Tom Crean can begin rebuilding the IU basketball program, he first has to put out some fires.
That's why Crean cut his Final Four trip to San Antonio short to return to Bloomington to get fully briefed on his new team's academic situation. The second semester is rapidly coming to a close, and indications are that the Hoosiers' have some issues in need of addressing.
"I can't elaborate, but it's not good," Crean said Monday. "We have a lot of work to do."
The NCAA will release its next Academic Progress Rating (APR) in May, and indications are that the men's basketball program won't fare very well. While it's unclear whether or not that could result in the loss of an additional scholarship (IU is already forfeiting one in 2008-09 due to its self-imposed sanctions), it's obvious Crean wants his new players to do everything they can in the final weeks of the semester to shore up their academic standing.
"It's a situation that has to be addressed immediately," Crean said. "I have no opinions based before Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. (when he was introduced as IU's head coach) or Tuesday night when I got in town, and I'm trying to keep it that way."
While academics are an immediate concern, so is the roster. Crean was at the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis to see Eric Gordon announce his intentions to go to the NBA, and Crean confirmed Monday that he has yet to reinstate recently dismissed players Jamarcus Ellis or Armon Bassett. As things currently stand IU is slated to return only four scholarship players from last year's team while Matt Roth and Tom Pritchard are the only recruits who will definitely arrive in the fall.
To make matters worse, Crean said he has zero official visits at his disposal for the spring signing period and no days where he can go off-campus to recruit due to IU's self-imposed sanctions. Unless IU administrators decide to roll back some of those penalties since former Coach Kelvin Sampson is no longer at the helm of the program, Crean can't go on the road recruiting until Aug. 1.
That appears unlikely, so Crean will instead have to rely on getting players to come to IU on unofficial visits, and he'll rely heavily on his yet-to-be-named coaching staff to be on the road evaluating talent during the important spring and summer AAU circuit.
"I can't put a definitive time on when I'm going to have my staff hired, but I hope every day we're a little closer to it because we need to move," Crean said. "We want to start unofficial visits pretty quick, and whoever we have is going to have to get out and recruit because I can't.
"We have a lot of needs right now."
While those are some daunting obstacles to overcome, Crean continues to take a glass half full approach to it all.
"It's opportunity," Crean said. "If I look at it any differently, I'm going to crawl under the car. It's an opportunity. You have to go with it."
Crean is doing just that. He's also made significant in-roads with Southwestern Illinois College big man Josh Harrellson, who told HoosierNation.com on Sunday that he will be making a visit to IU. Crean has also been working on the '09 class as well, recently extending a scholarship offer to talented Texas product Roger Franklin.
"It's fast, you just have to catch your breath," Crean said of everything he has to try to get done during his first couple of days on the job. "Here eventually we'll be able to prioritize a little easier."
While there's plenty of challenges, Crean has also been wowed by the reception he's received by IU fans and the opportunity that he has to build a big-time winner in Bloomington. He also knows that if it wasn't for some of the problems, he wouldn't be finding himself in Bloomington in the first place.
"I haven't regretted it, I know that," Crean said. "I'm excited about it. It's just a lot of things going on. But it wouldn't be a great job if there wasn't, and the opportunity wouldn't be there if it wasn't. So I'm excited about it."
Crean: IU's Academic Situation "Not Good"
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