INDIANAPOLIS – March Madness is upon us and it didn’t take much time for the first upset to occur. Tipoff for the first NCAA Tournament game was scheduled for 12:15 p.m. ET and wouldn’t you know it, at 12:15 p.m. ET right on the dot, Indiana University issued a statement reading that Tom Crean has been fired after nine seasons with IU.
It’s no secret, Crean’s future was cloudy in Bloomington despite coming to town to lead a team a program in ruins in 2008. Kelvin Sampson left IU in the depths of the national basement. IU was no longer prominent. In Crean’s first season, IU would win just six games. They’d improve to 10-21 in 2009-2010, then 12-20 the next year.
But, Crean started getting recruits. In came Cody Zeller, then Yogi Ferrell. Mix them with Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey and others, and IU was back. That was never more on display than Dec. 10, 2011 when IU beat top ranked Kentucky on a last second Watford shot in Assembly Hall.
IU would go on to beat three top five ranked teams at home that year and make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Crean. They’d go to the Sweet 16 and lose to Kentucky in Atlanta.
But, that was a year early. The big year, the “movement” per say was the 2012-2013 season. IU entered the year No. 1 and basically had the championship trophy handed to them. They in turn bobbled it and dropped it.
The Hoosiers would win the Big 10 championship that year, but it was also the year that the Crean could do no wrong talks ended. The loss to Butler, the losses to Wisconsin and the big one in the Sweet 16 to Syracuse had people starting to question Crean’s ability. The talent was there but they made it no further than the previous season.
The years since have proven that point even further and made the grumblings about his job even louder.
IU has missed the tournament for the second time in the last four seasons as they’re a combined 82-53 in those years. They’re also just 38-34 in the Big 10 in that same time frame.
Two complete misses of the NCAA Tournament, a first round exit in 2014-2015 and a Sweet 16 loss despite winning the Big 10 title again last year, all culminated into the situation they were in with this move.
“After deliberate thought and evaluation, including multiple meetings with Tom (Crean) about the future, I have decided to make a change in the leadership of our men’s basketball program,: IU athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement. “Tom Crean brought us through one of the most challenging periods in IU basketball history, led his players to many successes in the classroom and on the court and represented our university with class and integrity. While winning two outright Big Ten titles in five years and being named Big Ten Coach of the Year, Tom worked tirelessly to develop great young men and successful teams. However, ultimately, we seek more consistent, high levels of success, and we will not shy away from our expectations. Tom is a good man and a good coach and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for his many positive contributions to Indiana basketball. We wish him well.”
Translation, thank you for reviving the program, but you haven’t done much with the talent that you’ve brought to Bloomington. They have never made it past the Sweet 16 under Crean’s watch. They had teams good enough to make it to the Final Four but the seasons would abrubtly come to an end in the Sweet 16.
Lack of success against Wisconsin, being embarrassed by in-state rivals Purdue and Butler, constant dysfunction in on court turnovers and lack of defense, it all added up to him being let go.
Crean, was 166–135 at Indiana and 71–91 in the Big 10. Outside of those Big 10 winning seasons in two of the last five years, IU has also lost 15, 14 and 16 games respectively in the other years.
That’s not good enough.