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Top Replacements for Tom Crean at Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Hoosiers season ended with a  loss in the first round of the NIT by 12 points to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Tuesday night. It was the second time in the last four years that they failed to make the NCAA Tournament. But, despite missing the big dance this year, IU still made some major noise around tip off time of the 2017 opening game.

At 12:15 p.m. ET, IU issued a statement saying that Tom Crean had been let go as the head coach of the Hoosiers. Failing to live up to expectations is really the biggest culprit for this firing.

With that being said, IU has to be extremely careful choosing Crean’s predecessor. At least since the turnaround, Crean has had IU competing for Big 10 championships and Sweet 16’s. Yes, I get that IU wants, even needs better than that, but they have to find a way to get someone who can lead them better than that.

It may come to a shock to some, but IU’s head coaching job isn’t what it used to be. They’re not going to get the high level coaches like they think they can get. But, for the sake of this story, lets see who’s the top options that they can get.

Note, Brad Stevens will not be on this list. He is not leaving Boston and has recently made that perfectly clear. There’s no need to even think about Stevens coaching IU next year, it’s not going to happen.

Steve Alford:

To me, this is where IU needs to start. Steve Alford is loved in the Hoosier state and would be a perfect fit here. 30 years ago this month, he led IU to a national championship, their last one. 30 years later, will he come back to lead the team as the head coach?

Alford, is 557–278 overall as a head coach at the D1 collegiate level including being 94-44 over the last four years at UCLA. He led them to a No. 3 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament as this team is a national title contender. He made it to the Sweet 16 in two of his first three years at UCLA, so he’s got a chance to make it 3-for-4 this year.

Plus, Alford recruits Indiana well already and has the top ranked kid in Kris Wilkes from North Central committed to UCLA next season. Mix that with having Park Tudor’s former head coach as his assistant out there, and you can see why Alford coming to IU would be huge.

Before UCLA, he was in New Mexico where the Lobos won four conference titles in six years. Prior to that, he was at Iowa and SW Missouri State.

He’s the logical fit for IU. The only issue is, will Alford take IU further than Crean? IU needs to make it further than Sweet 16’s. Period. An Alford coached team, hasn’t made it past the Sweet 16 yet. That’s going back to the 1995-1996 season at SW Missouri State.

At Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA, Alford has had some very talented teams, but none of which have made it past the Sweet 16. In fact, just the two years at UCLA has he even made it to the Sweet 16 since his trip there in 1998-1999 with SW Missouri State.

Would he help IU get further when he hasn’t done it himself?

Billy Donovan:

Will Billy Donovan leave the NBA to come back to college? That’s the hot rumor that he’s interested. IU would be a school he would leave for if that’s the case. Think about it, Oklahoma City isn’t a town where top free agents will want to come sign in the NBA. Then, Russell Westbrook isn’t a player that plays well with others. That makes the Thunder a team that will honestly struggle to contend for NBA titles. I think Donovan now sees that.

At Florida, Donovan was stellar. He was annually among the top college coaches. He took the Gators from a college basketball afterthought to a national powerhouse. In just his third season at Florida, he led them to a 22-9 record and a Sweet 16 appearance. The very next year, he led them to the national championship game. He’d alternate first and second round exits the next four years before winning two straight national championships in 2006 and again in 2007. After two NIT appearances and an NCAA Tournament first round exit, his final four years at Florida went Elite Eight, Elite Eight, Elite Eight and Final Four.

He was 467–186 overall at Florida with two national championships, four Final Four appearances and seven conference titles.

He’d be the top fit to me.

Tony Bennett:

This hire would bring defense back to Indiana. His teams at Virginia are consistently among the nations best. Plus, he has a background with his dad coaching at Wisconsin. That would make IU and Wisconsin games way more low scoring as Virginia and Wisconsin are basically the same teams. If he comes to IU, it would be the same way there.

Overall, Bennett is 256–115, but he’s 187–82 in eight years at Virginia. Over the past four years, he’s 111-29 including three top two finishes in the ACC. Like Alford though, the only issue with him is out of 11 years of coaching, just once has he made it past the Sweet 16. Albiet, it came last year. But, his style and pace of his teams are much slower than what IU fans are used to.

If he comes, expect a massive overhaul in talent and style in Bloomington.

Archie Miller:

If IU wanted to get a quick rising up-and-comer, Archie Miller is it. Ironically enough, he plays in Indianapolis this weekend for the NCAA Tournament. Miller, has led Dayton to a contender with a 140–62 career coaching record there. In all but one of his six years at Dayton, they’ve won at least 20 games. He’s made the NCAA Tournament now four straight years with Dayton, but just once has he made it past the Sweet 16.

Gregg Marshall:

Another up-and-comer is Gregg Marshall. Yes, he’s actually older in age than Tom Crean, but he’s yet to catch his break at a major college. Marshall, too ironically enough is playing in Indianapolis for the NCAA Tournament and even more ironic, he’s playing Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers.

He’s won 30 or more games in four of the last five years at Wichita State and 25+ for eight straight years. He also knows how to win in the NCAA Tournament in making the Final Four in 2012-2013 season. But, other than that, he too hasn’t made it past the Sweet 16 in the other 19 years of head coaching experience, with one Final Four and one other Sweet 16 appearance. Other than that, he won the NIT championship in 2010 and has been bounced from the big dance in either the first or second rounds.

But, what could he do with a bigger program with better seeding?

Honorable Mention:

Fred Hoiberg- Former Indiana Pacer, current Chicago Bulls head coach. He thrived at Iowa State but most think his time in the NBA has been a failed experiment. Coming back to the college ranks makes sense.

Dane Fife- Former Indiana Hoosier player, former IPFW coach, current Michigan State assistant. He would make a ton of sense because Crean is a Tom Izzo disciple. They run the same system so there wouldn’t be much of a change as far as culture. Only thing Fife differs from is his defensive mindset. He would be popular.

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