Sunday, May 17, 2009
A Reflection on IU Basketball's Savior
I always told myself that if I ever started a sports blog, the first entry would be dedicated to Indiana University's most recent savior, Tom Crean. So, as mainstream as that may sound to my fellow Hoosier fans, our current basketball coach will indeed be my first topic of discussion. Since Tom Crean's arrival just over a year ago, the basketball program at Indiana has seen its ups and downs. The ups can most certainly be attributed to the work of Coach Crean. He weeded out the players with bad attitudes, he made a point of emphasizing accountability and responsibility, he has acquired talented recruits, and he has created an unflappable team unity.
Crean was left with nothing after Kelvin Sampson, one of the biggest idiots on this planet, tried his best to ruin the tradition of Indiana basketball. Yet, Crean still managed to sign Nick Williams, Malik Story and Verdell Jones in the small amount of time he had before the signing deadline. Although Williams and Story are now gone because of reasons that don't include the Indiana coach, the point is that they spurned big time offers to play under Crean last season. The players even knew full well that the team probably didn't have a shot at any sort of national recognition. It was a clear testament to who he is as a coach. The man is a tireless recruiter and has already managed to successfully court top notch high schoolers to come to Indiana, despite the sanctions placed on the program.
The Hoosiers went 6-25 in Crean's first campaign as head coach. For most college programs, a record that poor is more than grounds to dismiss the coach. However, everyone around the program knew that the year was going to be rough...and rough it was. The team showed improvement as time went on, though, and nearly all of that can be attributed to Crean's undying enthusiasm, endless determination, and incredible passion for coaching. The ever-present Assembly Hall faithful never hurt either. The season tested even the most die hard Indiana basketball fan, but Crean was always there to tell them to stay the course. The close losses were heart-wrenching and the lack of postseason play left Hoosier fans feeling empty, but our coach never hid under a rock. He makes appearances everywhere, delivers motivational speeches, and as of recently, he even lets you into his busy life via Twitter. Seriously, even if you're like me and think Twitter is kind of dumb for your own personal use, check out his Twitter page if you want to see how passionate this guy is about Indiana and basketball in general.
It is this type of evidence that breathes confidence into Hoosier fans. The man relishes the opportunity to coach at Indiana and I love every bit of it. In my 4 years at Indiana, I didn't see a Big Ten title or a NCAA tournament win past the first round, and of course my senior year was capped off with the 'ol 6-25 boy. And you know what? I'm happy to come to terms with that because of the hope that Tom Crean has given the program. Maurice Creek. Christian Watford. Derek Elston. Jordan Hulls. Bobby Copabianco. Bawa Muniru. These young men (the next generation of Hoosiers) give me instant hope that Indiana basketball could be restored to its deserved prominence in just a few years. And let's not forget the invaluable (no doubt painful) experience that Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard, Devan Dumes and Verdell Jones will bring to the table next season as well. The fact that those players have a full season under their belt as starters or at least key bench players so early in their college careers is going to be unbelievably crucial to the team's success.
The dark cloud that has been raining on the IU B-ball program since the Sampson news came out is still existent, but Tom Crean seems to be sending it on its way quicker than anyone could have imagined. Pretty soon, the man that helped D-Wade on his way at Marquette, Tom Crean, will be bringing IU to prominence. And for that I graciously thank him. It was certainly worth the first blog entry.
Stay tuned for more sports blogs. I'm going to do my best to crank them out this summer.