KRAVITZ: Glass caved to the pressure, and Crean deserved so much better than a pink slip.
This is my final column on Crean
MILWAUKEE - He caved.
Fred Glass, a man of enormous intelligence and grace and patience – normally--he caved.
Caved to the ridiculous amount of pressure that eternally comes to bear on the Indiana University basketball program. Caved to all the howls, all the screams from fans who wanted Tom Crean ousted despite the fact he’s won two outright Big Ten titles in the last five years. Caved to the criticisms that IU should be in the running for national titles each and every year, which is comical given the fact they haven’t been an A-plus program since Bob Knight roamed the sideline (with a one-year aberration in 2002 when Mike Davis took the Hoosiers to the national title game).
In the end, I think Glass, and most of the Hoosier Nation, is being unrealistic. This is a program that hasn’t won a national title since 1987. Yes, back when I had hair.
We’re not talking about accepting mediocrity; we’re talking about understanding the state of the program and the fact that IU hasn’t been a college-basketball behemoth for decades. Fact is, Crean cleaned up the dumpster fire that was left behind by Kelvin Sampson and his band of outlaws. Fact is, IU has been to the Sweet 16 just four times in 23 years; three of those times occurred under Crean. Again, two outright Big Ten titles in five years. Not bad.
Not great, or as great as Glass and IU fans think their program should be, but very, very good.
Just not good – great – enough.
“After deliberative thought and evaluation, including multiple meetings with Tom about the fuure, I have decided to make a change in the leadership of our men’s basketball program,’’ Glass said in a prepared 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…’’
So he’s staying, right? Contract extension?
“However, ultimately, we seek more consistent, high levels of success, and we will not shy away from our expectations…The expectations for Indiana University basketball are to perennially contend for and win multiple Big Ten championships, regularly go deep in the NCAA Tournament and win our next national championship – and more after that. We will identify and recruit a coach who will meet these expectations.’’
As Glass said later at his press conference, “I don’t think we can overstate what a big deal this hire is. I am not going to spare any resource.’’
So why did it happen: It happened because Crean has just three years left on his contract, and Glass was in an extend-or-fire pickle. He understandably didn’t want a coach on a three-year deal, knowing it would provide other schools with negative-recruiting ammunition against IU and Crean: Why would you go to IU when you don’t know if Crean will be your coach for the long-term?
I get it.
I just don’t agree with it.
Names: Steve Alford of UCLA. Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. Archie Miller at Dayton. Billy Donovan with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tony Bennett at Virginia. Chris Holtmann at Butler.
Glass did Crean and his program no favors this past week when he chose to play the first-round NIT game AT Georgia Tech rather than in Bloomington, suggesting the lack of fans, and the fact the students were on spring break, would create bad optics. That was puzzling to me because I thought the idea was to give your coaches and players their best opportunity to win and advance. What Glass did here was set Crean up for failure, and thus made this decision exponentially easier.
Then he did it 15 minutes into the first NCAA Tournament game, an interesting time for a news dump. IU was going to be a part of this tournament, come hell or high water.
And now the search begins. At least there won’t be a blue-ribbon search committee like the confederacy of dunces who chose Sampson. But the new guy, he’d better win, he’d better win big and he’d better have inordinately thick skin. Coaching at IU is a notoriously double-edged sword: When you win, you can get away with all kinds of behavior (see: Bob Knight). When you lose, or just don’t win enough to satisfy the masses, your wife and children catch grief wherever they go and whatever they do.
“It’s an unbelievable job,’’ former IU coach and current Texas Southern coach Mike Davis told Jeff Goodman of ESPN. “I think it's a top five job in the country. Always on TV, always sold out, players in your state. It's unbelievable. You can go anywhere in the world and they know Indiana. … Whoever you bring in has to win. People get confused. You don't have to win the press conference; you have to win games. "You have to win, and you have to win every year. That's just the way the job is. You can't take it personal. You have to embrace it. When they pay us the money they pay us, they have the right to fire us. When you are not getting it done, there's no grace period."
Glass was asked at his press conference what he’s looking for in his next coach.
“A proven winner and recruiter who has the ability and desire to recruit the Midwest and especially Indiana,’’ he said. “A good tactitian and develop of talent.’’
When he was pressed on why IU should view this as an elite program and elite job when it’s been 30 years since the last title, Glass demurred.
“I don’t accept that (it’s not elite),’’ Glass said. “The beauty is the next coach can put his mark on a program that hasn’t had the success we expected, but we have all the resources to get there and to be a powerhouse.’’
Hoosier Nation owes Crean a debt of gratitude for resurrecting the program, for cleaning it up, for returning to the days when players graduated with a degree. He had success. He had a lot of success. Just not enough for a program that hasn’t won a title in 30 years.
This now will become Glass’ signature hire. He needs to get it right. Or he might be the next one out the door.