By TYLER SMITH (@TylerSmith_ISL)
Now that the Hoosiers are officially out of the NCAA tournament conversation, all eyes have shifted towards Athletic Director Fred Glass. The question on everybody’s mind: Will Tom Crean stay, or will he go?
For what it’s worth, Glass gave Crean a “vote of confidence” in March of 2015. We haven’t heard from Glass on the situation yet this time around.
I have been a Tom Crean supporter over the years. I believe he’s done a good job at Indiana. He brought the program back to respectability. The Hoosiers have had more success under Crean than they have in the last 30 years. I don’t believe all of the criticism against him has been completely fair over the years, considering he gets blamed for every loss. I also believe conference championships are a big deal, even though some fans don’t.
With all of that said, I still believe it is time for Indiana to move on and find a new leader. Here are several reasons why:
-Three of the last four seasons have been down-years for the program.
-In Crean’s nine seasons, the Hoosiers have finished 7th place or worse in the Big Ten six times.
-Indiana has never won more than one game in the conference tournament in Crean’s tenure.
-No Elite 8 appearances in nine years.
-0-4 against other Indiana teams this season.
-Crean only has a winning record against two conference teams- (Penn State, and Rutgers).
-Only two players have stayed in the program for four-years since 2011 (Hartman, Ferrell).
Maybe the biggest reason for moving on is the current state of the fan base. Fred Glass could easily make the case for bringing Tom Crean back. They just won a conference championship last season, and have been hit with lots of injuries this year. But even if Glass wanted Crean to return, would he really want to deal with a fan base that’s this upset? I can’t imagine the amount of emails Glass gets about Tom Crean. I can’t imagine how many fans see him in public and freely voice their concern.
Not to mention, next year’s team isn’t exactly looking like a Final-Four contender. A lot of that depends on what players decide to leave for the NBA or transfer. If two or more of the Bryant, Anunoby, Blackmon, Hartman crew came back, there’s a chance Indiana could be pretty good next season. But even then, there’s no guarantee. As of right now, the incoming freshmen would be better served as compliments to a good team rather than instant studs that will carry them.
Tom Crean has been to a Final-Four before. I don’t believe the Sweet-16 is his permanent ceiling at Indiana. But will the Hoosiers ever have deep tournament runs consistently with Crean at the helm? It doesn’t appear likely. Overall, Tom Crean has done a nice job at Indiana. But at what point is that no longer enough?
Of course the next biggest question is: Who would be Crean’s replacement?
I could be wrong, but I think guys like Greg Marshall and Archie Miller would at least consider the IU job. The program may not be what it used to be, but it’s still a very attractive job. The history is still there, the facilities are incredible, and the fan base is still passionate. Yes, the job brings a lot of pressure that not everybody could handle. But if you’re a good coach that wants to be “great”, the challenge of bringing Indiana a long-awaited sixth banner would be highly intriguing.
If Marshall and Miller aren’t interested, there’s plenty of other options that would be worth a look. I wouldn’t trust a coach that had one good tournament run. But if you can find a guy at a smaller school that has sustained success, they could have the pedigree needed to take Indiana back to where they want to go.
Here’s what I hope happens: I hope Tom Crean and Indiana “mutually agree” to part ways. Whether that’s Crean taking the job at Missouri, or simply stepping down. Tom Crean has done too much for Indiana University to be fired. Even if Crean doesn’t want to leave, I hope they end up calling it mutual instead of Indiana letting him go.
This isn’t the kind of thing Hoosier nation wants to be talking about in March. Until we hear from Fred Glass, nobody really knows how this is going to go. But even the Crean supporters like myself believe it might be time for a change.