Monday, February 7, 2011

Tom Crean Hasn't Changed a Bit

To the Tom Crean haters out there, you'll want to read this post.

So I went down to Bloomington, IN this past weekend with a bunch of Indiana alums for a two-day affair of bars and basketball.  Indiana took on fellow cellar-dweller Iowa so I'd be lying if I said I was truly fired up for the game, but nonetheless I was looking forward to watching a program that has won 5 national championships and was once coached by one of the greatest of all time, Bobby Knight.

And as you probably know, Tom Crean infamously bolted from Marquette 3 years ago to take the job at IU, without telling anyone until after he accepted the position.  Given the way he left MU, he made a lot of enemies up in Milwaukee, myself included.

The game was pretty even for most of the way, with momentum shifting every couple minutes between each team.  The Hoosiers even had a comfortable 10-point lead with about 5 minutes left, but the Hawkeyes quickly erased the lead and were right back in the game.

Fast forward to 16 seconds on the game clock.  IU trailed by just one point and called a time-out.

As a Marquette fan during the Tom Crean era, I'd seen this scenario at least a dozen times, probably more.  Marquette would blow a lead down the stretch, have a chance to take the last shot in the game, and always found a way to squander the opportunity.  The one that comes to mind is Dominic James taking the ball up the court, holding onto it until there's 3 seconds left, and tossing up a Hail-Mary like shot which never went in (except once at NC State), game over.

So naturally during this time out I couldn't help but think, in the words of Yogi Berra, that this was deja vu all over again...  But maybe Crean had changed his ways. Maybe he figured out how to win the close games while coaching in the Big Ten.  Maybe I would actually want Tom Crean back as a coach...ok, not really.

End the time out.  Indiana in-bounds the ball...and does nothing with it.  They burn 10 seconds off the clock and call another time out.  Fans all around me are irate, as they should be.  Trust me, I understood where they were coming from.

But hey, there's still 6 seconds left, maybe Crean has a trick up his sleeve.

Indiana in-bounds the ball, and again has no play to run.  One of the guards makes a last-ditch effort to win the game by driving across the key and taking a fall-away jumper, only to rattle off the rim.  End of story.

All of the energy had been sucked out of Assembly Hall instantaneously.  And I realized at that very moment:  "Wow, new team, same old Crean."  Every stereotype you could think of about coaching when the game is on the line still holds true with this guy.  He was a bad in-game coach at Marquette, and he's still a bad in-game coach at Indiana.

Tom Crean has basically done nothing as a coach at Indiana, and if he doesn't resurrect the program in the next year or two he'll be ousted and looking for work at a lesser school.  He may turn them around soon, but for now I can only think of one thing: "Karma is a bitch, Tom.  Karma is a bitch."

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