Coach Crean

A lot of things will (and already have been) said about Tom Crean’s firing. Whether it was time to let him go or not, it is indisputable that he came to Indiana University when its basketball program was at an all-time low. He ran a clean program and resurrected it into one that won Conference Championships and made it to the Sweet Sixteen multiple times.  Most importantly though, he showed respect for his players while expecting them to live up to a higher standard.

But, Division I coaching is a “what have you done for me lately” type of profession.

I’m not going to argue whether or not he should have been fired, but will say that I always hoped for his success. I truly believe he is not just a good person, but the kind of leader you want working with young men who are finding their way into adulthood. We forget sometimes, these players are 18-21 years old!

I met Coach Crean during an unfortunate event in our small town. When Lauren Spierer, an IU student, went missing, a massive number of people from the community volunteered to help search. When I ran into a friend at the search who was the head Field Hockey coach at the time, I ended up being grouped with her, Crean, and other IU Athletics staff. Crean wasn’t there to get attention (though the press did their best to follow us). He was there because he was part of a community he embraced. He was there because he was a father. He was there for the same reason the rest of us were there. He wanted to help.

During the afternoon I spent with him, I found him to be genuine, caring, and compassionate.  One of his assistants at the time, Steve McClain, was with us that day too.  While working with him, he spoke highly of Crean, going on and on about how much he cared for the players and wanted them to not just become good basketball players, but good people.

I was an IU basketball fan before that day, but after it, I became a Tom Crean fan as well. I wish he could have been the coach to bring IU back to the very top, but let’s face it, only one coach gets to do that per year.

Whatever Coach Crean does next, I wish him the best. Any program that lands a leader like him, who will be a positive force with the young men he works with on a daily basis, will be lucky to have him.  We need more coaches like Tom Crean.

Coach

Fall of ’83, my senior year in high school, our basketball coach took us to South Bend to watch the Notre Dame Classic. We excitedly ran down at halftime of the Tennessee/USC game to collect autographs of the McGee twins and Cheryl Miller. After collecting those and other USC players’ scrawls, our coach pointed out Pat Summitt (then going by Pat Head Summitt) who was named the ’84 U.S Women’s Olympic basketball coach so we all ran over to the Tennessee bench for her autograph.

She was already eagle-eyeing her team warming up for the second half but one of her assistants tapped her to sign our programs. She signed a friend’s and then mine, and then said with a command in her voice that prompted both admiration and a little bit of fear, “That’s all ladies. I need to get back to work here. We have a game to play.” I spent the rest of the game watching her coach more than watching the game. She was someone you imagined owned a room when she walked into it.

I became a Tennessee fan that day.

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