Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tom Crean Can Lead The Hoosiers To The Final Four

He won’t back down, will he? It’s all about Tom Crean at Indiana University, and the topic at hand — an ongoing topic that has people surprised — is not that serious or newsworthy. Nothing he may ever do should surprise us.

For those who know Crean, he would angrily confront another coach and would exchange words in a heated argument whether it’s a win or loss. For those who don’t know Crean, he’s not a goofy, silly guy.

This is one of the more fun guys in college hoops, someone who knows how to teach players the game and someone who doesn’t take nonsense from his players. He’s a fearless, hard-spoken, irascible guy. For those who haven’t seen him walk on the sideline during the games, he shows that he is vibrant, fierce and intense.

The program has not had a head coach this tough since Bob Knight, a legendary man who was used to constantly getting in trouble for things like throwing chairs, choking a kid and for even head-butting a player.

The Hoosiers, since the Knight-era, have finally found themselves a basketball coach whose attitude fits the program and whose tirades fires up his players. It became clear that Crean is not like everybody else, and from his work-ethic and attitude, he’s treated like a villain but is only an agitator who can get under someone’s skin.

You don’t have to embrace him or like him, but at least admit that he’s not a good coach but a great coach as he’s carrying a team that can win it all with a workable nucleus.

There wasn’t anything wrong with him exchanging words and getting in the face of Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer, once a member of IU’s staff, after the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines.

The confrontation soon ended, but moments later as the handshake line continued on, Crean and Meyer exchanged words in a shouting match after the game. This led to Indiana assistant Tim Buckley stepping in between and restraining the two men.

It was all in excitement, but to keep it under control, Buckley played the peacemaker during a feisty conversation. Crean has been the face of Indiana, one of the finest coaches in the sport.

On Saturday, the same day he had his post-game altercation, the Hoosiers pulled off a stunning, come-from-behind victory for their first undisputed Big Ten title in two decades. So sure, the game ended in dramatic fashion but it also ended with a verbal assault.

That right there could have motivated the Hoosiers collectively and made his players stronger, especially with the mayhem just beginning as March Madness looms. The Big Ten is fun to watch because of Crean and the hard-fought players he’s shaped in five seasons, thanks to his brilliant recruiting and coaching emphasis.

He says what’s on his mind without any hesitation and shows unscripted emotion on the court — he does not always act like a professional, but what matters the most is whether or not Indiana wins games. So far right now, they’ve been successful at that. If he’s around to produce and replenish talent, there’s no doubt the Hoosiers will always be one of the top schools in the nation.

Rather amazingly, in his fifth season, Crean has done an incredible job at Indiana, considering that his first recruiting class was highly regarded to be among the top 20 in the nation.

He’s the guy who rebuilt the Indiana program into a winner and restored what had been defaced after Knight’s departure. The turnaround happened under his watch, and potentially this season — with a rock-solid class that better defines the Hoosiers — Indiana can reach the Final Four.

The Hoosiers, belive it or not, are playing their best basketball, and with Crean’s frenetic demeanor, the program is performing at its highest level. Crean immediately turned Indiana into the talk of college hoops by connecting with his players and teaching the basics and fundamentals of basketball. In a season dominated by the Hoosiers, the only fitting thing was trash-talking from Crean.

It would seem that Crean and Knight have nothing in common, yet their personalities are a bit similar. He’s mentioned in the same breath with Knight, which makes sense in the aftermath of his latest episode on Saturday. Besides being one of the perennial coaches in the nation, Crean is also fiery and vehement and lets his emotions get the best of him every so often.

Long before Crean arrived to Indiana and revived the Hoosiers, ex-coach Kelvin Sampson repeatedly violated NCAA rules regarding phone contact with prospects.

Long before he arrived to Indiana and rescued the fallen program, bringing a sense of humanity back to a spiritless school, the Hoosiers were unable to suit up for the daunting tournament, let alone the Final Four, thanks to Sampson. But Crean, as we can see, fought through five seasons and produced wins, elevating the pristine Indiana from 1-17 to 14-4.

For a school that was a disgrace and in shambles from a cheating scandal, which resulted in a fired coach and a couple of players kicked off the team, Crean was a savior who was crafty and brilliant enough to straighten out the program from the moment he stood on the sideline at Indiana.

There are few coaches who can meet the challenge and tack together one of the most impressive teams in the nation with their recruiting abilities and basketball brilliance, wooing the top prospects in the country to play for the school.

Crean, though, as angry as he was that night, gives credit to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who pretty much mentored him. For years, Crean was at MSU as an assistant coach and suddenly ventured on his own to earn an eventual coaching job. Crean has undoubtedly gotten under people’s skin and annoyed opposing players and coaches, but it’s worked.

What happened on Saturday wasn’t the biggest deal, and was definitely blown out of proportion. He’s not changing for anybody and won’t ever change his ways. Some coaches are relentless competitors, and Crean is leading the Hoosiers to a place they haven’t been in years.

Better known as a recruiting expert, the native of Michigan is one of those coaches you would like to have around, an individual who is over a team primed for the NCAA tournament. If there was ever a time the Hoosiers would return to greatness between now and the upcoming seasons, it would be the moment with another multitude of prospects arriving next season.

He encourages his players to play mentally tough and portrays himself, by definition, as a genius, developer and motivator. Look up all three of those definitions in the dictionary, and Crean’s picture would appear next to all those words.

The new ruler of the Big Ten is the Hoosiers. After all, Indiana is a Hoosier state. And Crean is the one who is leading them.