Saturday, March 21, 2015

Only one is done

And it's not Tom Crean, haters.

It is, however, Indiana, which was given no shot at Wichita State but got in plenty of shots, only to see the Shockers boot them from the tournament with an unbreakable second half.  Neither team ever actually cracked, but the Shockers cracked less, forging a precarious lead and then refusing to give Indiana the opening it needed as the minutes got skinny.

And so the Hoosiers went out on their feet, not on their shields. And if March is a construct that awards no points for that, it was at least enough to turn down the braying for Crean's head to a dull roar. His flawed team pushed Maryland in the Big Ten tournament and then pushed Wichita State, and that will be plenty for now to ensure his continued presence on the Indiana sideline.

Not that he was going anywhere, anyway, of course.

The plain-wrapper truth is his athletic director has his back, and until that changes Indiana fans pining for something better can spin their happy fantasies. Brad Stevens isn't going to come riding in to save the day, not when he coaches the NBA's most storied franchise (the Celtics) and has begun to turn that ship into the wind.  But it's a harmless indulgence to think so, as is the speculation about Crean bolting for Alabama and some Flavor of the Month shipping in to take his place.

The dynamic here is that Indiana could do worse, much worse, and has. Kelvin Sampson may be long gone, but in a weird sort of way he continues to influence the direction of the program. As long as his memory lingers, Crean will always benefit by comparison, no matter how many fans pound the drums for his ouster.

Losing in the first round by five to Wichita State? That's not bad. We've seen bad, and that isn't it.

Or something like that.

At any rate, Crean will stick around. There's a lot you can pin on him -- his failure to recruit quality bigs being foremost -- but there's a lot you can't. The final image of him from yesterday, after all, was his frantic motioning for his kids to foul in the closing seconds, and the kids failing to get the message. He told them what to do; they didn't do it. That's not on him.

Players gotta make plays, at some point. And coaches gotta coach.

For at least the time being, Crean still will.


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