Friday, March 17, 2017

OK, so Tom Crean is gone*

(*Which means, yes, the Blob was wrong, wrong, wrong again. Like that's news).

Anyway, Indiana gave Tom Crean the gate yesterday, after nine years that were more accomplished than his detractors -- now legion -- will ever admit. He did not get Indiana to the promised land (a mythical joint this program hasn't sniffed in a quarter century), but he did lead them out of the desert. And, no, the Blob doesn't know why it decided to go all biblical there.

Likely it stems from listening to the portion of Crimson Nation that metaphorically stoned the man over the last several weeks/months, a biblical punishment which was both uncalled for and oblivious. After all, you can't say "IU needs to get right it this time" -- the prevailing attitude, it seems -- without missing the glaringly obvious.

Which is, IU got it right when it hired Crean, too.

If ultimately he didn't win enough, or restore Indiana to a greatness that with each passing year becomes more towering in memory than perhaps in fact, he took a program razed to the ground by Kelvin Sampson to a No. 1 ranking in just four years. He took a program that had been to one Sweet Sixteen in the previous 18 years to three Sweet Sixteens (and two outright Big Ten titles) in five years. He restored a program that for years had been a hollow echo of what it had been to a program with some resonance again -- and some relevance.

In doing so, of course, he only reminded that program's supporters of just how relevant it had once been. And why couldn't it be like that again?

None of the above, mind you, is a brief for Indiana retaining him. It was time for both sides to part company. It isn't wins and losses, after all, that usually signal the end times for a coach in this day of corporate college athletics. It's butts in the seats. When vast swatches of Assembly Hall started turning up empty -- when one of the most passionate fan bases in America stopped caring -- that was the death knell for Crean.

And then, at the top of this week, the IU administration demonstrated it had stopped caring, too, by turning down a home date in the NIT. And the clock officially was ticking.

So what now?

Beats me.

All I know is this isn't 25 years ago, the last time Indiana was, well, Indiana. These days, it's just another decent place with more than decent resources. But in the age of the one-and-done, there are a lot of decent places now. Land a couple kids who need to while away a year waiting to go pro, and you, too, can be Indiana. Anyone can.

And so I wouldn't be counting on Steve Alford bailing on UCLA now, not with all those stud freshmen and two more Ball brothers in the pipeline. I wouldn't automatically assume Chris Holtmann would head 45 miles south if IU came calling, not with the program he has and the players he's able to recruit at Butler. Gregg Marshall at Wichita State? Archie Miller at Dayton?

Yeah, maybe. But in 2017, going to Indiana or a place like it is not nearly the quantum upgrade it used to be.

I do know this: Someone else will hire Tom Crean. And it won't take long.

The grass, see, is always greener. And no matter what Indiana saw in the end, there's a lot of green there.

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