Tom Crean is out at Indiana — after 9 seasons in Bloomington and a disappointing 18-16 season. A year that had the Hoosiers ranked as high as No. 3 went down in flames after injuries and disappointing losses and ended with Indiana turning down the chance to play their NIT game on a home floor, before Crean getting fired as March Madness kicked off — with Indiana AD Fred Glass kicking off a national search — and a statement that sets the bar clearly: “The expectations for Indiana University basketball are to perennially contend for and win multiple Big Ten championships, regularly go deep in the NCAA tournament, and win our next national championship—and more after that. We will identify and recruit a coach who will meet these expectations.”
So, no pressure to that guy. After Crean dug that program out of the dumpster that Kelvin Sampson left it in and went to 3 Sweet Sixteen’s and won the Big Ten titles in 2 of the last 5 seasons, that’s what Indiana is looking for. Somebody might want to remind Hoosier fans it’s been 30 years since Keith Smart knocked down that jumper, and that Bobby Knight isn’t coming back into Assembly Hall any time soon — as least not without a shotgun.
So that’s the question. Who checks all those boxes – and then, who has TIES TO THE PROGRAM, after 17 seasons of alleged OUTSIDERS running the show, there’s a large faction of Hoosiers who want someone from the Hoosier family running the team — and Glass acknowledged that he’ll “double check” for candidates with IU ties. So while short lists already point at dream candidates like Gregg Marshall or Tony Bennett and even bigger Hail Mary’s like Brad Stevens or Billy Donovan, it didn’t take long for people to look at UCLA head coach Steve Alford. Because the former Hoosier All-American, national champ, and Indiana Mr. Basketball checks nearly EVERY BOX. And Alford — after some up and down seasons in Westwood, has the Bruins ready to make their run in the tournament. And Alford didn’t exactly deny interest in the job when he was asked about it.
I’m not here to tell Alford what to do. If it’s go home, he should do it — especially as he says goodbye to Lonzo Ball and finishes four years of coaching his son. But Indiana isn’t looking for a basketball coach. They’re looking for movie hero — for Norman Dale — they want GENE HACKMAN on the sidelines — pulling Jimmy Chitwood out of Hickory and somehow bring the Hoosiers back to beat the latest team of AAU all-stars.
Fred Glass, the guy who fired Kevin Wilson as the Hoosiers football coach and replaced him with someone named Tom Allen, now expects to go out and snag a coaching superhero. No harm in trying — but good luck to the guy who takes over those expectations.
I’m not here to say that Tom Crean should’ve stayed in his job. 9 years is a long time — especially at a place like Indiana. But Indiana isn’t looking for a basketball coach. They’re looking for a Deloreon. And nobody they hire is going to turn back time. So for Alford’s sake, he should stay in Westwood.