sports   |   men's basketball

In time, Hoosiers should be fine



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Freshman forward Bobby Capobianco attempts a layup during IU's 83-55 loss to Wisconsin Feb. 13 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisc. Peter Stevenson Buy Photos

I have nothing personal against Tom Luicci. As a sports writer for one of the nation’s largest newspapers, he’s a better and more accomplished journalist than I will ever be.

But The Star-Ledger (N.J.) reporter deserves a big, Ochocinco-style “child please.”
On Monday, Luicci, who appears to work primarily on the Rutgers football beat, wrote, “speculation is growing about how much longer Tom Crean will last at Indiana.”

Rutgers basketball coach Fred Hill is squarely on the hot seat, but the New Jersey reporter is discussing Crean’s job security?

I might as well be working on a story about the Jersey Shore club scene. Let’s get real.

Many of you are probably upset with how the Hoosiers are playing, especially of late. You might be frustrated with the players. You might be frustrated with Crean.

But if anyone expected a quick fix in Crean’s attempt to right the S.S. Hoosier ship through these “uncharted waters,” then you’ve gone off the deep end.

There are a number of areas in which little progress seems to have been made since last season. That’s understandably frustrating and so is the lack of heart witnessed in some recent contests.

However, this team was never supposed to win many games. Even a .500 record would have been a long shot with a healthy Maurice Creek and Matt Roth. If IU doesn’t reach that 15-win plateau next year, then there might be significant reason for concern. But this program is moving forward, even if at the pace of a DeAndre Thomas marathon run.

Tom Izzo, Crean’s mentor and Michigan State’s coach since 1995, saw firsthand what happened to Michigan (loans made to players by a booster) and Minnesota (academic fraud) during the ’90s.

The Wolverines really haven’t recovered, while the Gophers appear to be turning the corner — a decade later.

“When there are major, catastrophic issues — whether it be academic problems or violations, or whatever they are — it really decimates a program and it doesn’t just bounce back like that,” Izzo said.

“Just look at those other programs. Sometimes it lasts for a long, long time,” he said. He added that Crean will “get it built and done, and a lot faster.”

Even if Izzo’s words hold to be true, “faster” still won’t be fast enough for most Hoosier fans. Nevertheless, there must be patience.

Until the NBA changes its draft rules, many college basketball fans will continue to be infatuated with one-and-done stars and other instant “solutions.”

But it does not take five-star recruits to build Final Four-caliber teams if a coach can recruit the right players and then develop them.

The current crop of freshmen is Crean’s first real recruiting class at IU, and it might be another couple of years before he’ll have a fair shot at grabbing the nation’s best prospects.

Often times, however, the beauty in college basketball comes in witnessing players grow from freshman to senior year.

As a kid, I watched Kenyon Martin average 2.8 points per game as a freshman for Cincinnati. Three years later, Martin was the national player of the year and the 2000 NBA Draft’s No. 1 overall selection.

Crean might not have any future NBA players, or even All-Americans, on this year’s squad. But if sophomore guard Verdell Jones, freshman forward Christian Watford and the aforementioned Creek are all back and healthy next season, then the foundation has already been set.

Give these Hoosiers their full four years with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watkinson, and they could be scary good. 

Like Dick Vitale name-dropping Mike Krzyzewski on a non-Duke broadcast, a turnaround of the IU program will take time but nevertheless should happen.

IU is 15-42 under Crean and there’s no guarantee IU will win tonight or even at all the remainder of this season. 

But Crean isn’t going anywhere, and he’s doing everything in his power to bring Hoosier basketball back. 

There’s no point in speculating if he is still “the guy” for the IU job, because if he’s not, tell me someone who is and explain why many big-name coaches balked at the position two years ago.

IU should be fine. But like it or not, you’ve just got to give Crean and the program some time.

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