Days before IU’s summer camp began, IU Coach Tom Allen sat down for a 3-on-1 interview with The Indiana Daily Student, TheHoosier.com and Hoosier Huddle. These are a few of the questions the head coach answered entering his first offseason as a collegiate head coach.
Hoosier Huddle: How are you going to take that next step without taking a step back?
That’s obviously the challenge for sure is you want to take the momentum that was built and that we were a part of.
To me you recognize why they were able to make those positive changes and continue to build off of those, and then also honestly evaluate why we’ve had struggles to be able to take that next step in the past couple of seasons even though we’ve been close and try to address those. So you want to keep the momentum and find those things that have been our strengths and find ways to improve them.
Our whole approach is the same as when I came here where you had to get them to believe. When you’re close and you are physically in those games and it’s not just talking them into it. They know they’re close, they’ve been there. It’s not like it’s just one game; it’s a bunch of games over a couple years. Just growing that belief. It’s got to get to the point where it’s just expectation.
Hoosier Huddle: Is there any tangible evidence you need to have to say you broke through in 2017?
I don’t think it’s one thing. I’ve gone through and mapped these out for our team and we’ve talked about how we haven’t had a winning season in 10 years.
To me, that’s breakthrough. We haven’t won a bowl game in 26 years. That’s a breakthrough. We haven’t beaten certain teams in a long long time. Those are breakthrough opportunities.
They come in different pieces. You can look at it a lot of different ways, and no one really knows what it’s going to look like. To me, it’s a bout belief. That’s what breakthrough is for me. It’s that unshakable belief that I believe will eventually create a different outcome.
IDS: Jon Gruden said when he was in town that you have to stay true to yourself as a coach and as a person to take the next step with this program. What do you think he meant by that?
I think often times guys will get a head job and they try to become a different personality. You know, “I’ve gotta be the whatever head coach now. Everyone’s looking at me.”
I think you just gotta be who you are. That goes back to people asking me if I’m staying with the defense. A big part of my history and getting these opportunities is the way the defense plays, so I want to stay involved in the defense.
I think sometimes you might make the mistake of pulling away from the one thing you’re best at. That’s part of it, and I think No. 2 is personality. I coach a certain way and believe in that, and I think our kids respond to that and I don’t plan on changing that.
I’ve been a head coach in the past even if it wasn’t in college, so I’ve kind of had a chance to learn from some of those situations that I did or didn’t do and have the ability to look back and say, “Hey, if this happens again, I’m going to do it this way.”
TheHoosier.com: You’ve made a strong effort and received positive response from recruiting at Indiana high schools. What was the root of that and how have you gone about developing those relationships?
We gave every single coach and in-state area, which was not the case in the past. I just wanted to make sure we did a good job of covering, and it was the first place we went out to.
I wanted it to be a priority in both calendar and value and try to get as many guys out there and get them visible in front of coaches. My theory is you can talk about something being important but if you don’t do anything to show it’s important, then it’s not really important.
We followed through by physically doing that. With our population, there are some schools that are pretty spread out. You want to make sure since a school has a guy every so often, we want to make sure that we’re aware of that and that we don’t just show up because he has the one guy and it’s the only time they ever see us. It’s about them being a part of us and them coming here and studying with us, watching tape together. That to me, is what I want to be able to create — a very open, receptive environment that they feel a part of.
IDS: You’ve really been teaching Love Each Other and love within the locker room between the coaches. It’s been obvious on social media. Is that an oddity in college football programs? Is that something that’s a little uncommon with you as a head coach and how do you think that influences a fan base’s perception of the program?
It’s amazing to me that it’s considered unusual because even way back to some of the greatest coaches that ever coached the game — Vince Lombardi talked about the one greatest quality all of his teams had was love for each other. I’ve never been part of a team that didn’t have genuine care for one another. It’s a choice. We may talk about more than others do, but it’s a common ingredient to any great team.
I’m one of those where if it’s that important then we aren’t gonna be bashful about it. It’s a cornerstone principle. It’s written above the door every day when they go out to practice. I don’t want it to be a slogan or a catchy phrase, but are you living that out? Are we modeling that as coaches? Do we really care about you more as a person than as a player?
I’ll guarantee you this: If you love the people around you, it’ll affect how hard you play. It’ll affect the way you act, it’ll affect the choices you make. Those are all things that make a team special or break a team down.
IDS: You were here for a short time while Tom Crean was here. Did you learn anything from him? How unfortunate can it be to see a head coach leave a program in a town like Bloomington?
It’s one of the bad things about our profession. You hate it for him and his family. I got to spend a couple times with him, not a lot since both of our season are pretty intense.
The things you learn from him are just that he had a huge heart, was very passionate about what he did. It was always neat to see that he really cared about people. He took time for people even though you’re in a position where you’re really busy at what you do. I think that’s really what stuck out. Your heart breaks for him.
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