Just to make it clear, I think Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean has been a solid fit for the program and an exceptional leader.
So the following statement has nothing to do with his abilities, yet more to do the general state of university silliness.
Extending Crean’s contract through the 2020 season was just plain dumb.
I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that Crean’s job should be in jeopardy after the program fell to a mediocre level this season. I am sure there are some disgruntled fans out there who do.
It’s just that university sports programs make bad decisions at times when they want to guarantee stability for their program.
If a coach has enormous success at Indiana in basketball, or Ohio State or Kentucky or UCLA, for that matter, it isn’t likely he is going to jump ship in the college ranks due to money. It is more likely the NBA will come calling, and if that happens, even the now-until-doomsday contract is going to get bought out.
Sure, a university might reap some monetary rewards with a longer term contract that is bought out by an
NBA owner, but the downside often is much more damaging in comparison.
Only a year after Crean signed that extension, there is grumbling following a 17-15 season in which nine of those wins were of the Little Sisters of the Poor variety. Against teams of common stature, the Hoosiers were basically 8-15.
Now, if Indiana gave Crean such a long-term deal because he is a great teacher, a wonderful motivator and a fantastic role model, and will allow the contract to run its course no matter the won-loss record, I humbly stand corrected.
If success is the bottom line, then we have to take a look at the numbers.
Six seasons, 40-68 record in the Big Ten.
Six seasons, five of six seasons fifth place or lower in conference play.
Six seasons, four of six seasons eighth place or lower in conference play.
Six seasons, two NCAA Tournament berths and two Sweet 16 exits.
He had a fantastic team a year ago that provided Hoosiers fans with plenty of wonderful memories, right up until the earlier-than-expected exit from the NCAA Tournament. But, please, a contract through 2020?
If you make dinner each night and everything on your plate is cream and crimson, then you might be ready to launch into a fit of anger.
Didn’t Crean lift the program from the ashes? Didn’t he bring pride back to campus? Didn’t he save us all from eternal damnation?
I guess so.
That’s all well and good, but I would say that basketball is easier to lift a program than, say, football. And the bottom line is that there have been no Final Fours.
Do I think Crean is a good coach? Heck yeah. He took Victor Oladipo and developed him into a lottery pick. He built his team around the awesome talent of 7-footer Cody Zeller. He has recruited some fantastic players.
The question is more for Indiana Athletic Director Fred Glass and company. Kind of a V8 moment head-slapper. What were you thinking?
Why not just keep the guy at $3 million to $4 million in salary and keep his contract out about three years from the current time?
Perhaps this is all much ado about nothing. Then again, the New York Daily News just ran a story that claimed that current New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson could be a candidate in Bloomington if he gets fired after this season.
That’s all likely nonsense, but it does make you think.
What happens if the Hoosiers struggle again in 2015?
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.