Crean to clean up mess at Indiana

By Jeremy Werner

Tom Crean knew taking over an Indiana men’s basketball program clouded by NCAA violations would be hard. But the new Hoosiers coach said the depth of Indiana’s troubles that arose under former head coach Kelvin Sampson were darker than he ever imagined.

“There were a lot of days that were hard,” Crean said at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on Sunday. “The things that you heard, the things that were rumored, they were probably worse to be honest with you. It’s the way that it was. It was worse than I thought it was, and I certainly went in with both eyes wide open.”

Indiana is still awaiting punishment from the NCAA for Sampson’s actions as head coach, which allegedly included dozens of impermissible phone calls to recruits and lying to NCAA officials about those calls. After leaving Marquette to sign a 10-year contract worth more than $23 million on April 1, Crean has the task of resuscitating the Hoosiers and returning the program to one of the nation’s elite.

“I think it’s our job to make sure that we’re energizing (the fans),” Crean said. “I think quite a few people have gone through a lot of hard feelings, ill feelings towards some of the things,and we’re trying to let them know that we’re all in it together. It sounds like a corny statement, but there’s no other way to say it. We are all in it together, our fan base, our students, our alums and donors, the players, the coaches, the staff, the administration. Everybody’s got to dig out together, and I think we’re doing that.”

But Crean’s task, a job shared with newly hired Athletic Director Fred Glass, is a long-term project. The Hoosiers return only two players: redshirt senior Kyle Taber who has scored 34 points in 31 career games and walk-on Brett Finkelmeier, a redshirt sophomore.

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    Crean scrambled during the summer, securing commitments from eight freshmen and two junior college transfers to fill the Indiana roster. Crean is preaching patience with his inexperienced Hoosiers team.

    “I just want (the fans) to see that our team will play with energy, play hard and compete, that they’re going to represent the standards the right way,” Crean said.

    The first-year Hoosiers coach is receiving support from his Big Ten peers for taking on the job of restoring credibility to one of the conference’s most recognizable programs.

    “I think he’s done an excellent job for him to come in and not have a team,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He’s been able to come in in a short amount of time and put a positive spin on a very, very tough situation.”

    Despite having to clean up the sullied mess the previous coaching staff left behind, Crean has no regrets in taking the head coaching position at Indiana. Crean said the tradition of Indiana basketball trumps the headaches of living with his predecessor’s mistakes.

    “If you love college basketball, you look at Indiana as one of the absolute pinnacle places to play at, coach at or watch at,” Crean said. “And I get to coach it, so I feel really good about that.”