Tom Crean received an 11:30 p.m. “you up?” text, and it wasn’t a booty call. Crean’s agent was letting him know Indiana was about to fire him the next day.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Crean revealed he harbors no hard feelings for Indiana, wishing the program goes on to win a national title.
“I love Indiana,” he said. “I loved it here. That’s not going to change. You can’t go loving something every day for nine years and then suddenly hate it.”
He added later: “I hope Indiana wins that national championship. And another one. I really do.”
Crean also said he wants to get back to coaching as soon as possible, but he’ll be patient in reviewing whatever options may become available. He stressed to Sports Illustrated the need for finding the right alignment at a new program
Crean also made it clear that he wants to coach again. And soon. He said he’d prefer to be on the sideline next season. He’d like a job where it’s possible to win a national title but made it clear that he’d study all the opportunities carefully.
“The only thing worse than having this happen is to go somewhere we’re not aligned properly,” he said of the program and administration. “A good job, a great job, those all come down to the alignment. Resources are important. Facilities are important. Tradition is important. Fan bases are important. Where can you recruit is important. But alignment is key. That, for me, is what you’re looking for.”
Even though Crean got fired from his job at Indiana, he believes “we didn’t fail.” And even though that may sound like denial, it’s kind of true.
Although the fan base soured on Crean over the years, he built the program up from the rubble Kelvin Sampson left to reach four Sweet 16’s in the last six seasons. He also won a pair of outright Big Ten titles, although that left fans hoping to go deeper than the Sweet 16 those years. In some ways, Crean’s regular season success created postseason expectations he failed to match, and that was part of his downfall.
While the hype at Indiana grew this past fall with early wins over Kansas and North Carolina, Crean lost star forward OG Anunoby 16 games into the season when the team was 13-6 and appeared on track for another NCAA Tournament appearance, albeit as a mediocre seed. Leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. also missed a few games with knee issues, and then the tailspin came as the Hoosiers finished 18-16 with a 7-11 Big Ten record.
Even so, Indiana finished its season top 50 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings and was a No. 3 seed in the NIT.
So, you’d think there are a handful of athletic directors who would be interested in Crean’s services. The other question is if Crean would find the the right “alignment.”
Currently, there are two high-major jobs open other than Indiana. Those two are Cal and Oklahoma State. Another interesting option could be George Washington. None of those are top-flight jobs, and so far, there are no reports about those administrations, or any others for that matter, reaching out to Crean.
Crean had been in conversations with LSU after the Tigers fired Johnny Jones, but ultimately VCU’s Will Wade got that gig.
While Crean didn’t mention location in his description of his ideal job, it should be noted that he’s a Michigan native and has never strayed far from the Midwest. He had assistant coaching gigs at Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh, and Michigan State before taking the head coaching jobs at Marquette and Indiana.
Crean told Sports Illustrated he hasn’t thought yet what he would if he does not get another attractive coaching offer, but he’s shown his basketball genius in the past as an analyst.