Part of me sympathizes with Indiana men’s basketball coach Tom Crean.
His time in Bloomington wedged between what was and what might never be, Crean, whose Hoosiers have averaged 24 victories over the course of the previous five seasons, has been in a no-win situation for some time now.
Expect it to remain that way as long as Brad Stevens coaches basketball for a living.
Every time IU drastically underachieves — see losses this season against IPFW, Nebraska and Michigan — the name of Stevens, the current Boston Celtics coach who guided Butler to the NCAA title game in 2010 and 2011, comes up.
“If Stevens coached this group we wouldn’t be a bubble team for the NCAA tournament. We would be making room for another championship banner.”
“We would be a top five team … getting the best recruits in the country … a virtual lock for a No. 1 seed almost every March.”
Passionate sports fans always have Plans B, C and maybe D in terms of who the head coach should be when things aren’t going as scripted for his or her favorite team.
Why else would so many Indianapolis Colts supporters remain clumsily enamored with Jon Gruden, who hasn’t been the freckled face of an NFL franchise since 2008 and whose 11-year career spawned a .540 win percentage?
Every time a Crean-led team flops, Stevens, a graduate of Zionsville High School and DePauw University before working his magic with the Bulldogs, is more than the elephant in the room.
He is the room.
High praise for the 40-year-old Stevens. It’s also monumentally unfair to him in the event that his career concludes years from now without him ever having been the Hoosiers’ coach.
How would he be perceived in his home state?
Side note: I’ve always viewed Stevens as the eventual successor to Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, but, hey, that’s just me.
Another strike against Crean is he took over the IU program only eight years after the iconic Bob Knight’s time in Bloomington came to a screeching, self-inflicted halt.
Never mind Knight squads were bounced from the 1986 and 1988 NCAA tournaments by Cleveland State and Richmond, respectively. Or that the last of his 901 games coached at IU was a 20-point postseason loss to — wait for it — Pepperdine.
When three of the five national championship banners hanging in Assembly Hall happened on your watch, people can look the other way.
Crean’s constant pacing in front of the Hoosiers’ bench during games can be difficult to watch, but he’s always been a good enough salesman to recruit young talent both in the state and nationally.
No matter what he does, no matter where he goes, Hoosiers fans won’t hesitate informing you that their coach is no Bob Knight.
And apparently, he’s no Brad Stevens, either.
Mike Beas is a spor
tswriter for the Daily Journal in Johnson County, a sister paper of the Daily
Reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.