How Did Indiana Hoosiers Basketball Become This God Awful?


tom crean

Hands down, the Indiana Hoosiers are probably the worst team in the Big Ten right now. It’s very unfamiliar territory considering the storied Hoosier tradition. In all college basketball, they’re third all-time in national titles, fifth in tournament appearances, sixth in tourney wins, seventh in Final Fours, and 11th in wins.

But since Tom Crean took over, they’re a lowly 25-54 (32% winning pct.), 5-31 in the Big Ten (14% winning pct). No wonder Crean’s public persona grows more high-strung and irritated by the week.

On Sunday night they were drilled by a Northwestern team that was itself drilled by Illinois four days before that.

Yes, we knew Kelvin “Mr. Telephone Man” Sampson came from Oklahoma like a F5 tornado to ravage the pride of southern Indiana, but who knew the wreckage would be this bad?

Let’s take a closer look at the Bloomington rubble.

By Paul M. Banks


In year two Crean showed a slight improvement, going from 6-25 to 10-21, 1-17 in conference to to 4-14, but this year they’re taking a big step back. They loaded up on cupcakes early; and now find themselves crashing from the sugar high, with no nutritious consumption to speak of. They got off to a 6-0 start against some really terrible competition. But later lost to both Northern Iowa and Colorado, and now find themselves 0-4 in conference play.

The thought process behind the scheduling was “get some wins, build some confidence.” Instead they developed awful habits like a lack of intensity and awareness on defense.

Crean’s bi-polar personality is not really well received within both the University offices and the IU community. Of course some winning would cure that. But there’s also his increasingly contentious relationship with the media. He allegedly reads everything that’s written about his team and sometimes takes to task those he disagrees with.

Maybe he should take the time devoted to analyzing IU coverage and instead put it towards recruiting/making the team better?

After the loss to Northwestern, he went off on a beat reporter. To his credit, he was somewhat professional and did not raise his voice, but his comments were condescending and mean-spirited.

Here’s the exchange:

Q: Have you considered going to any different type of offensive structure?

A: Give me an example.

Q: Going to a motion, a flex, something like that?

A: You draw something up for me, I’ll take a look at it, OK? If that’s what you’re thinking about, you draw something up, I’ll take a look at it, and we’ll  see if we can put it in.”

Clearly, that exchange shows the pressure gets to him. Hoosier nation is beginning to regard him as somewhat of a basketball Ron Zook- great recruiter, horrible Xs and Os tactician. Can super-recruit Cody Zeller save this sinking ship next year? Not if Crean continues to leave the best athletes on the bench.

But it’s not all Crean’s fault. There are numerous personnel issues (or maybe that is partially Crean’s fault?)

They lost their European 7-footer in the off-season, so they really have no bigs at all. And since D.J. White left school, they really haven’t had anything up front at all.

Maurice Creek should be this team’s number two or three option, but he can’t even elevate or move right now. Injury has prohibited him from getting any lift in his jump shot, and he really should be red-shirting this season.

Creek is struggling mightily and he won’t be getting any better, any time soon.

Christian Watford has to do way too much of the scoring himself. Verdell Jones III is trying to help out. But both have to be on the floor all the time for offense, and that’s a problem because neither one can defend a living room table. Jeremiah Rivers and Jordan Hulls are similarly one-dimensional.

In short, it’s a train wreck right now in Assembly Hall. Who knew that one guy with text and phone habits more aggressive than your stereotypical stalkerish ex-girlfriend would set off a scandal ravaging a very proud program?  Who knew the aftermath would still be getting worse, and not better three years later?

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports


  1. It is all about TC. Same way at Marquette. Bipolar is putting it nicely.

  2. I imagined him being taller for some reason. maybe because of his larger than life persona- or megalomania.

    great to have a NYJ receiver from the 1980s posting here! thanks for stopping by

  3. Chair Tossing IS a sport says

    Hoosier faithful need to realize what everyone else around the Big Ten has known for nearly 20 years…Indiana Basketball is NOT what it once was. Even during Bob Knight’s last several seasons, they struggled to finish in the top 3 in the conference and rarely got past the 1st or 2nd round in the NCAA’s. His belligerant tactics cost IU MANY top recruits who simply didn’t want to be bullied. Enter Mike Davis… a decent coach but was never going to be good enough in Bloomington. IU fans like to point out that their run to the 2002 title game with Davis as coach was made with Knight’s players. Well, duh. It’s pretty hard to get all your own players into a program in 1 year. Besides, Davis got further with those same players than Knight ever did. Kelvin Sampson? Good coach. Good motivator. Notorious cheater. IU should have known what they were getting themselves into. Sampson has cheated everywhere he’s been. Why would he act any differently at IU? Now it’s Tom Crean’s turn. Personally, I like Tom Crean and think he will eventually get IU back to it’s winning ways. The BIGGEST problem with IU Basketball is that every coach that ever comes to Bloomington from now untiul the end of time will always be compared to Bob Knight. That’s an unfair comparison for most anyone to live up to. And if I were a basketball coach, the ONLY way I’d want to be compared to Knight is my win-loss record. Any other comparisons would offend my sensibilities as a human being. IU put up with his nonsense far too long all in the name of having a winning basketball program. Knight fancies himself a “teacher” of the game of basketball. Well any teacher that put his hands on “students” or threw chairs, or any of the other verbal and physical abuse he doled out over the years would have lost their job long before he did. IU basketball will be back if Crean is allowed ample time to fix it but it will likely take 4-5 years of rebuilding. In the meantime, Hoosier faithful can help out by not having unrealistic expectations too soon. IU will be back-give it time.

  4. nicely done.
    one of the best comments we’ve had here lately

  5. Chair Tossing IS a sport says

    Thanks, Paul. I am not a Hoosier fan but I deeply respect their tradition and I absolutely love college basketball. I truly believe that Coach Knight hurt Hoosier basketball almost as much as he helped it. He was, without question, a masterful tactician-a truly GREAT coach. But, he was also a temper-tantrum throwing bully. He demanded a lot from his players-that they have good grades, play hard, practice hard, execute to perfection, graduate, and conduct themselves as gentlemen that represented IU proudly. Why then, did he allow himself to behave so boorishly and embarrass himself and IU on so many occasions. How can one demand of others what he is not also willing to do? But that’s the past. What’s imprtant now for Hoosier Basketball is that the University, fans, boosters, etc… allow Coach Crean time to build his program HIS way. They can help out by assisiting him in keeping the unsavory elements that unfortunately are present in college basketball away from potential recruits and current players. College basketball is better when traditional programs like UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, N. Carolina, Duke, and Indiana are relevant on a national stage. Programs with that kind of tradition not only have a large, loyal following but those are also the types of programs that attact casual fans as well. The Big Ten is pretty deep right now but as of the past few weeks, Indiana has been holding their own. Is their program on par with Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State, or even Minnesota right now? No. They’re probably more along the lines of Northwestern, Michigan, Penn State, and Iowa right now. But believe me, once Crean gets it rolling, IU will be competing for Big Ten titles again and the Hoosiers are starting to show some good signs. While I certainly understand many Hoosier fans loyalty to Coach Knight, he’s gone-has been for over 10 years now-it’s time to let him go. I watched the Hoosier’s home game versus Illinois on TV last week and was very impressed with the fans, the players, and the coaches. Illinois has been one of the top programs in the midwest over the past decade so I would check that win off as a HUGE victory for IU. Crean has been a winner everywhere he’s been so there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue at Indiana. Times will get better but the key is patience. If the University and the fans allow the program to grow, it will again flourish and be among the elite in college basketball.

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