Right man for the job (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday April 2, 2008 7:59PM; Updated: Thursday April 3, 2008 12:32PM
One of my favorite Crean moments was recounted by my colleague Tim Layden. During Marquette's surprising Dwyane Wade-led march to the Final Four, Crean paused for a moment in his hotel room to watch some television. The movie Remember the Titans was playing, and Crean had to watch because the Titans were driving for the winning score.
Crean is also a voracious reader. He reads everything he can find about coaches, regardless of the sport. If a great athlete writes one of those as-told-to books, Crean is going to read it, just in case there are any nuggets he can use to motivate his own players. He told me last summer that he had recently taken to reading books about politics, not out of interest in public policy but because he saw so many parallels between the political world and recruiting. He is the kind of guy who will talk to Tony La Russa for an hour, scribble notes nonstop and then photocopy the notes and send them to his friends. He married into a football family (his wife is Jim Harbaugh's sister) and has become tight with Milwaukee Brewers' pitching coach Mike Maddux. Coaching is coaching, you know.
Crean knows full well the magnitude of the challenge he faces at Indiana. D.J. White and Eric Gordon are as good as gone. Two other starters, JaMarcus Ellis and Armon Bassett, just got kicked off the team by interim coach Dan Dakich. (Though I'd say it's a pretty safe bet Crean will reinstate them in the near future.) The school will also likely face NCAA sanctions (probably a reduction in scholarships) for the violations committed by Sampson. Sampson signed some pretty good recruits -- most notably Devin Ebanks, a sinewy forward from Queens, N.Y., who looks and plays like Rudy Gay -- but there is no guarantee those players will still want to come to Bloomington to play for someone else.
Yet, Crean also knows full well that he and his new program are up for the challenge. As he put it today, it's Indiana. There are always going to be great high school players in and around the state, and the fan support is unmatched. This community, perhaps more than any other, will learn to appreciate his passion. It was a painful journey to get to this point, but Indiana has found the right man for the job. The rebuilding project is officially underway, one small detail at a time.
Other thoughts on the coaching carousel
This is going to be the busiest two weeks of the season for coaching moves. Here's how it looks like things are lining up:
People who are locked in on the possibility of Bill Self filling the vacancy at Oklahoma State are missing the boat. Self is not going anywhere, partly because he has an athletic director in Lew Perkins who will give him a sufficient raise to make sure he stays. The guy Oklahoma State is targeting first and foremost is Billy Gillispie. I'm hearing that the school, backed by billionaire oilman Boone Pickens, an OSU alum, is preparing an offer to pay Gillispie $3.5 million per year. I still think there's a better chance than not that Gillispie will remain at Kentucky, but with that kind of scratch on the table Gillispie would be crazy not to listen.
I'm also not convinced that Tony Bennett is 100 percent committed to remaining at Washington State. He did turn down Indiana, but that was more out of a disdain for the fishbowl life of coaching at IU than a desire to stay in Pullman for the rest of his life. His wife is from Louisiana, so it's natural he'd be targeted by LSU. But now there's another fit for him: Marquette. Remember, he played at Wisconsin-Green Bay and coached under his father Dick at Wisconsin.
There has been a lot of talk about VCU coach Anthony Grant moving on, but the mid-major coach who seems most likely to take another job this spring is UMass' Travis Ford. The president at LSU, John Lombardi, hired Ford when he was president of UMass. It sounds like LSU is waiting for Ford's season to end at the NIT championship game to officially tender an offer. One school that hopes the Ford-to-LSU scenario doesn't come to pass is Western Kentucky, which just lost its coach, Darrin Horn, to South Carolina. Ford is from Kentucky and played for Rick Pitino at UK. Western Kentucky would love to call him home.
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