Tom Crean is out in Bloomington. Here’s our favorite 10 moments from his tenure at Indiana.
10. Indiana defeats VCU 63-61 in the Round of 32
In his first tournament appearance with Indiana, Tom Crean’s Hoosiers trailed Virginia Commonwealth by nine, 57-48 with just 12:30 remaining. But Crean’s club turned in what may have been the single best defensive span of his tenure the rest of the way, holding VCU to just four points. Will Sheehey made a baseline jumper in the closing seconds to notch the victory and send Indiana to the Sweet 16.
9. Indiana beats Illinois, Tom Crean celebrates in the lobby
You can think Crean was corny or nerdy, but there are four moments that make this list, not because of what the team did on the floor, but because of how much Crean cared about his job and this program. This is one of them.
In January 2011, Crean’s club knocked off the Illinois Fighting Illini, 52-49, and ended a 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents that dated back to the final Kelvin Sampson season. But Crean knew there were people ready to celebrate that win more than his players, and he headed straight for the lobby to join the fans in their jubilee.
8. Cody Zeller signs his National Letter of Intent
One 6’11” forward from Washington, Indiana, was all that it took to know that Crean had things heading in the right direction. Zeller was the first nationally acclaimed recruit to buy in to what Crean was doing in Bloomington and was the biggest homegrown recruit to sign with Indiana since Jared Jeffries.
7. Indiana wins at Iowa, 81-78, clinches outright Big Ten title
For a season that started with a sixth-place finish in Maui, saw the team’s best scorer go down to injury, and felt all but lost by Christmas, Crean’s 2015-2016 Hoosiers may have been his best coaching job. It all culminated on a cold night in Iowa when, behind 20 points from Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers out-dueled the Hawkeyes to clinch an outright Big Ten title.
6. The locker room after the game.
It was a good moment where Crean’s sentimental, caring side shone through. And it was the perfect summary of the things that a special group we’ll all remember had accomplished.
5. Crean blasts Jeff Meyer
This one is a personal favorite of mine. It was a cleaned up version of everything Indiana fans wanted to say to everyone associated with the Sampson years and provided a release of a lot of pent up anger. After Crean had brought the program from total despair to the mountain top of the Big Ten, he let Meyer, a Sampson assistant, know just how bad things had gotten in Bloomington.
4. Indiana storms back to win the Big Ten title at Michigan
You all remember how sweet this was. There’s nothing for me to say about it. Just relive it with Don Fischer’s call.
3. Indiana beats Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament
Wins over Kentucky are always perfect. Wins over Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament? Well, it was the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. It was a fitting final victory for that 2015-2016 team that had over-achieved and accomplished so much.
2. Wat Shot
Indiana was back. Let Fish call it for you again.
1. It’s Indiana. It’s Indiana.
There are those that will think of Tom Crean’s tenure at Indiana and see nothing but failure or mediocrity. Those same people will take issue with this being the top moment on this list. And then there are those of us who remember just how far he brought the program from rock bottom.
The cupboards were bare and no one felt good about the program. The truth is, nine years ago, Indiana basketball was in a place so dark that the wrong hire could have been fatal, could have cast a once proud and storied program into perpetual irrelevance. And then at his opening press conference, Crean explained why he was willing to take on the daunting task of returning the program to prominence and why it had to be done.
Say what you will about the last four or five years, but in that moment, Indiana basketball got the caretaker that it sorely needed. Just over three years later, Indiana had found its way back into the light and back into relevance.