I will always love you.
Is that a bold start to this? It probably is, but love is a confusing concept. Nobody really knows what it means, and some are more gracious to throw out the term than others. I’m young and naïve, so let me have this. I’ve been trying to think of the proper way to summarize this letter for a while, and well, I love you. Not in a weird way. Well this is probably weird, but you know what I mean.
With that said, we’ve never met. We’ve never met, yet I feel like I know way too much about you.
I feel that way, because over your time at Indiana University, you have never shied away from being different. While many lean towards the way of clichés and “coach speak”, you have always been open in your own unique way. Whether it was the way you intently look into the camera at times, or the way in which you address the media after games, you have always provided fans with emotion.
You have also always provided fans with moments.
I acknowledge that times are tough currently. I mean, you’re fired. That’s a pretty tough situation to be in. Times are tough now, and they have been tough in the past, but nothing can erase the special moments in which we have shared.
Tom, you’re representative of much more to this program than most people understand. No matter what happens, it’s near impossible to deny that you brought hope to a program in peril when fans needed it most. It’s hard to imagine that a simple man like yourself could lift up an entire rabid fan base, but you did that.
When you raised up that “Crean and Crimson” shirt at your opening press conference, it resembled Rafiki lifting Simba on the top of a cliff. It brought hope. So much hope that it resulted in you being mentioned in the greatest song to ever blast through a fraternity’s speakers.
The line “Follow Tom Crean, he gon’ take us back to greatness” has made me shed tears at least three times in my recently adult life, and I’m ok with that. I’m ok with that, because you meant something much greater than one can even describe, and I truly believe people will begin to understand that in the future.
Like an artist after he or she has passed, Tom, your dynamic abstract paintings will truly be appreciated after you’re gone.
10 or maybe 15 years down the line, people will say, “I still can’t believe that majestic pants shifting coach had John Calipari’s number.”
You’ve done a lot in your time here at Indiana University to make people utter reflective statements such as the one above, but I think what matters most to me is the way in which you went about those achievements.
Sports are about moments. No one subscribes to consistent mediocrity. People come to sports for the unachievable and unbelievable. The mere seconds of action or activity which brings you to your feet. Sports are played to create events that I will remember, events I will tell my kids about, and events that will distract me from the mundane nature of daily life. That’s the exact reason I’ll take 1 Super Bowl and 9 seasons without a playoff appearance over 10 playoff appearances. I’d rather the Super Bowl, because that’s a moment you will never be able to take away from me.
Over the past 9 years, Tom, you have created moments that can never be taken away. Moments that not only deserve recognition, but moments that warrant re-telling. Moments that I want to metaphorically shoot into my veins, so I can relive them in all of their euphoric glory. (God, that was an aggressive way to describe how I feel.) ((I really need to find a better word for “Moments.”)
First, there are the simple moments which signified the rebuilding of this program.
When looking at back at how you began sculpting the development of this program, it’s hard not to acknowledge the recruitment of Cody Zeller.
In order get back to greatness, Indiana had to once again become a comfortable home for in-state talent. With the 10th best prospect in the country sitting outside your window, and North Carolina knocking on his door, Cody Zeller was going to be the recruit that redefined the direction of Indiana basketball. After three straight seasons with less than 13 wins, Cody Zeller brought an unprecedented amount of hope to this fan-base. Hope that was warranted, as Cody quickly establishing himself as one of the Big Ten’s best players from his first season. His presence in the post helped the Hoosiers win a Big Ten regular season title and make two Sweet 16s.
Then there was the next biggest commitment under your watch.
Bringing in Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell signified the continued growth of the program, and furthered the idea that it was important to reign in top in-state talent.
Yogi would go on to create a historic career, and arguably become a school legend. His commitment, along with his development helped to establish Indiana once again, and it’s hard not to value that.
After the commitments, then came the on the court moments.
First, there was obviously the constantly over perpetuated “Wat Shot” in which no one will ever forget about. I say that in a somewhat snarky manner, because COME ON, CAN I GO TWO WEEKS WITHOUT SEEING THE WAT SHOT SOMEWHERE!
Either way, the moment was majestic, and it signified the return of Indiana basketball. I don’t need to describe it for you, because we all lived it. We lived it, and relive it all the time. I can still hear Dick Vitale asking “Are we safe? I’m nervous,” as it rings in my ear.
From there, you had the late comeback victory against Michigan in 2013 which won the Big Ten Title outright. The 2013 team was a special one that fans easily fell in love with. It was only appropriate that they pulled away with the Big Ten Title in the dramatic manner in which they did.
Then there’s last years team. Another team in which fans could easily fall in love thanks to not only the talent level, but the personalities.
On the court, memories were made with that team in various games. Whether it be the utilization of Harrison Niego to beat #4 Iowa at home, or it be Yogi Ferrell’s Big Ten Title clinching three on the road against the Hawkeyes, last year’s team created unifying memories for a fan-base. (Wow, I just used Iowa twice in order to prove a point. Never thought I’d do that.)
This even goes without mentioning beating Kentucky to get to the Sweet 16. Beating your biggest rival on its own is special, but they way in which O.G. Anunoby and Thomas Bryant broke out on the national stage spoke to your ability to develop talent.
Those are just some of the on-court achievements under your era, but I don’t want to harp on those for too long. Of course success is important, but it’s your extracurricular nature which compelled me to write this letter in the first place.
Tom, what has made you special over the years has been the way in which you care for your players.
No photo or video could provide us with better evidence for that understanding than the photo of you holding onto Thomas Bryant after losing to #1 North Carolina in the Sweet 16.
Like a regular civilian holding onto a lost puppy, or like MC Hammer holding onto the last of his assets, you showed us all how much you care for your players.
Then on the other end of the spectrum, there is the time in which you made a complete B-line to Devonte Green after defeating Rutgers earlier this season. You not only showed you care for your players well being, but also for their morals.
You chewed Green out for attempting an Alley-oop, like Joey Chestnut on July 4th and made sure everyone knew that Indiana basketball players will not show-boat.
(God, I need to chill with these similes. I hope you’re enjoying this Tom.)
Then there’s Yogi Ferrell’s senior night speech. The passion in your voice had me shivering.
Of course, there’s also the Iowa speech. The one where you made everyone proud to be a Hoosier.
Oh and who can forget the Kansas Win. With arguably the most dynamic picture of your time at Indiana, everyone showed their appreciation for you.
Over your time here at Indiana, Tom, you’ve shown a special amount of care to the men at this program, and they have shown it back to you in a way that every fan or alumni can appreciate.
With that said, I still haven’t talked about my favorite subcategory of moments that you have created.
The only way to really describe these moments would be by calling them moments of “Savagery.”
According to Urban Dictionary, a savage refers to someone that often displays ruthless and brilliant behavior, going beyond the normal scope of a given situation. A savage is willing to do or say anything without care for the consequences.
Over the years Tom, you have acted without much regard for what your peers think, and that has allowed us to see who you truly are. A beautiful, majestic, savage.
First, there’s time in which you shot John Calipari with a fake finger gun after defeating Kentucky. Now some may argue that the moment was just a result of good editing, but those individuals don’t get you. They don’t understand how you work. Obviously you knew how CBS would edit that event. That’s why you did that. You get memes. You understand millennials. No question about it.
Then there is the tongue out picture against Duke. Indiana may have lost that game, but the photo will forever be infamous.
Then there is your face of pure joy when speaking with Bill Raftery. A face that I can’t help but smile back at.
From there, you have the time in which you drew a charge against Mo Wagner, which was an incredibly ingenious way to show the team how to play defense.
Lastly, there’s the time you made Tim Miles remarkably mad without saying a single word.
Savagery. All of it. Organized chaos that I have grown to love and cherish.
So that’s all I really have to say Tom. You’ve made moments during your time here that nobody in their right mind should ever want to take back. Your time here at Indiana has been an interesting roller coaster, but I personally wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Over your time here, you have been a figure to hate for many. You have been a figure of hate, and you taken that hate like no one else. Just shifting your pants at every chance you get, and moving on.
A lot of the aggression towards you in the past has been sparked by expectations, and I’m not sure all of it was ever justified. With that said, I think it’s important to put that all aside for a second.
Tom, you haven taken the hate and pushed through it in your own quirky way.
Tom, you have done things your way and your way is fun. “You do you,” as the kids say.
Tom, you have made moments.
For that, I will always love you.