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Even after the firing and the vitriol, Tom Crean still loves Indiana

Crean spilled the beans on his firing, how he’s feeling, what’s next, and more to SI’s Pete Thamel.

Michigan State v Indiana Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It’s been near radio silence from Tom Crean since his firing for failing to win enough in Bloomington last Thursday. But, finally, Crean and his family have broken his silence to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel. And, frankly, it’s an emotional read if you’re an Indiana fan.

The piece is a must read over on Sports Illustrated, but we’ll hit some of the highlights here. First, it’s apparent that Crean’s love for Indiana won’t be stopping any time soon.

Crean showed no outward signs of self-pity on Monday. The most emotion showed may have come from a hug from his cleaning lady. For nearly three hours, he leaned forward on his couch and enthusiastically answered questions about the future. He displayed such energy that at one point his wife, Joani, observed that he must have gone to Starbucks that morning. He had. “I love Indiana,” he said. “I loved it here. That’s not going to change. You can’t go loving something every day for nine years and then suddenly hate it.”

He added later: “I hope Indiana wins that national championship. And another one. I really do.”

Frankly, if I’d received the unending vitriol Crean and his family have received -- reports of his son being ridiculed at high school events, professors cracking jokes in his daughter’s presence -- I’d be throwing double-birds up on my way out.

But Crean also talks about things he would’ve done differently, perhaps alluding to do more to “connect” with Indiana fans that didn’t always — perhaps never did — embrace him.

Crean admits that in hindsight there’s plenty he’d have done differently, as he pointed out how the lack of graduate transfers on the market slowed his rebuilding process. Crean said he’d have made different recruiting and staffing decisions and also would have done small things like give free coaches clinics as soon as he’d arrived. But in terms of regrets, he said he has none: “Not at all. I wanted to win a national championship here as bad as any fan, former player or student could have ever possibly imagined.”

But throughout the piece, Crean kept seeming to come back to his own family. His daughter, Megan, will graduate from Indiana next month. Riley, a hard-throwing senior pitcher at Bloomington North, has been committed since last year to play for Chris Lemonis’ baseball Hoosiers. The eldest Crean says Lemonis and staff have reached out to Riley since Tom’s firing.

Moving on comes with complications. His daughter, Megan, graduates from Indiana this spring. Riley is committed to play baseball there, and Crean said he appreciated the Indiana baseball coaches texting Riley on Thursday and calling him over the weekend from Hawaii. “They’ve reiterated that they want him to be there,” Crean said. (He also mentioned that Northwestern coach Chris Collins sent Riley a powerful text about his dad, former NBA coach Doug Collins, getting fired by the Bulls in 1989 while Chris Collins was in high school. “Going through that helped prepare him and make him the man he is now and the position that he is in now,” Crean said the text read. “That. Is. Strong.”)

After all the years of Twitter vitriol and campaigning for him to leave, Tom Crean is gone. It’s hard to wonder, after reading this, if Indiana made the right decision. It’ll be weird to watch basketball in Bloomington without him.