Hardly anyone remembers that Crying Jordan is from His Airness’s Hall of Fame speech. Hardly anyone knows why Kermit the Frog is sipping the tea. Or why Grumpy Cat is so dang grumpy.
And like all good memes, I don’t remember the context of Creanface. I forget what game Tom Crean’s confused, bewildered face is from, or whether it was before or after the game, or why he was being interviewed in the first place. Doesn’t matter though. When you google Tom Crean, it’s the first photo to show up:
This is how I’ll remember Tom Crean: as the internet’s favorite, most memeable, and most argued about college basketball coach.
Online, there was a Tom Crean for everyone. Here’s Crean in Maui, as everyone’s dad who’s trying to be cool and fit in while getting a sweet tan:
Here’s Tom looking smug after a big conference win last season:
And how could we forget, here he is adjusting his pants right in front of a Purdue player:
(My favorite part of that one, of course, is that Boiler fans have tweeted this gif several million times, despite Indiana almost having twice as many points as them on the scoreboard.)
Tom Crean, naturally, became more than a basketball coach: he became a sports Twitter phenomenon. The hair part, the facial expressions, the incessant clapping, the Diet Coke obsession - all of this prompted Spencer Hall to write an entire piece in February 2015 about how strangely fascinating Crean was. Unlike his brother-in-law Jim Harbaugh, who seemingly goes out of his way to Make News or say something provocative to get the internet to notice him, Tom Crean could gain the attention of internet users just by being Tom Crean.
Even Crean’s social media habits were highly scrutinized and turned into memes of their own. I’m sure you remember “I’ve been thinking about you a lot. A whole lot.” It was supposed to be a DM to a recruit but ended up being a public tweet. The internet will never forget it, even if the tweet happened the week after the Aurora movie theater shootings, where this recruit lived. Of course, that recruit was De’Ron Davis, who eventually stuck with Crean and came to Indiana.
Tom Crean was perfect for the internet too, because seemingly everybody had an opinion about him. No one was ever neutral on Tom Crean. Every IU game became a Twitter referendum on Crean’s coaching abilities or shortcomings. Even the constant complaints about Crean turned into a meme in itself.
Fire Tom Creams— NCAA Michael Caine (@trillballins) December 29, 2016
No college basketball coach has been heavily memed or debated online in the way that Tom Crean has over the past 9 years. And with the growth of the internet since 2008, everyone can be a critic and voice their opinion online for the world to see with the push of a button. Ultimately, Crean’s internet presence - both unofficial and official - helped to modernize Indiana basketball. This is a program that has often been accused of living in the past, and worshiping banners won before many of its fans and all of its students were born. But with Crean, IU basketball always became a point of discussion on social media, for better or worse.
I’ll remember Crean’s teams on the court as a roller coaster ride. When I was at IU between 2012-14 for grad school, I experienced incredible highs and lows for the program at Assembly Hall. I’ll never forget the UNC or Michigan home games, but I also won’t forget how mad I was after watching IU blow a huge lead at home to Penn State in the final minutes of a game in 2014. These ups and downs continued after I graduated and all the way up until last week, when it was finally time to get off the roller coaster following a heartless effort in an NIT loss that should have never been on the road to begin with.
But one thing that was constant was Crean’s online presence. Win or lose, you could count on some good Crean content during every game - whether it was about what Crean looked like, or how he didn’t call timeout yet again, or what was that lineup he just put out there? With Crean, there was always something to talk about during IU games.
So thank you, Tom Crean, for all the content you provided to all of us over the years. IU basketball won’t be nearly as memeable in the future. Best of luck in your future adventures, wherever they take you.