The year is 2017.
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway walk onstage at the Oscars with the wrong envelope for Best Picture, Taylor Swift is back in force, Kendall Jenner stars in a uniquely tone deaf Pepsi ad and a total solar eclipse shrouds the entire nation in darkness for a few brief moments.
Not to be upstaged, Indiana’s men’s basketball program decides to do the same, firing head coach Tom Crean after nine seasons.
When Crean arrived in Bloomington he found a program with a single scholarship player on its roster and NCAA sanctions on the horizon. This didn’t deter Crean, who proudly proclaimed his faith in the program in his opening press conference.
”It’s Indiana. It’s Indiana, and that is the bottom line.”
Crean led the Hoosiers to two Big Ten regular season championships, three Sweet Sixteen appearances, a No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll and a No. 1-seed in the NCAA tournament. He turned 3-star prospects into NBA starters and sent AP top 10 teams tumbling down the rankings.
Well, that weirdness eventually landed him on the wrong side of some high school coaching circles around the state and then, by extension, the powers that be at Indiana Athletics. His firing came after a season that ended in an NCAA Tournament appearance but also, as you probably know, a year removed from a Big Ten regular season title.
So, how did Indiana respond? How do you follow up the third winningest coach in school history, known mostly for his offense? Apparently by going as far in the other direction as you can.
Archie Miller was a name hot on the coaching market after leading the defense-minded Dayton Flyers to an Elite Eight in 2014. Miller, whose given name is Ryan, got the nickname “Archie” from his personality bearing resemblance to that of Archie Bunker, an All in the Family character known for being grouchy and generally unpleasant (this truly, should have been the first warning sign).
While Crean was known for his boisterous, over-the-top personality, there simply wasn’t all that much to Miller. He’d scowl and yell during games, give out flat quotes and chew gum, but that was just about it.
Crean’s teams, despite not always succeeding, were at the very least fun to watch. It was good basketball, win or lose. Miller, on the other hand, brought a hardline, man-to-man defensive style to Indiana that was neither entertaining nor successful on a consistent basis.
Partially as a result of this, Miller didn’t send too many Hoosiers to the NBA. Romeo Langford is the exception, but he was a sure first round pick before even setting foot in Bloomington.
All of these factors combined to form an Indiana program that simply felt like it’d been left behind in a modern college basketball landscape. There was little, if any, 3-point shooting, players with NBA dreams were better off elsewhere and the Hoosiers reached approximately zero NCAA Tournaments.
Miller, in turn, was fired following the 2020-21 men’s basketball season.
So, what was Crean up to during all of this?
Well, he took that first year off from coaching. He did a bit of television in the first few months after his firing before ultimately joining ESPN as a college basketball analyst. But he couldn’t stay away from coaching too long, being hired as the new head men’s basketball coach at Georgia in 2018.
Georgia has never been a vaunted program in the men’s college basketball landscape. Crean, as a coach, as more Sweet Sixteen appearances than the Bulldogs have in program history.
Though he lured top-10 recruit and future No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards to Athens and managed another win against John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, Crean wasn’t able to bring success to Georgia. He was fired this March.
Five years after his firing, Crean’s successor has found a new job at Rhode Island after taking his own year off from coaching. Crean, meanwhile, is tweeting about hanging out with friends, Mr. Clean and even congratulating women’s basketball head coach Teri Moren.
All the best to @TeriMoren and @IndianaWBB today in their historic( but well earned) 1st @MarchMadnessWBB games at home. I’ve been fortunate to have some great coaching teammates and Teri is one of the best. We are pulling for them.— Tom Crean (@TomCrean) March 19, 2022
So, what now?
Crean still knows ball, so he could definitely return to the world of television as an analyst. That bombastic personality could serve him well behind a camera, but is that what he truly wants?
It’s obvious that coaching is what Crean truly loves, evidenced in walking up to Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler after a loss to talk about his game and give a few tips.
This year’s coaching market has mostly dried up unless Crean is okay with being an assistant. And, after so many years as a head coach, I really wouldn’t expect him to.
Crean’s likely move here is to take another year or so off, assess what happened at Georgia and decide on the best way to move forward.
I absolutely believe Crean will return to the sidelines eventually. Where that happens to be is just about anyone’s guess.