IU coach Tom Crean (left) added Chuck Martin to his staff Monday.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Chuck Martin did not need an extra nudge to accept the assistant basketball coaching position at Indiana. But John Calipari provided one anyway.
Cal doesn’t want to bring his Kentucky team to play in Assembly Hall any more. But Calipari strongly encouraged one of his former assistants to take the spot on Tom Crean’s IU staff.
“I spoke to Cal briefly,” Martin said. “He just reached out to me and said, ‘Coach Crean called me. We had a conversation about you. Would you have any interest?’
“I said, ‘What are your thoughts?’
“He said, ‘If you want to get back in college coaching, it’s a special place.’ Honestly what he said was, ‘He can coach. Tom Crean can coach. Indiana’s a special place. If you want to get back into college coaching, this is a no-brainer for you. You need to take the job, if you can get it.’
“It was a simple, short, conversation.”
Recruiting accelerates on July 9 when college coaches will start flooding AAU tournaments and camps. Indiana needs frontcourt help in its 2015 class. Martin has been at IU for several weeks, but he was officially announced as the replacement for Kenny Johnson, now an assistant coach at Louisville, on Monday.
Crean said that IU also asked Calbert Cheaney if he was interested in returning to Bloomington, but Cheaney said he wanted to stay at Saint Louis. One other candidate was considered.
“I talked to (Cal) or exchanged messages with all the people he worked for,” Crean said.
“He's worked with some outstanding coaches. The common theme for the programs that he's been with different people, different personalities that were the people that he worked with at St. John's, UMass, Drexel and at Memphis, but all very good teachers that said the same about him.
“To me, one thing that when I've done this, I've made my best moves is put him on the floor to see how he was. We had him work out some of the managers, some of the graduate managers, and not only was I observing what he was doing and picking it up, but I was taking notes. When you get that, you just feel really good.”
Martin arrives at Indiana after one season scouting with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Prior to that, he worked four seasons as the head coach at Marist. Martin struggled there. Five seasons – all losing seasons. His teams won 41 of 158 games.
The Calipari connection preceded that. It was only two seasons in Memphis. He also worked for Norm Roberts at St. John’s as well as Bruiser Flint at Drexel.
Crean has not had much turnover on his staff. Tim Buckley has been with Crean since Day One. Steve McClain is starting his fifth season. Martin replaces Johnson, who worked at IU for two seasons.
Crean’s staff now has one credential that not many staffs can match – all three assistants have been head coaches. Buckley at Ball State, McClain at Wyoming and Martin at Marist.
Crean said that he likes the way that Martin works with players on the court. But assistants have to recruit. I asked Martin if his strength was chasing the top prospects – or finding guys who are off the radar.
“I'm going to sit down with Coach Crean,” Martin said. “We've talked about recruiting a little bit. I'm going to follow his lead. Clearly for me I would like to get involved with the better players in the country, but that doesn't always work.
“It's about getting the right fit. I learned that with the Thunder. We've had guys who were very critical of the Thunder last year when we took Steven Adams from the University of Pittsburgh who averaged four points and three rebounds. He helped us win 15 games this year and get close to 60 wins and get to the Western Conference Finals.
“It's not always about how highly they're rated, it's about what is their talent? Can we use their talent? Does it fit with the scheme that we're trying to execute here in Indiana?”