BOZICH | For Indiana basketball, the spotlight twists from Tom Crean to Fred Glass
Athletic director Fred Glass has made many major decisions at Indiana University but none have been as critical as the one Glass must make about the basketball program.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Fred Glass made the decision to spend $45 million to renovate Assembly Hall rather than build a new basketball arena.
Glass has pushed two football construction projects at Memorial Stadium as well as new baseball and softball facilities on the Bloomington campus.
He’s hired a football coach – and then fired Kevin Wilson. He’s hired a women’s basketball coach – and then fired Curt Miller.
Major investments and decisions, all of them. Inactivity has not been an issue for Glass. He’s a doer.
But for the athletics director at Indiana University, those decisions are footnotes for the one that sits on Glass’s desk today:
How to proceed with the Indiana basketball program?
Continued silence is not an option. Neither is indecision. Nor timidity.
Glass must make a call on the marriage between IU basketball and Tom Crean.
Either A) add another season or two to the three years remaining on Crean’s contract or B) wish Crean the best at his next coaching opportunity, after thanking him for navigating Indiana back from the Kelvin Sampson NCAA probation. (That choice comes with a $4 million buyout and coaching search.)
There is no C), D) or E).
Doing nothing results in fiascos like the one that percolated around Indiana basketball this week.
At Indiana, an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament is as tasty as a bite of last month’s fish sandwich. Indiana found a way to make the NIT taste even worse by accepting the invitation but declining to play the game at Assembly Hall.
The reason was not ongoing renovations at Assembly Hall, a factor that was mistakenly reported Sunday night.
I also don’t believe it was the reason Glass gave Monday – that Bloomington is an empty place lacking energy with students on spring break.
I don’t believe it because if you check the schedule at Assembly Hall Thursday you’ll find the IU women’s team will host an NIT game with Ball State. Oops.
Fear drove Indiana to surrender a home game – and it wasn’t fear of empty seats.
It was fear that fans would sound their growing unhappiness about a program that missed the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four seasons.
Georgia Tech and coach Josh Pastner showed Indiana how to do it – and not just by defeating the sagging Hoosiers by a dozen points Tuesday. In his first season in Atlanta, Pastner invested the bonus he earned for being voted ACC Coach of the Year by purchasing $15 tickets for every Georgia Tech student who attended Tech’s 75-63 victory.
Indiana ran – all the way to Atlanta, where the Hoosiers’ 18-16 season ended, in front of 5,533 Tech fans. Fear is no way to run a basketball program.
What’s next for Crean?
Recruiting is what he told me Wednesday.
Crean can hustle, scramble and network with the best. He’s brought McDonald’s all-Americans like Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell and Thomas Bryant to Bloomington. He developed Victor Oladipo and OG Anunoby, guys the recruiting gurus overlooked. He’s never dodged making the extra road trip or phone call.
Recruiting is challenging work that becomes impossible work when the background noise is dominated by non-stop discussion of a coach’s contract and uncertain future.
Crean’s contract has three seasons remaining. His buyout slides to $1 million July 1. The word is that he requested an extension last season, after Indiana won the Big Ten regular-season title and two games in the NCAA Tournament, including a second-round game against Kentucky.
There was no extension.
Now, with Indiana becoming the first team to beat a pair of One Seeds (Kansas and North Carolina) and then miss the NCAA Tournament, there is mostly turmoil and anger surrounding a program that is 15 seasons past its last Final Four appearance, three decades since its last national title.
No promise of change. No thought of an extension. Plenty of questions about what Glass will do. He watched Crean bring the program back from extreme turbulence last season. But March 2017 seems different from December 2015.
Some wonder if Glass is waiting for Crean to jump to another job, saving the budget from the buyout and the athletic director the task of a dismissal.
Several jobs are open. None carry the cachet of the Indiana job. Crean was mentioned as a prime candidate for Missouri but that job was filled by Cuonzo Martin of California Wednesday.
Now Glass can continue to wait and watch. Perhaps Louisiana State, North Carolina State, California or Washington will consider Crean.
Or he can make the decision that will define Glass’s tenure as the Indiana athletic director: A) Extend Crean or B) Replace Crean.
There is no C), D) or E). Silence and indecision are not options.
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