BOZICH | Can Indiana, Glass recruit a 5-star like Bennett or Donovan?
With the Tom Crean Era over, the recruiting pressure at Indiana shifts to athletic director Fred Glass in the Hoosiers' pursuit of a new coach.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Recruiting was one frustration that inspired Indiana University basketball fans to howl about Tom Crean.
They howled when too many kids that grew up in this state bypassed Indiana to play at Michigan State, Ohio State, Kentucky or Virginia. They howled more relentlessly after IU went 0-for-4 with Top 100 in-state players in the Class of 2017.
Yes, Crean signed Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and other Indiana guys during the nine-season run that ended with Crean’s firing Thursday. But in-state recruiting was one inconsistency that convinced IU athletic director Fred Glass that it was time to find the Next Great Indiana coach.
Tom Crean exits the coaching hot seat. Fred Glass occupies the AD hot seat.
Now it is Glass who must prove how well he can recruit.
Now Glass is the one who must show that the candy-stripe pants, five national championship banners and iconic Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall ignite as much love as all of Indiana’s bells and whistles did three decades ago.
Does that stuff still resonate in an AAU, one-and-done culture? You need a coach who knows how to navigate today’s upside-down, mysterious recruiting world.
Reasonable people can debate and disagree. Glass is convinced that the Indiana brand can sizzle again, that IU can overtake Michigan State and Wisconsin to return to the top of the Big Ten and become a consistent force in the NCAA Tournament.
Skeptics wonder. It’s been 15 seasons since IU’s last Final Four appearances, 30 since Keith Smart’s shot beat Syracuse for IU’s last NCAA title in New Orleans. Crean won a Big Ten regular-season title in 2013 and backed it up with another last season.
Not good enough, not without making the Final Four or winning the Big Ten Tournament.
Is Indiana still a five-star destination, a program that can generate more than three NCAA Sweet Sixteens, the highlight of Crean’s post-season resume since 2009?
Glass and IU basketball are about to find out – as he sorts through a list that I am convinced will begin with the following five names:
Tony Bennett, the two-time national coach of the year who won his NCAA Tournament first-round game at Virginia Thursday.
Steve Alford, the former IU all-American and Indiana Mr. Basketball whose UCLA team starts the NCAA Tournament as a three-seed.
Billy Donovan, the winner of two NCAA titles at Florida who is less than two full seasons into his attempt to win with the (Kevin Durant-less) Oklahoma City Thunder.
Archie Miller, who has guided Dayton to the NCAA Tournament four consecutive seasons, highlighted by making the 2014 Elite Eight.
Gregg Marshall, the always successful but sometimes cranky coach at Wichita State, who has never been in rush to leave the Missouri Valley Conference.
Can Glass recruit his pick from the Fab Five?
Is Indiana a job that will still make anybody who is anybody listen to the sales pitch Glass delivers?
On Thursday, Glass talked like a man who was convinced that he could close the sale. His eyes danced when I asked him if coaches had already expressed interest in the IU job.
The answer will be forthcoming in the next month.
Glass said something that I have been told by two other sources: Resources will not be an issue.
Indiana is primed to pay the salary that a Top 10 basketball job is expected to pay in today’s market. Crean earned more than $3.1 million, a number that ranked him eighth nationally in the USA Today coaching salary index in 2016. Money will not be the issue. The challenge of convincing somebody to take the challenge will be the issue.
Bennett reportedly earns about $1 million less at Virginia.
Bennett’s style of play fits Indiana like Martha the Mop lady. Bennett does not tolerate sloppiness with the basketball, an issue that persisted with Crean’s Indiana teams.
Bennett has always preached that defense is the most direct route to championships. His teams have ranked in the Top 10 in defensive efficiency, as calculated by Ken Pomeroy, for four consecutive seasons.
Bennett fits Indiana as well as anybody on the list. He’s a no-nonsense guy, strong in the areas of scouting and player development, obsessive about fundamentals and doing things the right way.
Make note of this: Virginia’s best freshman is Kyle Guy. A year ago Guy represented the state as Mr. Basketball, a kid who grew up in an Indiana basketball family whose chose to play for Virginia and Bennett.
Would Bennett come? Nobody knows. Would Bennett listen? Glass should find out.
It’s time to discover how well Fred Glass can recruit.
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