Hoosier Watch: Crean Chokes Again, Alford to Indiana Heating Up?

Doesn't Steve Alford look much more natural in red and white? Indiana, this is your next coach. - USA TODAY Sports

With Tom Crean's Indiana program starting to fall apart in the home stretch of the regular season, pressure is beginning to mount in Bloomington and speculation that Indiana could make a change at head coach is growing. One likely candidate? UCLA's head coach and former Indiana point guard Steve Alford.

Things aren't looking too rosy over in Bloomington, Indiana, as the Land of Bobby Knight is struggling through another disappointing loss by Tom Crean's Hoosier team, this time falling to hated in-state rival Purdue (who sucks BTW) by the score of 82-64. Ouch.

Of course, the Purdue shellacking comes in the same week as a major blow by way of a 66-65 loss to a decidedly mediocre Penn State (12-12 at the time) program, where Crean's Hoosiers just flat-out choked in the second-half.  On their own home floor.  Or as our friends at The Crimson Quarry describe it:

This team is just bad. No one of getting past it. It's not just one or two players either. It's the whole squad. Loads of talent, and seemingly no idea what they're doing. I guess that's what I'll put on Crean. He built this roster and ultimately he's responsible for it. It's devoid of shooters and any decent team can easily defend it. But that's not even a total excuse. You see the first 20 minutes of pretty much every game looking like a completely different team. But when a coach gets the opportunity to adjust at halftime this squad is lost. You mean they aren't just going to let me waltz to the rim all night? Now what? Guess I'll just toss it to this general vicinity and hope my teammate makes a play. Garbage. Mentally garbage.

It's embarrassing. This should be a borderline top 25 squad. Instead we're sitting in last place in the conference. My faith has wavered. It's hard to have faith in a team that has no faith in themselves. Tom Crean supposed to be one of the best at that. Guess I'm going to need a speech, Coach. Cause I'm over it.

Hmm.  That kind of talk should sound familiar to UCLA hoops fans.  You could remove "Tom Crean" and insert "Ben Howland" and you'd get a pretty good descriptor of how things started to look in the last final, death march of the Ben Howland era at UCLA.  Oh, and BTW, in case you forgot, Indiana is actually in the middle of a three-game losing streak now, having lost the game before Penn State to an average-at-best Minnesota team, 66-60. With the season sliding out of control, Crean sounds like a man grasping at straws, trying to keep the season from snowballing into oblivion.

So yeah, it's not going too well for ol' Tom Crean in Hoosierville.  Not only are the Hoosiers not winning on the court, but they're coming unglued off the court as well: back-up big man Hanner Mosquera-Perea finds himself in legal hot water following an arrest for driving under the influence (and not just slightly over the legal limit, nearly double it, coming in at 0.15%).  It's really kind of amazing the parallels between Crean and Howland - and geez, at least Howland had that sweet run of three Final Fours on his resume.  Crean?  Well, he has that one back in 2003 with Marquette, but that's it.  I suspect Hoosier fans aren't going to be satisfied with a pair of Sweet Sixteen appearances.  I mean, it's so bad that our colleagues at The Crimson Quarry are running with lead posts such as "Everything Sucks" which as you can imagine is not a ringing endorsement of how Crean is running the program:

Because over in basketball-land, we just plummeted through whatever you defined as rock bottom.

...

That's the last jab I'll take at [Purdue], because our basketball team is slightly worse than theirs and now IU probably won't have as good of a seed in the NIT. Or the CBI. Or the Big Ten Tournament. Not sure we end up qualifying for any of those, AT THIS RATE.

It's to the point that even the most staunch Tom Crean defenders are starting to see justification for the criticism and the calls for his firing (emphasis added):

Last night, I sat staring at the TV actually physically shaking from just sheer anger at what had just transpired. Partially because that should happen to no team ever, but also because of the over arching implications. Tom Crean may not be the guy for the job.

I've always been a big defender of Tom Crean. I personally still think he's a great person for the job. Are there better options out there? Probably. But there are very few guys out there who are better ambassadors for this university. The guy goes above and beyond what is necessary for his role and you have to appreciate that. That being said, this year has not at all come with the results that you would expect from this roster.

...

BUT, if you want to say no way, you're crazy. He's in over his head. I'm not sure I have the evidence to argue with you. I can say watch at this moment in this game and you'll see it. But like Peyton Manning, I can't really defend the results. They just aren't coming about like they should. Peyton's team flaming out in the playoffs weren't entirely his fault. In fact there were times where he played brilliantly and still lost. I'm not saying Crean is the best ever, but there are certainly times where he's doing all the right things and losing.

He's good, he's capable, he's not getting the results expected of him. To me, that's Tom Crean and Peyton Manning in a nutshell. I'd ask for patience with youth and just wait he'll show you, but I can't really push back if you tell me no. I get it. I see where a lot of people are coming from. I guess I'm just at a point where I have to look at Crean and hope that he gets his vindication.

Replace Tom Crean with Ben Howland.  That could pretty much be a post from BN two years ago. Crean is holding on by "hope" and the patience of some Indiana fans.  When you look at Crean, in many ways he is the Ben Howland for Indiana basketball.  Like Howland, Crean came to a storied program that had been put in the absolute toilet by the prior regime and he restored them to respectability, a conference title, and a pair of Sweet Sixteen runs.  Sure, it isn't as big or great of a rebuilding job that Howland did: the man got a lot of heat, deservedly so, but at the end of the day, he did pull the Bruins out of the deep hole that Steve Lavin left us in and returned the program to national prominence, which hit the high water mark of those sweet Final Four runs.

Here's my advice Indiana fans: cut your ties with Crean now.  Don't hold on, hoping he'll find a way to turn it around, that he'll find some way to arrest the sliding momentum and get Indiana back to the promised land you're all hoping for.  That's what happened with us: people held on to those great Final Four runs for too long, gave Howland too much slack for too long, and it took us into a backslide that was just pathetic.  Not to the level of Steve Lavin incompetence, but it was sad to see at the end.

So, I'm telling you Indiana fans: it's time to let Crean go.  There's a ready made replacement for him.  His name is Steve Alford.

No, seriously.  Alford is your guy.  Yes, he's been known to bail on a program (or two), but he's one of your own: he's a Hoosier legend who led you guys to a national championship.  He's a disciple of the greatest coach in your program's history, and you have to believe that getting to coach the Hoosiers, his own alma mater, is the kind of dream job that would lure him to Bloomington and keep him there.  Sure, it didn't work out for guys like Rick Neuheisel at UCLA, but that's apples and oranges, Hoosier fans.  Plus, fans in Iowa hate him, and the enemy of your enemy is your friend, am I right?

Let's talk the numbers. Maybe Steve Alford won't be the next coming of Bobby Knight, but look at how well things turned out in Durham, North Carolina when a former Bobby Knight point guard took over a program.  You probably won't enjoy Duke level success, but Alford will certainly be a massive improvement over Crean.  No, seriously.  Alford's record currently stands (at the time of this writing) at 481-240 (.667), while Crean is at 288-190 (.605).  Yes, you see that correctly: Steve Alford has a higher winning percentage that Tom Crean. In fact, Crean is trending downward - at Marquette, his winning percentage was .664, while at Indiana, it's a paltry .510.  Alford, on the other hand, is trending upward following his mediocre tenure at Iowa (.589, which is still better than Crean at Indiana).  Your boy Stevie A. put up a .749 winning percentage at New Mexico and is currently running a .800 form at UCLA.  I'm just saying.

Numbers don't lie: Alford is a huge improvement over Crean. And you have the bonus of bringing home the prodigal son, the former national championship winning point guard from your golden era under Coach Knight.  It's the move that makes sense.  Don't be scared to take it.  We're UCLA: we'll find another coach, although Chianti Dan will probably f**k up the search process and throw millions of dollars in a secured contract to a NBA wash-out like Kurt Rambis, but we'll cope with it.  For now, you guys should start finding a way to put together the cash to show Crean the door and bring in Alford.

It makes perfect sense.  I'm telling you.

GO BRUINS

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