SEC Basketball

There May or May Not be Mutual Interest Between Tom Crean and Missouri

Hopes, dreams, rumors and FlightAware. Those are things that the minds of Missouri basketball fans are absorbing. Athletics director Jim Sterk made it official last week when he made the announcement that Kim Anderson will no longer be the coach of the basketball team. Did he resign? Was he fired? Does it matter? What does matter is that Missouri is moving on from former athletics director Mike Alden’s failed experiment of hiring a coach who was in over his head from day one.

Relieving Anderson of his position was the easy part. Now comes the hard part for Sterk. Hiring the coach who will likely establish his legacy at Missouri.

[Merenbloom: Jim Sterk’s Missouri Tiger Legacy will Ride on Kim Anderson’s Replacement]

The Missouri fans have their early frontrunner based on hopes, dreams, rumors, and a touch of FlightAware. That frontrunner is current Indiana Hoosier coach Tom Crean.

If you don’t consider the guys at the Mizzodcast to be credible sources, how about Dave Matter? Matter writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and confirmed, via sources, that there is mutual interest between Crean and Missouri.

Crean seems to be the hot name attached to the Missouri job at the moment, so let’s dig into what the possibility of his leaving Indiana for Missouri would mean for the Tiger program.

The Good

He wins. And wins are what Missouri basketball is in desperate need of. Crean has won two Big Ten championships at Indiana to go along with three Sweet Sixteen appearances. His detractors from Missouri will tell you that his first three seasons at Indiana resembled Kim Anderson’s three seasons at Missouri. On the surface those people would be correct, but there is more to the story.

Crean inherited a program that had been placed on three years of NCAA probation. Kim Anderson was dealt the same situation when he arrived at Missouri, but, unlike the former Tiger coach, Crean’s Hoosiers showed glimmers of hope as they went 28-66 in the first three years with Crean.

In his second season at Indiana, the Hoosiers beat a Pittsburgh team that would finish the season with a record of 25-9. And in his third season, Crean’s Hoosiers beat a Michigan team that would finish the season 21-14 along with victories over ranked Illinois and Minnesota teams. So don’t be fooled by Crean’s rough first three seasons at Indiana. His teams at least showed glimmers of hope and that is a testament to his ability to coach.

It was in his fourth season that those glimmers of hope turned into consistent results. Crean’s 2011-12 team went 27-9, finished 5th in the Big Ten and made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. The reason for his success in his fourth season is the foundation for supporting Missouri’s interest in hiring Crean.

As his early Indiana teams were struggling to win, Crean was still able to sell his program to recruits. Players such as Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, and Jordan Hulls had no reason to commit to a program that won 28 games in a three-year period. But they did thanks to Crean’s ability to recruit. And, coincidently, Zeller’s uncle is Missouri basketball legend Al Eberhard and Zeller still turned down a winning Missouri program in favor of Crean’s sales pitch.

The Bad

Crean slowly developed a reputation for having issues with player control. His roster at Indiana has had problems with both drugs and alcohol. If that wasn’t enough, his handling of those incidents was considered to be lenient. Those events compounded upon themselves to the point that some believe that there was and possibly still is a disconnect between Crean and his players.

He has also shown behavior that is indicative of being a hot-head. In 2013, Indiana beat Michigan 72-71. While edging out that close win, Crean got into an argument with Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer. Meyer had been on Kelvin Sampson’s Indiana coaching staff. Crean yelled at Meyer, “You know what you did. You helped wreck our program.” Crean did learn from this incident as he had a different reaction when recently confronted by a Maryland fan.

Of all of the criticism that can be placed on Crean, the idea that he throws his players under the bus is possibly the most damning. When any coach does this, it gives the impression that the coach isn’t willing to take responsibility for the sub-par product that he is presenting to the fans. Whether or not it is a fair criticism of a coach is irrelevant. It’s a criticism that is there and it is one that Crean will likely need to address in any interview setting.

The Bottom Line

Crean has had his ups and downs at Indiana. This is true of just about every coach. Indiana fans and the local Indiana media seem to have grown tired of Crean’s style. Every coach has a shelf life and Crean may be at the end of his at Indiana.

I believe that Missouri basketball would be rejuvenated with the potential hiring of Crean. Truth be told, Missouri basketball would be rejuvenated with just about any coach that is hired to replace Anderson. But Crean may be different.

Crean has experience taking on a program that is down on its luck and turning it back into a winner. Whether or not Crean’s teams treated the Indiana fans to enough wins is up for debate, but Missouri fans would be ecstatic with the kind of success that Crean has had at Indiana.

Is Crean available? Only he knows at this point. Would he have any interest in the Missouri job? He says “no” but what is he supposed to say at this point?

I, for one, would be excited to see Crean coaching at Missouri. As a Missouri fan, I’ve witnessed worse.

E-mail Seth at seth [dot] merenbloom [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia

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Seth is the Managing Editor of Campus Pressbox.