Tom Crean spoke publicly on Tuesday for the first time since being fired as Indiana’s head basketball coach last week.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, Crean opened up about his dismissal as well as his plans for the future.
In typical Crean fashion, he took the high road. Unlike his brothers-in-law Jim and John Harbaugh, Crean chose not to be critical of Indiana University and its administration. Instead, he remembered the good times and looked toward the future — not back at the past.
“I love Indiana,” Crean told SI. “I loved it here. That’s not going to change. You can’t go loving something every day for nine years and then suddenly hate it. I wanted to win a national championship here as bad as any fan, former player or student could have ever possibly imagined.
“I hope Indiana wins that national championship. And another one. I really do.”
It’s hard to imagine how you would handle a situation until you actually face it, and as far as I can tell, Crean has handled this one with a great amount of class and grace. He took several days to process what had happened before he spoke out publicly. And when he did speak, Crean chose not to bash the school, the athletic director, or the rest of the administration.
Crean opted not to speak to or meet with athletic director Fred Glass — and that’s his right. Crean and Glass never had a great relationship, especially over these last several years. Why go meet with someone you don’t particularly like when you already know the bad news he has to tell you?
Here are a couple parts of the SI piece that I found particularly interesting:
1. Crean Wants to Coach Next Season
If it were up to him, Crean would have another coaching job and be on the sideline next season. But it would also have to be the right job that offers the right fit for him and his family. According to Thamel — Crean “made it clear he’d study all the opportunities carefully”.
“The only thing worse than having this happen is to go somewhere we’re not aligned properly,” Crean told SI of the program and administration. “A good job, a great job, those all come down to the alignment. Resources are important. Facilities are important. Tradition is important. Fan bases are important. Where can you recruit is important. But alignment is key. That, for me, is what you’re looking for.”
Will he coach next season? Would LSU be a good fit? The school has reportedly reached out to Crean’s agent to express interest in hiring him.
2. Chris Collins Reaches Out to Riley Crean
This, to me, was the most touching part of Thamel’s piece. Crean’s son, Riley, graduates from high school this year and is committed to play baseball at Indiana. That, of course, is highly unlikely to happen now, even though the baseball coaching staff called Riley from Hawaii over the weekend to “reiterate they want him to be there”, according to the SI piece.
The touching part comes from Northwestern coach Chris Collins, who has always seemed like a stand-up guy but is now one of my favorites for what he did. Collins, who took Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament this season, sent Riley a text after it was announced that Indiana had fired Crean.
Collins shared with Riley what the experience was like for him when his father, Doug Collins, was fired by the Chicago Bulls in 1989. Chris, like Riley, was in high school at the time of his father’s dismissal.
“Going through that helped prepare me and make me the man I am now and the position that I am in now,” Collins’ text read, according to Crean.
So often, the effect these types of situations have on the families of the coaches involved is completely forgotten. When I take a minute and try to put myself in Riley’s shoes, I realize just how powerful and meaningful that text message from Collins must have been.
In truth, I have no idea what it’s like to be the son of a public figure like Crean. I won’t pretend to know what it’s like. But just think about it from Riley’s perspective. You grew up in Bloomington. You’re planning to attend Indiana and play baseball. And now, you must adjust on the fly, just like the rest of the Crean family.
Luckily for Riley, he’s part of a great family that is all in this together. He won’t have to deal with the sudden shift alone. But still, I think Collins reaching out to Riley in that way is really awesome.