Izzo Backs Former Assistant Crean During Rebuilding Process


BY NEAL MALONE

After Indiana’s seventh straight Big Ten loss Wednesday night against Michigan St., Hoosier head coach Tom Crean was feeling like any other coach would feel in his situation…down.  However, even when Crean and his team are in the midst of the deepest of funks, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo had some kind words to say about his former assistant and the job he is doing in Bloomington.  Here is what Izzo said during his post-game press conference at Assembly Hall.

“I probably know Tom Crean better than anybody in this room and I was concerned about this game because I know what those guys probably did the last couple of days. From the warm-ups, I’ve never seen a team warm-up harder than they did.”

“I think this team has gotten condemned for effort, maybe by him, maybe by people. Yet I looked at it and I told my team that they’re going to come out and play harder. They’re going to rebound the ball and they outrebounded us by six. They played hard. They’re missing a player or two. I saw Maurice Creek at the end of the game and I asked him how he could do that to my buddy by getting hurt. He laughed and I kind of laughed. His team’s going to be better as they go because they’ve got some good pieces.

“I’ve gone through a couple of things since I’ve been in this league and I’ve watched at Michigan, I’ve watched at Minnesota, and now I’m watching at Indiana. When there are major catastrophic issues, whether it be academic or problems or whatever they are, it really decimates a program and it doesn’t just bounce back like that. I mean if you looked at this team and added Creek to it, that’s a big difference. You’re talking to a guy who lost Kalin Lucas for two games and I’m not saying that those other teams didn’t play well, but you look like a fish out of water and yet we have more depth than they do. When you lose a kid like Creek, who is their leading scorer, getting 16 or 17 a game, I just hope, because I’ve seen some mistakes made, that people understand that.

“I’ll say this and I’ve said it since the day he got the job, he’ll get it turned. Look me in the eye, he’ll get it turned. He’ll get it done and he’ll get it done sooner than most if you don’t have the injuries and all the things that happened, but this team will bounce back. He’ll build it for next year and that’s what he’s got to do. It doesn’t come overnight, just look at those other programs. Sometimes it lasts for a long, long time. He’ll get it built and done a lot faster.”

First of all, let me start by saying that Hoosier nation should read Izzo’s words carefully before they entertain the idea of crucifying the program.  Tom Izzo is one of the top 5 coaches in the country, in my opinion.  Not only is he a tremendous coach, he is a good person, a champion, and someone who can assess talent better than almost anyone.

So if you’re a part of the extremely-hard-to-please Indiana faithful, like I am, I would suggest taking at least a little stock in what Izzo has to say…I know I sure have.

With that being said, Izzo isn’t a clairvoyant or an oracle, so Crean is still going to have to show the same passion and work ethic as Indiana’s rebuilding process continues.  All I’m saying is that the time to panic is certainly not now.  Crean has a long road ahead, but he has help on the way in terms of recruits.  He has youth on his side, experienced youth at that.  You can scour the entire country and you won’t find as many freshman and sophomores with the same level of experience as Indiana.  Like Izzo said the pieces are in place, it’s just going to require more patience, which I know is tough for a fan base that boasts five national titles.

Now, I know that Tom Crean isn’t looking for sympathy.  He’s too driven and intense to accept consolation.  But it had to feel a little reassuring for him to hear his mentor at MSU, Tom Izzo, give him a vote of confidence.  Let’s hope Izzo’s words can offer any extra inspiration that may still be available for a team that has gone through a lot the last few seasons.

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