Its a wonderful time of year for sports fans. Americans love March Madness and I contend it’s the greatest sports weekend of the year. Grandmas. soccer fans, snobby academics, etc., all have brackets filled out. And two weeks from now the winner of your office pool will be enshrined as a genius. Only a genius would have predicted the Georgia State shot of the year, right? Right.
We can all agree with that. But here is something else with which we should agree in the true basketball capital of the world: it doesn’t take a genius to run a successful college basketball program. Around here, knowing how to coach the game isn’t genius, it’s culture. And Tom Crean isn’t from here.
This should be the last weekend (ever) that I rant about Indiana University’s need to get rid of Crean. Out in the real world, the talk has shifted from whether he should leave to a debate on how or when it should happen. But the most irritating question asked of me, and presumably all advocates of #FireTomCrean, is “who do you think we can get to replace him?” As you may have come to expect, the Contrarian’s answer to that is not exactly mainstream.
The answer is: almost anyone off a long list of capable young coaches most of whom we haven’t even heard of yet. It’s not whether IU can convince Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens to leave their current jobs to come to the home of five dusty banners that we should debate. We should decide WHAT we want in a coach and a program, let that list of criteria dictate the list of candidates, and pick the one that is the best bet to deliver those things. My pick will likely be someone remarkably un-famous.
The banter about Crean’s failings have regrettably been centered on his lack of success in March. Actually, that lack of success is the period on a sentence that describes my bigger complaints. The real problem with the last seven years is that The Program has not advanced the way it should have. Are we out from under the darkest of clouds that Kelvin Sampson left us? Yes. But the past year has shown on several occasions that IU has not been looking for a few good men. And Crean’s buyout stupidly protects him from the off court failings for which he should ultimately be held accountable.
College sports fans constantly talk about winning, and then throw in things like “and he graduates his players” and “his players are devoted to the lessons he taught them for life” as consolation pot sweeteners. These really aren’t bonus items, they are part of the foundation of the list of job requirements.
We don’t want John Calipari here, thank God.
My point is, college basketball coaches are not geniuses. Bobby Knight isn’t a genius. He was committed to the things we wanted him to be (before he became commit-able). Dean Smith wasn’t a genius. Mike Krzyzewski isn’t one either.
They all know how to coach the game. Make no mistake about it, coaching basketball is a learnable skill, not a mysterious art. In Indiana, people who can coach the game GROW ON TREES.
They were all also committed to the academic, social, and behavioral standards of their teams that they were at least seemingly unwilling to sacrifice for any one player or any one season.
They were teachers, mentors, leaders of young people and measured their successes in terms of the successes of their students.
Now, I only get to talk about these guys because they also won. Coach K still does. But I never would have taken out after Crean if he had been running The Program in a way that makes the alumni, me among them, proud. The kids at IU aren’t doing well right now, and in year seven of this experience, that should not be a problem.
I want a new coach that is under 40, committed to a comprehensive standard of excellence in his student athletes, who wants to teach young men how to be successful adults. Why under 40? Because I want a long term commitment out of him RIGHT NOW, in exchange for the golden opportunity we are giving him today. I don’t want to renegotiate his deal because Christian Watford hits one big three pointer.
Put $15 million in escrow, money that becomes part of his exit package that he can only receive portions of subject to winning national championships or conference championships. There is no buyout, there are only up front incentives that are non-negotiable, based on winning. Oh, and we can fire him from his $750,000 a year dream job any time he starts wavering from our standard of excellence thing. Much like we have seen in Bloomington this last year in particular.
Who would take this deal? For starters, any one of the FOUR successful coaches that have succeeded at Butler in the last twenty years. The list of qualified candidates is actually quite long but we have to do this job replacement project in a new, methodical way. And it’s really quite simple.
Keeping Crean too long isn’t the biggest mistake Fred Glass can make. The biggest mistake already happened when we signed the current deal.
We don’t have to be geniuses to find a replacement for him. Said replacement doesn’t have to be a genius either. We all just need to be committed to what is important, and stop being stupid.