“There’s no blueprint for this.”
Those were the words of Indiana University head basketball coach, Tom Crean, as said to the Chicago Tribune a few weeks ago after losing to the University of Michigan by six points in overtime. What the coach was referring to was starting a team from scratch. If IU’s basketball team were a professional one it’d be an expansion team. The team includes eight scholarship players, five of those being freshman, and six walk-ons.
Now I must admit I am not the biggest basketball fan, and I can count how many times I have been to an IU basketball game on one hand, but I do know one thing: Coach Crean's squad plays their hearts out! I went to their game against the Minnesota Gophers with my dad and we sat right behind Indiana’s bench. Right behind us sat his wife (who yells just about as loud and as much as her husband).
Two things I noticed through out the game: One was the intensity and passion that Coach Crean has for the game of basketball and how good he is at communicating with all of his players, refs and staff. He almost never stopped talking and pacing the sidelines. Secondly, I was impressed by the effort and great work ethic each and every individual displays on the Hoosier’s team. Of course every player on the floor was giving it their all, but even the players on the bench were all into the game cheering their teammates on. The assistant coaches were scrambling to write down stats and tendencies of the Gophers while the trainers and managers were hustling to get water and towels to the team.
The game went back and forth, going down to the wire, but Indiana ended up losing by three, making them 0-6 in the Big Ten and 5-13 overall at that time. At the end of the game everyone stood up and gave the team a standing ovation, but you could see the empty seats in Assembly Hall. An observant but confident Coach Crean noticed the empty seats as well.
“We're going to get back to where it's sold out, it's a monster ticket, to where the ticket brokers are making a heck of a living because of Indiana basketball," Crean told the Chicago Tribune. "We'll get that back."
But the vacant seats and the defeated league record overshadow just how impressively hard this team works. I hate the saying, “wait till next year”, but I know sometime in the near future Coach Crean will be adding another banner or two up in Assembly Hall, and this team will have been the foundation for the future.