Men's Basketball

    Head Coach Tom Crean Meets With Media

    Go Hoosiers! Head coach Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!
    Head coach Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!

    July 3, 2008

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana men's basketball head coach Tom Crean met with the media earlier this week to discuss a wide array of topics. The following is a transcript of the questions and answers.

    Head Coach Tom Crean

    Opening Remarks
    "I didn't really think about today being about an hour away from me signing the contract three months ago and becoming the head coach at Indiana. It is amazing how many things have gone on inside of that three months. There have been so many things, but I tried to think about how I would put it in perspective.

    "The first thing that comes to me is that the most important thing has been to help people understand that there is the perception and then there is the reality to everything that is going on at Indiana. Certainly we get a strong feel for it because of the recruiting and the negative recruiting and the comments made and things of that nature that we have to deal with. At the same time, we keep looking at what it really is. It is a great place. There are so many great things happening here. There are so many good feelings.

    "Far and away, the greatest thing is how great everyone has been, how wonderful the fans have been. I've met so many great fans and people that support the program and the university, that love basketball, that want to see us succeed, that want to continue to see Indiana succeed like it has. That is an incredible feeling.

    "The perception has been created because of the issues, and certainly there is some reality to that, I don't mean to say that at all. We have a program that has really never lost its luster, and I hope it never does on our watch either, because it is very strong. In three months, we've had a lot of opportunities to try to get that across, even as many different circumstances have come up to try to show that it is not. That would probably be the biggest thing to me. The second thing is we've tried to recruit people that had some courage, that were competitive and had an understanding. That we could try to get across that understanding of what it means to play at Indiana. The responsibility that comes with that, the standards that go into that, and even though they've been verbal, we haven't had a real opportunity to coach that yet, even though the young men are here. I'm excited about that.

     

     

    "I think I'm really excited about the IU people, the people I see in the athletic department, people in academics, the people I run into on campus. They're excited that these guys are here. That is a good feeling, too. I know how we feel.

    On the team:
    "We tried to address needs. We came in with an idea that we were going to have to recruit some people to play in the program. We certainly didn't come in with the idea that were going to have to build basically a whole new team, but that is exactly what's happened, so with that being said, we tried to fill the needs. I maybe would've liked to signed someone that was a little bit bigger and had a little bit more scoring ability. They just weren't there. We took a shot at some guys. It didn't work out for one reason or another.

    "It has got to the point with the recruiting that we have to have a competitive team, a team that we can build with, a team that we can build and move forward with. That is what we've really been serious about trying to find. The thing that I like about this team is on paper coming in from what they did in high school and just seeing how they are able to mesh with each other, as far as they're always together and they hang out a lot together. We don't have anyone that is above and beyond the system or what we are trying to get done right now. It's going to have to be a very balanced unit. We know that we're going to have to play bigger than our size. We know that we're going to have to play smarter than our experience. There is no doubt about that. Those are all things that are going to have to come out if we're going to have a chance to compete, but I know we've signed guys that want to compete.

    "We've tried to fill the positions, and we're trying to work with the premise that we're going to have ten scholarships this year and that is what we're under now. We have eight new players and we have Kyle (Taber). We'll see what happens. If anything comes about this summer, there would probably still be a few situations that we would look at, but the last thing that we wanted to do was reach on size or reach on potential if there really wasn't some concrete chances there. I would rather hold the scholarship and go into next year because with the young people that we have committed, we know that we have to get somebody that is of bigger size that can score and rebound. That has to happen. If we had one scholarship next year, that's what we would look at. We'll certainly see what happens with the rest of the scholarships.

    On getting former players involved:
    "I think another thing that means a lot to me. We've had some of it in this very room, we've had some of it in our camp and I've certainly had it in a phone call. It is the fact that we've been able to get former players to come back in here and feel welcome, to feel the pride that they have, to feel respected and appreciated, but most importantly to come back and feel welcome. We've had numerous people come back, with more on their way back. Steve Green will be here on Wednesday to speak to our camp, and I'm excited about that. I've never met him, and I know he hasn't been back here in a long time, but I'm really excited about that.

    "I had the chance to visit with Isiah Thomas for a long time on the phone the other day. I had known him before, but those are the things that put some sort of perspective as to what this is all about. That is the word that I keep trying to use with my staff. We can't get so caught up in the potential sanctions. We can't get caught up in the things that have happened here in the past. We have to keep some kind of perspective on what we are trying to accomplish. When you get the former players back that is a big, big deal.

    "Those are probably the three big things. There have been dozens and dozens of meetings and dozens and dozens of events, gatherings and chances to visit with people, and they've all been great. They've been forthright. I've tried to be very candid, and people have been forthright with me. At the end of the day, that passion for Indiana makes me believe everyday that I come here and everyday that we leave, that this program is in a tremendous mindset that it is not going anywhere, and it is not.

    "Like I said last week, we are building a team. We are certainly repairing or rebuilding a culture inside of this program. I don't think that is anybody's secret, but the program is strong. As much as people try to knock it down, you can't. You can take as many shots as you want, but the program is strong. The former players make it that way. This university makes it that way, but I think probably what I've seen more than anything else over the three months is that the fans and the people that care about this program, whether they are alums or not, they make it that way.

    On Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan's resignation:
    "I would say this about Rick (Greenspan). I certainly was surprised. I was really down, devastated for a while in the sense of his decision, but then ultimately disappointed. I have enjoyed the three months (we have spent together). He has been completely accessible to me. He has been very helpful to me. We have been through more in three months than you would go through with most people in three years. I compared him to my former athletic director at Marquette, and I couldn't give him any higher praise than that, because Bill Cords was as good of a leader and as good of a man as I've been around. I think Rick Greenspan has done a fantastic job for us and I'm disappointed that I'm not going to work with him after these six months are up. I hope we've built a friendship and that I can call upon him and, he'll feel the pride here because the three months that I've been here I've got a chance to see a very, very strong athletic department, a strong coaching staff with the other sports, facilities and the ability to raise money. In the last three months I've had the opportunity to watch people like Scott Dolson, Kelly Bomba, and Anthony Thompson work. I've got the chance to see them work. I've seen Rick work. I mean there are a lot of positives. In that sense, I was really disappointed that he isn't going to be here, but at the same time we have to move forward and the one thing that we cannot have is any fragment of this athletic department. We can't have fragmentation with the coaching staff. We can't afford to go into any long transition period. I'm going to try to do anything I can do, as a coach here, to make sure that we do stay as strong as we can stay. I'm enjoying being around these coaches and trying to help recruit and seeing what they do with their programs. I'm totally wound up by looking at how big their camps are. Ours aren't very big right now but they'll get there again. It is fun to see that. At the end of the day, it is very strong here, and I'm not trying to talk myself into it. It is strong. We've just got to get through the hurdles that are here. We don't have any trouble staying in the news, and we don't have any trouble with our opponents reminding people what is going on, but at the end of the day, this place is really strong. When the recruits come in here and our new players have come in and when we bring friends in, I think they see those things."

    On the difficulty of not reaching for potential in recruits:
    "They're not canceling the season. It is not like we're going to get a reprieve, where all of a sudden they're like OeWe won't send you here, we won't send you there. You don't have to go to Maui now.' We do. We have to play a season. We have to build for the future, not just for the season. That is the balancing act. How do you get a group of guys who have the courage and competitiveness and the character to come in here and be excited about doing it now and at the same time have the talent and the potential? We're not shying away from potential, but you don't want to reach if it is too big of a risk. If we were going to sign anybody right now, it would certainly have to be somebody bigger. If not, we'll wait until next year."

    On being able to promise the opportunity of playing time to recruits:
    "I look at it this way. We don't want to start over twice. We're starting over now. That is understandable. That is where we are at. We don't want to get down the road, where all of a sudden these players we've recruited over the next couple of years, we're not ready for that hit if any of them potentially leave early or they graduate and their eligibility is up. It started where we knew we had to get a class for now and then we were trying to focus hard on the rising seniors, but we really tried to dive hard into the rising juniors, rising sophomores, and even paying attention to who the freshmen are going to be. You have to know. You don't have to all out go crazy and recruit them as eighth-graders, but you should know who they are. We've tried to do that. We've got a lot of focus on finishing this rising senior class the right way, and then locking into the young guys."

    On the style of play that can be expected for the team this season:
    "I think about that all the time. I think we're going to have to be creative in the way that we're not very big, so we're going to have to protect our big guys. What that means, I don't know. There is definitely going to be some zone, but I don't want to get away from pressuring the ball. We're going to have to speed the tempo up. I look at this team and think we don't really want to be in a situation where we're coming out and fighting it possession by possession, taking time off the clock and trying to win the game 50-48. There may be a game for that, but that is not how we're going to play, and that is not what we're trying to sell. That is not what we're trying to sell for the future. We're trying to get this thing moving, really getting up and down the court. What that means this year, I don't totally know yet, but I know that is what we want to be able to work towards. I think some of that is going to depend on how our depth develops and how our walk-ons develop, because really there is not anybody in the program that we envision not having to play. Obviously, with so many young guys, the biggest mistake is if we play all of these young guys so many minutes that they are worn down in February and March or even January with freshmen, that is not going to be good. So, we've got to try to balance that out. We got to have balance in our offense, but I would think we're actually going to try to tone-down what we've done offensively from what we did at Marquette, in the sense of the volume of plays, the volume of quick-hitters. We'll really work with the spacing and really work with the concepts of drive and kick, get our break going, and have secondary breaks, things of that nature. Those are conversations that we have right now. That is kind of stuff that when I go through the tapes and books of what we've done is try to put the stuff in order. We are going to play aggressive. I don't care how few guys we have or how young they are, if they're not on the floor for a loose ball or they're not willing to take a charge or they're not sprinting back on defense or they won't go to the backboards, they're not going to play. They just won't, and we're going to get that across in a big way. I think with the character of these young men from what we're seeing initially and with what other people here at Indiana feel about them, I think that is a good sign."

    On the importance of having the players in town:
    "It is very important. I wanted Jeremiah Rivers to be able to take in what was going on with his dad (current head coach of the NBA Champion Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers). When he signed, we didn't know they were going to be in the NBA Finals, but being around his dad non-stop for two, two and a half weeks, to be able to see the Celtics practice, to be able to shoot with those guys has been great. Now he has been at the Paul Pierce camp, he has been at the Vince Carter camp, he'll be at Lebron (James') camp, he has advantages that most kids don't have and I want him to take advantage of that. I keep in touch with him, and he'll be in in a couple of days just to hang out with these guys. Tijan (Jobe) is finishing up his summer school at Olney but he is here on the weekends, so he is around the guys a lot. We just signed Malik (Story), so we weren't able to get him into this session of summer school, but we're in contact with those guys all the time, and the rest of them are all here. I think it is great. Every day has got a value. When they can learn what it is like at Indiana, when they can learn what is expected from them, when they can hear from a former player as to what was expected of them, I just need to sit in the back of the room and shut up. That stuff is fantastic, when other people can tell your team what it is like here, and you really want them telling them that. And, I'm glad. There are not influences here right now that I wouldn't want around them. I think they are kind of a pack of wolves. They are together a lot."

    On concerns with Malik Story:
    "There was no way, inside of the recruiting, to cast a wide net and say we'll pluck this guy as soon as he commits or that guy as soon as he signs. We tried to be very objective and subjective with everybody in the sense that everybody was a single person. We tried to research everybody as best we can really in what was under two months, give or take a couple of days. We're comfortable with everything with Malik. We researched everything. When he gave up a visit and a scholarship to come up here unofficially and go through the hassles that he had to get here. His mother works for American Airlines, but he flew standby. For him to go through that to come in here and compete the way that he did and for us to know him that way, I was comfortable with him. I know we're going to see him in the month of July. There is the summer session that we could look at, but at the same time, I don't want him here if everyone else isn't here because they're going to leave August 8th or 9th."

    On what he tells recruits in regards to the upcoming NCAA ruling:
    "I tell them what I know, and it hasn't changed a whole lot. I was surprised the other day with the failure to monitor because I've sat-in on all the meetings and obviously sat-in in Seattle. From my vantage point and what I'm listening to and for the people that I'm working with and for the things that I heard, I can't share with you what I really think of the way it went inside of there and some of the things that were said, but I don't share that opinion. I have no qualms going to work with these people every day. There is a very strong team of people that work at Indiana inside the athletic department. I tell people that. I keep going back to this. We are under such hard penalties that were imposed inside of Indiana. I have to figure out how to use seven days. What we lost in recruiting days? The phone calls are one thing with what we lost with the phone calls, but with people being able to call you and the ability to email and write letters, you can work through that. You're not in a position, especially when we first got here, where you're anywhere close to what everyone else has got, but when you lose the recruiting days that we've lost, when you're down to ten scholarships like we are, that is the competitive disadvantage. The fact that I've got to figure out how to seven days in, the fact that we're only going to have two coaches on the road while everyone else has got three on the road, that is really there. I have to live that everyday. I'm not trying to whine. It is what it is. I knew that when we took the job. It caused a lot of pause in the short period of time when I took the job. Now, we're smack dab in the middle of this. April, to me, is more important than July. Every coach might not agree, but to me it is. Because you're not going to leave your team a lot during the winter, so you're not going to be all over the place in the winter, seeing recruits instead of coaching your team, so April becomes that time period. Well, we lost that. I had three days inside of that. Now, July becomes that important, and now we're going to lose that. At the end of the day, it is not the story, but it is sure there in the first paragraph. It really is. These are severe penalties that Indiana imposed on itself. Like President McRobbie said, these are harsh penalties, and so we're dealing with those. I'm going to be there as much as I can. I'm trying to prioritize as much as we can. I'm trying to be in as many places as we possibly can. At the same time, bear with us because we're going to get through this. We're going to get through it hopefully in a short period of time. I keep stressing to people that so much has been done to Indiana at this point that it is hard to believe that a lot more could be done."

    On the end of the barnstorming tour:
    "I didn't have anything to do with the barnstorming, but I thought that was cool. When I heard about that, I thought that was excellent. I don't know everything that went into that decision. We're going to have to do more things where we open up workouts. I'm looking for Hoosier Hysteria to just be off the charts with attendance and enthusiasm and energy. But we'll probably do something where we open it up for an individual workout or two, and I know we're going to want to scrimmage where we have fans in here before our exhibition games. Not everyday, but we need to find some ways to get fans around so our kids can get used to playing in front of this passion."

    On whether it is an advantage getting to handpick his team:
    "If we didn't have the Big Ten schedule to play, if you didn't have to go to Maui three games in. The glass half full would say yes. Realistically, not so much. It wasn't like these guys couldn't play that were here. It would've been nice if some of the things would've worked out so they could've been here. I'm not sure I looked at anybody and said OeI want them leading this group.' In fact I didn't. I still didn't want to see it end up the way that it did, but it did. The standards weren't going to give. I have no other way to look at it. We're going to look at it with the glass half full the whole way. We tried to focus on some length. We tried to focus on skill, especially the ability to shoot the ball. I was asked earlier about style of play, I would think quite a few three-pointers are going to fit in there somewhere because we're going to have quite few guys that can do that, but to do that, you've got to be able to rebound the ball."

    On Kyle Taber:
    "He was the lowest maintenance of the group, but with that being said, we're not going to lose sight of what he needs to do to be better. We didn't lose sight of that in the individual workouts. I was probably as tough on him as I was anybody out there because I think he has a lot to give. I think he has got to talk a lot more. I don't want to put a lot of pressure on him that he is not ready for because he is already going to feel it as the only returning scholarship guy, the only senior. I don't need to put added pressure on him. I want him to play right. I want him to understand that it is going to be very competitive. I want him to get across to them that it is going to be competitive, and the more that he improves, I think the more we will improve because I think the more he improves, the more his confidence will come. That is what we need. We made a tape of some of the exciting things from this past season. We put D.J. (White) and Eric (Gordon) in there with some clips of Kyle Taber. That is what we've got. With Kyle right now, it is important that he is not afraid to tell the other players how things are, that he is not afraid to hold them accountable, but that he also goes out and competes as hard as anyone when they're running, lifting or anything like that. He has got to be more vocal. I'm not looking at him like he is the only returner, I'm looking at him as a guy who has got to work his tail off to make us win."

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