Men's Basketball

    Coach Tom Crean Meets With The Media

    Go Hoosiers! Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!
    Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!

    Oct. 8, 2009

    Head Coach Tom Crean

    Opening Statement
    "We've had a good fall. Since August 31, we've seen a competitive mindset. It doesn't mean anything yet in the sense of it carrying over to where it will be in competition against other teams, but we are optimistic that that is going to happen because they are competitive with one another.

    "They are working very hard. We've had a good fall, in the sense of trying to stay on task, and not trying to speed it up. We are making sure that we're getting a lot of repetition inside of our skill development, inside of the shooting, inside of the ball handling, inside of our driving, inside of our post-ups and really breaking the groups up. Then, over the last couple weeks, here and there, putting them together. For example, the other day we went with the guards for 30 minutes. We went with the entire team for 50 some odd minutes, and then we conditioned with the team, putting the basketballs away, so we stay within the two hour limit, and then we come back out and we get the bigs a little bit. We won't do a lot of conditioning, but we'll work with the team, and then they'll be done as a team and we'll still have a lot of time left with our big men. We're giving them the weekend off because obviously this is the last weekend before we start practice.

    "We are definitely encouraged with their attitudes. It is obviously some youthful enthusiasm and optimism, but that is okay, it really is. It is fun to watch their improvement. It is fun to watch them improve this time of year. It has been an interesting gage on who has really improved over the summer. Who has improved significantly, who has improved moderately, but everybody has gotten better. But some have gotten better than others. I think that will play out as we go along.

    "I'm extremely ready and excited to not have this two-hour thing going on, to not have to worry about eight hours, to actually get back into it and have some full practices and some two-a-days, and all of those types of things. So, our schedule next weekend will be Hoosier Hysteria on Friday, and we will work out earlier in the day. Thursday and Friday will be our two-hour, one hour a day, work days with basketballs. Then we'll have Hoosier Hysteria, which my wife has been telling me for about 60 straight days, `Don't try to get something out of it. Quit trying to run drills. Make it entertaining for the fans.' So, I'm trying to listen to her on that. But then Saturday, we'll be back with two-a-days before the football game that night, and the same with Sunday. We're excited for it to be here.

     

     

    "On top of that, we are in the midst of recruiting. I've been out some this week and we have been out quite a bit and we'll be out this weekend. We finished up our contact period this Monday. We are also at part our 130 day evaluation period, so we're utilizing that here and there, as much as we can.

    "Not everyone is at full strength out there today. Jeremiah Rivers is still recovering from a thigh bruise, Verdell Jones has still got some shoulder pain that he sustained in a workout two weeks ago, but that is part of it. There is some physical combat going on too, which is good. Ticket sales are still going briskly. The deadline is not reached yet, but I'm encouraged by the way that is moving. It is going much better than a year ago, especially on the student side. The optimism that I see from them when I am in town, especially from the football games or the different rallies or functions that we go to, has been fantastic."

    On who has impressed him in workouts:
    "They are all impressive to me, in the sense that they are better, but I would say the significant improvements of the returners, I would have to go with Verdell (Jones) and Matt Roth. Devan (Dumes) missed some valuable time this summer because of his injury, because of his surgery, and that has probably put a few things back. He is shooting the ball extremely well, but he has still got a ways to go in developing that driving game again and that ball handling. We're trying to be significant in the theory of less is more. We don't need a lot of dribbling. We need a lot of straight-line driving, a lot of creating for other people. We are really trying, and we'll do some of this today, really trying to open the floor even more for drives, and keep the top of the floor open for drives, and keep constant movement on the weak side.

    "I've alluded to that before, that one of the keys for us this offseason was to really develop a better mindset with these guys on the weak side of the floor. Constant movement, not just spotting up, but at times, when you can put good three-point shooters, three or four of them on the floor at the same time, then you will have some catch-and-shoot, drive-and-kick type of mentalities going. We want to have a lot of different ways to play, and the more versatility and improvement someone makes, the more opportunities they give themselves.

    "Tom Pritchard is better in some areas, but not where he needs to be yet. Tijan (Jobe) is better, I don' think there is any question about that. Jeremiah Rivers has just gotten better since the day he got here. You may not see all of that today because he is banged up. He couldn't finish a workout the other day. Again, Tijan caught somebody. I don't know what we're going to do with him. You can put a yellow jersey or a red jersey like they do in football on everybody, but we've got to put Tijan in some of the drills, and he does have the ability to hurt his teammates. I know he doesn't mean to, but goodness, gracious. We had a lot of firsts for the program last year, and obviously we had a lot of those firsts here at Indiana, but I've never been somewhere where a teammate knocks somebody out during warm-ups, like what Tijan did to Daniel Moore before the Minnesota game. That doesn't happen very often. Tijan is a great kid, he is just not aware of his size and strength some times."

    On what areas Jones and Roth have shown improvement in:
    "I think strength. They've both gained over 20 pounds. I have not seen, and I don't know if we're going to do it today either, any full court five-on-five. We just haven't done that. There are so many things we have to get done, that we haven't done that. We've run up and down, five-on-zero. We've done some five-on-five half court, but we haven't gone as a team.

    "The reports I get back are very strong on Verdell's confidence in that area. Matt has a quicker release, and he is trying to do more than just shoot threes. We're actually trying to get him to move his range in, so that he has a quicker release and at points in time can break you down off of a shot-fake. He is trying to get to the offensive boards. It is so hard, when you haven't seen them go five-on-five for any significant amount of time, to really gage who is better. But, when you look at their bodies and you look at them in the drill work, those guys stand out."

    On the difference from last year:
    "I think we'll have more to teach the first week of practice because we're not trying to squeeze a lot of things in right now. We're staying very regimented with a plan right now because there are some guys that know what we're doing. The young guys are pretty competitive, and they're quick learners. They've been well-coached. Those things all play into this a little bit.

    "So, we'll get into the five-on-five, but we haven't spent a lot of time on breaking down and doing drills inside of this two hours. I want to get more action. We really wanted, once we got on the floor together, we wanted to get our running game mentality established. They're not having to battle day in and day out in practice and then turn around and have to run down the court in X amount of seconds, so that will take a hit once we get into practice.

    "I've been busier with being gone and doing different situations for Indiana and recruiting and things like that. We never do the workouts when I'm not here. I just don't want to do that. (Strength coach) Jeff Watkinson and (athletic trainer) Tim Garl take care of all of the strength and conditioning and all of those types of things. But when we do a workout, I'm in town and, for the most part, so are most of the coaches. I don't like to have them gone much either. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves when practice starts in the sense of trying to teach so many things. I don't want to have a lot of three and a half hour practices and squeeze into four. I want to do more hour and a half, hour and 45, maybe max at two hours and then come back and do it again. Have some more two days on, then one day off, then two days on type of thing, and try to keep it fresh, because we will be young. And, our non-conference schedule is so challenging early on, and last year's was as well, but we've got so many big games inside of November and December in the sense of magnitude of the game. To me, the Howard game is the most important one because you've got to win your home opener. There are so many different things that go into it that we don't want to get ahead of ourselves on it."

    On Jeremiah Rivers:
    "As a coach you want the leadership vacuum to be filled right now. You want it to be set. But it is not like that. He hasn't played in a year. I don't know that he always understands when I say this, but he has won at every level. There is no question about that. He won in high school and he won in college. He has won three BIG EAST Championships and has been to a Final Four. However, outside of high school, which is a little different, I'm not sure he has absolutely been responsible for winning. He is going to have a huge responsibility in how we play to win. Not just coming in like at Georgetown. Now, he was on the court a lot at winning time at Georgetown because of his defensive abilities, but he also wasn't the lead guard. He also wasn't one of the 28 or 30 minutes a game guys. He very well could play into that for us.

    "The leadership has got to come right now. It has got to be collective, and the best thing that they can do is be individually competitive every day. I think once they get that competition level down, they'll gain confidence and the confidence will lead to more of an ability to lead. I always say this to them, `The more you command from yourself on a daily basis, meaning your teammates are seeing what you're trying to get out of yourself, the more you can demand from others.' Not the other way around. You don't get to demand from others and not really take yourself to task everyday to get the most out of it. Sometimes young players, they want to do that. They want to flip the switch on, and it doesn't work that way.

    "We don't have a group of seniors and juniors at Indiana that have been through the battles and just lead the way on that. That is the one thing that everyone else in the Big Ten has. Everyone else that we're playing, even at Kentucky, they've got those types of things. We don't have that. We've got a junior and a couple of seniors, but they haven't been through battle after battle at Indiana. So we've got to get that to come together. Jeremiah gives us a real strong option there because of his background and because of his talent level."

    On leadership:
    "There is nobody that just grabs the team and says this is what we're doing everyday. I don't think there is anybody on the team that is like that right now. I don't think there is any question that when the coach is around, they're waiting for the coaches to do that. I can't gage it on the pick-up games. I wish I could, but I think leadership gets formed there, it gets formed in the locker room, it gets formed with who is bringing other guys in to shoot at night or on the weekend when you're dead tired. I've seen some of that in the conditioning. A couple of the freshmen have tried to step into that role as well. Guys like Jordan (Hulls) and Maurice (Creek) are trying to work into that role. Verdell is trying to work in to that role. That is why it has to be collective for a while. That is what I mean by collective. Again, I'll be able to tell you a lot better a couple weeks into practice, when you start to drag and the thrill of Hoosier Hysteria and the first couple days is gone, and all of a sudden we're really in it. That is when your leadership starts to form because it has got to form there for it to form when you're on the road and down four with two minutes to go. That is when you find out who your leaders are."

    On Jeremiah Rivers' improvement:
    "I think he is definitely rapidly improving. He is stronger. His athleticism has come out at Indiana. He is a lot stronger. One of his dad's coaches that worked the Vince Carter camp this summer, which Jeremiah was a counselor at that, said a year ago Jeremiah had to endure the contact. Now he brings the contact. I think that is a pretty strong statement for us. I see that in some of our work. There is no question about that. Our coaches and managers that hold the pads, they feel that. I'm anxious for his teammates to see that and then anxious for the opponents to see that."

    On the use of last season as a learning tool
    "It certainly wasn't the best year, and it was the worst year. Record-wise and things like that, I didn't want it to end for the fact that these guys were getting so much better. They were working so hard, they came to practice everyday excited. We had our moments. We had games where the roof almost caved in on us and we might not have come back through it, but that never happened. I think a big part of that was how much energy was derived from our crowds, and how people felt about the program at that time. With that being said, its not like we go back and watch films with our team yet. We haven't really taken any of our allotted time to do much of that, we will get into that certainly when practice starts. They will see more of that when we get into opponent research for our guys to see, but we haven't spent a lot of time on that. With that being said, and as much as I was excited to coach, I am anxious, I think all of us our anxious to get that totally behind us and to start this next year."

    On how Hoosier Hysteria pays dividends on the recruiting trail:
    "I think it's a huge element. Being at a school like this with football weekends, we have the opportunity to bring a lot of kids in. We brought a lot of kids in this past weekend. We have the homecoming game, we have our team at home against a good team in Illinois. We will have many people on this campus that have athletics on the brain, they have basketball on the brain when they're in this building (Assembly Hall). That's great for your team and it's great for recruiting. I just think that with the energy of it, with the way the workouts have changed now, it's a little different for coaches and players. Because it's almost like practice starts a little earlier. The players think it's already 20 hours a week but it's not, it is only two hours a week. But bottom line is, that's when it hits that now its really for real. Now we get to have the plan day and it's a huge element here. I can't wait for it, I really can't. Judging by the people I have run in to, they are excited the same. It's a big day, because when you bring recruits in for this, they're not looking to come to half to three-quarter filled building that has moderate energy. They're looking at the people we are recruiting against right now. They can go to their environment and see something fantastic too. We want this to be top of the line, a major league event, and that's what we're looking forward to."

    On what to expect from fans at Hoosier Hysteria:
    "I think they will be excited, I really think they will. I think it's just a great time to bring it all together. It's really just a great way to kickoff the weekend (Homecoming Weekend). With the homecoming parade and things like that before it, it's a great kickoff for it. For us, it's right back to work basketball-wise. But for the fans, now there is light at the end of the tunnel of `basketball season seems so far away.' Well now it's not. It's right down the road. I really think that will be fun. They are now able to follow us as they are following football and volleyball and everything else that is going on."

    On the ever-improving guard play:
    I'm very optimistic about that (guard play) because I think we will have depth at that position, but you really don't have true depth unless you have real consistency. You can have numbers, and its crazy how recruiting works. A year ago, we didn't have any wins, people were wondering if we were ever going to win again. Style of play was getting questioned, and now you have people that are saying, `you might have too many guards.' It never ends, but we don't have too many guards. The guards we have do have the ability to go in there and help us play. But consistent measures of that are where it's really going to be. But if that continues to take shape I think we will be much closer to a style of play that we would like to have at Indiana, without a doubt."

    On the overall talent level of this years team compared to last years:
    "I think significantly (higher talent level). I don't think there is any question about that. Just so many more options and guys are better. You know Daniel Moore was making tremendous progress, but he got injured and he missed his summer. But there is a guy that's going to go in there and battle and he did a lot of things for us last year. Brett Finkelmeier gets better, and those guys are walk-ons. There is no doubt that we are getting better along with the newcomers getting better. We already talked about the veterans that are coming back. Even though they are one-year veterans, no question the talent level is better. That doesn't play into the equation or skills and strength and how powerful this league (Big Ten) is right now. What's relevant to us that there is a definite talent upgrade here."

    On Maurice Creek and how his later arrival to campus has effected him:
    "I think he is right in the middle of the `push him and he falls over, shake his hand and it hurts' type of deal because his body isn't used to that yet. We don't try and speed them up so much that they don't want to come back, but after about two weeks in, it really starts to kick in and he will really feel good about his body. We will be able judge that by his explosiveness to the rim. He also has really quick feet. He is going to be an excellent defender and can really get up and down the floor. His mom gave me the greatest tip when she said, `He loves to run and stop at the three-point line, so you have to get him to run all the way for a lay-up.' So I've reminded him of that. You may hear it today. He is going to be really good."

    On the vast improvement Verdell Jones III showed as the season went on last year:
    "He improved in a big way. When you go through a season like we did and improve like that, to have numbers like that, from February 1st on, that's a big deal. That's why you don't want the season to end, because your team is getting better. Everybody has had it at one point that when the season is over they take a breath. I don't care if you have won forever. There is always the `Wow, that was hard. That was tough to get through.' This was tough on that end but it wasn't hard to be here with those guys. That's again that passion for basketball and passion for coaching coming out in everybody here. And I think he will continue to make that improvement and I think he will end of being one of the better players in the league."

    On the flexibility certain players have in playing numerous positions:
    "We can move him (Verdell) around. That's one of the great things about Christian Watford and Derek Elston. We can move them around. Getting that position flexibility, that versatility that we want to have, that we have to have in our program starts to come around. That's part of gaining strength, gaining confidence, and that allows you to do that."

    On the difference in the transition for new players this year compared to last:
    "Oh, I think that's a part of it, absolutely. It's what they do on a daily basis of keeping everybody engaged. I mean, you have to have a team-wide gym `rat mentality' if you are really going to win, and I mean really win. I remember going back even to Michigan State, but even the Marquette teams, the best teams they were not concerned about when they were in the gym. They were just there. It didn't matter if it was at night or early in the morning, or on the weekends certainly. You never had guys busting out right after practice.

    "We talk a lot about how we are trying to build an Indiana standard of performance here, at the top of that is master your role. You don't just have somebody to find a role for you and that's all you do. You have to master your role if you want to move up into something else. You constantly have to work on mastering that role everyday. And we are trying to isolate skills we are not trying to do the same thing with each player all the time. It may seem a little bit like that inside of a 40 minute work out, but when it comes to getting guys better, are they working to isolate their skills? Are they working to make their role better? Because the players define their role.

    "Coaches can run them all they want to, but if the players aren't committed to running every possession every day, well you don't have a running program. And it's the same thing with getting better in your role. Coaches don't necessarily put you into that role and leave you there. You either get in and move forward or you get in it and you drop. And that really where it's at. That's the transition. There's not a bunch of older guys sitting there saying this is what we've learned, this what we've done when we were freshmen, this is what this guy who is now in the NBA, or this guy who now owns his own business taught us. We don't have that. We're not fighting it we just don't have it. So we just have to understand it and make sure that we are constantly making people aware of that. But that's going to be part of the whole `who gets playing time', I mean we're playing gym rats.

    "I want this program to be known for that. But it doesn't happen like that. It's not `ok, I'm just going to come up and work hard for two and a half hours and then go about my business the rest for the day and never think about basketball again'. That's not how those banners got hung here. And that's what we've got to continue to work towards and recruit towards and may the best man win. When you're building a program up, we're not going to level off and say `ok we'll stay here, this mentalities good,' but we really want to get to here if we want to compete with this level of the league, and then we have to get to there if we want to compete with this level of the league. Now we may not be able to compete there yet, but we want the mentality to be there. And if the mentality is there, that's where your standards of performance come in and we've got standards for all of this. And you have to live up to them."

    On seeing the gym rat mentality while recruiting:
    "Oh, I think its practice for one thing. I think the games, it's really hard to see it there. I think some of it is in the summer, especially the second and the third game of the day when you get into tournament play. I have no problem going to open gyms because you can see who is really serious about it. And its very, very common, it doesn't matter what level you are, that when its not season time, when the coaches aren't directly running anybody with the workouts, that there is going to be a back off. When you know that going in, you're trying to find that guy that doesn't allow that back off to come. And you're also trying to find that guy who when everybody's done and everybody's jacking around, having fun and talking about what they are going to do later, that guy is still shooting the ball. At the end of the day that guy won most of his games.

    "I always want to hear about whose winning. We don't keep any official stats or anything like that because you can't inside of these pickup games but I love to hear about who's winning, I love to hear about the games, love to hear about the teams. And it creates conversation fodder, but you want them to be integrated in making sure that everything their doing is winning. That's why 70-80 percent of the time in our practices there is a time and score element to it. Because there is a winner and there is a loser."

    On if its easier for the team to get excited when there is already an expectation of the team:
    "I wouldn't say its easier, I think its better. I mean we are still not all the way back yet. We don't have all of our student tickets sold yet. The people that are with us are awesome; the students that I've run into and they've bought their tickets are awesome. We don't have it full-throttle packed yet and I don't think anyone's going to be comfortable in here until it is and then we're going to try and be doing more things. That's just my opinion and I'm on top of the staffs here all the time with ideas and they are working hard. There is a meeting going on the other side of the gym right with people going over some of the things for Hoosier Hysteria. It's got to be at a fever pitch. I think we got a lot of people's attention but we've got to keep them committed. It's like 11,000 students the other night at the football game against Ohio State. That was pretty strong. Lets make sure there is 11,00 in there next Saturday night for Illinois. Now we are starting to get a commitment level and that's what we've got to have to make this program continue to be what its always been. That's why Sagarin will come out and rank Indiana the fifth-best program of all time. Or ESPN.com will come back and rework it and call it the fourth-best. You know that's why you have more pros drafted than anybody else in the Big Ten. All those different numbers have been because the fans and students of Indiana have been committed to it. And we've got a lot of them, but we've got more to go."

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