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The Pros and Cons of Keeping Crean

Should Tom Crean's seat be as hot as it's said to be?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of Indiana Basketball have fairly high expectations for on court performance, and reasonably fair expectations for off court behavior. Whether a coach can truly be responsible for the latter is a debate for another time, but given the outrage that occurred at the start of the season, let's go with the idea that yes, the coach is responsible for keeping his players at least somewhat in line. Thus far in the 2014-15 season, Tom Crean has arguably failed to meet both of those standards, and now a larger than usual portion of the fanbase is calling for his job. Allow me to list off some of the reasons for and against keeping Tom Crean employed in Bloomington.

Pro: He brought the program back to respectability after Kelvin Sampson trashed it.

The 2008-2009 season (Crean's first in Indiana) was not so long ago that fans have forgotten what it was like to be rooting for the worst team in the Big Ten. 6-25, 10-21, 12-20. Those were the records of Crean's first three Indiana teams, going from just trying to field a full team to putting some pieces together to start the turnaround. Then came the over-achieving 2011-12 team (27-9, Sweet Sixteen loss to eventual national champion Kentucky), the slightly underachieving 2012-13 team (29-7, Preseason #1, Big Ten Regular Season champs, Sweet Sixteen loss to Syracuse), and last year's falling back to earth team (17-15, no postseason appearance). So, up until last season, Crean had gotten his team to improve each year, and Hoosier Nation couldn't have been happier (save for the Syracuse loss).

Con: Respectability is not how success is measured in Bloomington.

There are 5 very large, very red reminders hanging in Assembly Hall of what constitutes a successful season for Indiana Basketball. Even setting the first three years of the rebuild aside (when no one in their right mind would have expected to hang a banner at season's end), Tom Crean has never gotten the Hoosiers within 3 games of hanging banner 6. While hanging it in 2012 was always the impossible dream (born after beating Kentucky, faded after not being able to do it twice), starting the year as the #1 team in the country and not ending the year the same way certainly took the wind out of Crean's sails, and started the disgruntled mumblings that have become this roar of "FIRE CREAN!" Failing to even make the NIT last year certainly added fuel to the fire, and having this year's team projected to finish in the bottom third of the Big Ten by basically everyone meant Crean's seat was definitely warm when the season began.

Pro: Tom Crean openly embraced Indiana when he was offered the job.

From his very first press conference being introduced as Indiana's coach, he was all about the Hoosiers. He said all the right things ("It's Indiana. The pinnacle of college basketball"), made the right moves (welcoming former players back to Bloomington whenever they wanted to come back), and slowly began bringing hope back to the program, catalyzed by convincing Cody Zeller that putting on the candystripe pants that both of his older brothers had rejected was the way to go. He brought in a lot of Indiana high school basketball talent that had been going elsewhere in the decade prior, and complemented it with guys who Hoosiers fans could feel good about cheering for, like Victor Oladipo. Most importantly, players were going to class and graduating, which was a marked change from the Sampson years.

Con: He's not Bobby Knight, or Brad Stevens, or Steve Alford.

There are some portions of the Indiana fanbase that will not be happy until Bob Knight comes back to Bloomington to coach the Hoosiers. There are other portions of the fanbase who, after watching Brad Stevens lead Butler to back to back national title game appearances, will not be happy until Brad Stevens comes to Bloomington to coach the Hoosiers (both before and after he became the coach of the Celtics). There are yet other portions of the fanbase who will not be happy until a former Hoosier comes back to coach the program, and many of them have chosen Steve Alford as their figurehead, since he was on a national championship team at IU and has had some coaching success since. Because Tom Crean satisfies none of those portions of the fanbase, when times are bad, they will scream for him to be fired.

You could probably list dozens of other reasons for and against keeping Tom Crean as Indiana's coach, but the bottom line is this: if you want to move on from Crean, you must have a clear idea of who will replace him, why that person will replace him, and what that person needs to do to be a greater success than Crean. The boosters at Indiana are by no means billionaires (Mark Cuban notwithstanding), but if you can convince them that a new coach will succeed where Crean has failed (i.e. will win the national championship), the buyout will not be a problem. Personally, I'm not convinced that such a coach exists and is available right now. You'd have to hire a surefire winner, and probably convince them to jump from another very successful program, and then somehow guarantee that they can deliver something that is exceedingly rare in this day and age. Pretty much all of the coaches I can think of that fit that description are already at a more successful program, or have made clear that they aren't leaving their current job anytime soon, or are working at rebuilding a proud NBA franchise. So you're either taking a flyer on someone who has had some success, but probably hasn't won a national championship before (why does that sound familiar?), or you're just taking a step to the side or backwards just for the sake of moving.