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After lots of speculation, Tom Crean lands nowhere

May 18, 2017 Columns 1 Comment

The 2016-17 season is over, and the coaching carousel has just about stopped as well. As of this writing, only one Division I head coaching job remains open (Presbyterian). And Tom Crean is without a job.

To think, when the carousel began, so much speculation centered on the possibility of Crean leaving Indiana for a soft landing spot ahead of being let go. The thinking was that Crean had basically worn out his welcome in Bloomington, in part from the inconsistency of his teams from year to year, and might look to leave while he would still have a choice in the matter. Indiana athletic director Fred Glass took care of that possibility as the NCAA Tournament began, firing Crean on the first full day of it, then timing took over.

There were plenty of possibilities to speculate on. NC State had opened up before the season ended. Missouri was known to be opening just before the SEC Tournament began. Soon Illinois and LSU also opened up (the former before an NIT invite came), as did Washington and Cal (when Cuonzo Martin left to fill the Missouri vacancy) if going west was an option, and just days after Indiana fired him, Oklahoma State opened up when Brad Underwood stunningly left to go to Illinois.

Later, Georgetown opened up, but Crean was told he wasn’t a candidate, and that might be for the best. If you thought Crean was an odd fit at Indiana, imagine him at Georgetown, where John Thompson Jr. is still ever-present.

But one job got filled after another, each by someone else. Slowly, but surely, the high-major options were running low. Cal and Oklahoma State even bumped up top assistants to the head coaching position on the same day, which rarely happens at Power 5 schools.

There is always a chance a current college coach leaps to an NBA job, but that chance seems to get slimmer every year. That means unless Crean is to take a mid-major job or be an assistant coach, he won’t be coaching in Division I in 2017-18. There will be no soft landing after all, at least not in college. Crean could go to the NBA just like any current head coach, but that seems unlikely.

To be sure, Crean doesn’t need a job from a financial standpoint. He had three years left on his contract at Indiana when he was fired, the result of an extension he signed right as the 2012-13 season commenced. He can be picky about his next job, which could even include being an NBA scout or going on TV. He could just canvas the country for a year, taking in practices all over for his edification, something many coaches have been known to do, and lay the ground work to come back into coaching in 2018-19.

Still, it’s quite a move to go from being a Big Ten head coach to not coaching anywhere in Division I a year later, without the move being the result of retirement. Crean has been a head coach for 18 years and a Division I coach for 27 years. For him to not be on a Division I bench next year will be a little different.

There is plenty of reason to believe Crean will be coaching again in college before long. He’s only 51, has won over 60 percent of his games, has three conference Coach of the Year awards to his credit and has made the NCAA Tournament nine times in 18 seasons as a head coach, to go with four NIT appearances. He also has international coaching experience with USA Basketball. And once you’re a coach, it’s hard to get you away from it, as we have seen with so many who have coached well into their 70s and continue to do so (like 72-year-old Jim Boeheim).

In other words, we almost certainly haven’t seen the last of Tom Crean as a college coach. He’s likely just taking a one-year sabbatical.

The off-season is young, and much remains to transpire between transfers, NBA Draft decisions and late high school and junior college commitments. But one story that will be among the more noteworthy ones is Tom Crean going from the head coach at Indiana to having no college coaching job at all.

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Stourley Kracklite says:

    Not sure why Crean would have been an “odd fit” at Georgetown- he’s just what that program needs. The candidate they chose will have a single-digit win record this coming season, which will probably make him a “one-and-done.”

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