Tom Crean met with the media Tuesday, for the first time since their Sweet Sixteen game in Atlanta.
Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, Crean covered everything from filling the assistant coach spot, the scholarship situation, recruiting very young, Watford and Zeller’s decision, updates on injuries and more.
Assistant coach vacancy
With Bennie Seltzer taking the head coaching position at Samford, Crean now has a spot to fill on his bench. Calbert Cheaney, who is currently serving as Director of Basketball Operations, is the clear favorite. Crean basically insinuated that if Cheaney wants to the job, it’s his.
Crean: “Calbert and I have been discussing what the next step is for him in the program, or to just stay in the same place where he is in the program which he very well may want to do. I’ve got some people in mind if he does decide to stay in that position and I’ll move fairly quickly once this recruiting period is up.”
Nothing new on this front. The Hoosiers over-signed by one, meaning one player must transfer or pay their own way. As we have said all along, “these things have a way of working themselves out.”
As for Matt Roth, it’s still up in the air on whether he can and will choose to return. He has one year of eligibility remaining but they have no room for him on scholarship. Roth, in four years, already has obtained a undergraduate and masters degree. He could decide to transfer somewhere else or be done with basketball and move on to the next phase of life.
Crean: ”He’s keeping his options open which is good. He’s focused right now on finishing up because he’s had such a big road this academic year to get where he wants to be in his Master’s program. He’s got options. He’s got options of keeping his eligibility and at the same time I think in his mind he is planning for the future and planning to make that next jump. The advice I gave him was just to keep your options open as you go through this and as we go through this.”
Coach Crean isn’t afraid to offer a young talent early if like what he sees. He has taken some slack recently, after offering Eron Gordon, brother of Eric, who is just finishing up the eighth grade. Crean believes it’s just part of the game now.
“I think it’s brilliant, to be honest with you,” he said jokingly. “No, I think it can backfire. But, you know what, it’s part of the game…I think we have some criteria that we’re always trying to follow. I think we’re trying to look at intelligence and academic upside. We’re trying to look at athletic upside and, as much as you can, the character of that person and, most importantly the people around them, their family.”
Indiana’s schedule will be much more challenging next season. They know they’ll face either face North Carolina or N.C. State at home, Butler in the Crossroads Classic, plus possibly the likes of UCLA and Georgetown at a tournament in Brooklyn. And that doesn’t even count the usual rivalry game with Kentucky because there isn’t one schedule at this point.
IU wants the series to remain home-and-home, whereas Kentucky prefers the neutral sites. On whether Louisville is a possibility this year, Crean shot that down. ”We are nowhere. It’s not that it couldn’t happen down the road but I don’t foresee it this year…It may very well make sense to do that, but it’s not this year.”
Maurice Creek has struggled to see the floor. He’s battled more than his share of injuries but is hopeful for a return next year.
Crean: “He’s not going live. Maurice has got to become as hard of a worker as there is on the team and that’s not always been who he has been. That’s who he has got to be. He’s got to get into that Will Sheehey, Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, I’m going to be in the gym morning, noon and night type of mindset. Because he can’t play yet…He needs to continue to build his upper body strength. But he needs to get back to being one of the best shooters really in the country because when he got the hurt the first time that’s basically where he was heading.”
Christian Watford made the decision to return for his senior season. After a long season and postseason, Crean says he is now taking the time to get back to 100-percent.
“Christian is resting his foot right now. He had some heel issues during the year that he really did a great job of playing through. We want him to rest right now and recuperate there but he’s had an excellent off-season. He went all the way through the three weeks that we had. Other than that we’re fine but everybody can be in the weight room.”
Verdell Jones tore his ACL in the Big Ten Tournament, ultimately ending his career in an IU uniform. He has been working out with trainer Tim Garl and staff, trying to get back to normal.
“He had his surgery, he was home for a week and he’s been back and taking care of business academically. They (the seniors) are all going to graduate and walk across the stage or have the option to walk across the stage in a week. So they’re taking care of all those things.”
On Watford, Zeller returning
Watford and Cody Zeller looked at leaving early for the NBA draft but opted to stay. That now has IU atop most very early preseason polls and the early favorite to be the top team in the country. Crean was very satisfied with the experience.
“I enjoyed that process. I enjoyed going through and talking to so many different General Managers, Assistant General Managers, a Director of Scouting, people that were excellent. We got a ton of great feedback but what they do is they give you the truth because it affects them. It’s a trust basis. We’re not going to be out saying so and so said this and so and so said that but all of the guys are able to look right at every note. I keep every note written out so they have it then we’ll put it in a file now so it’ll be there for the future.”
When asked about his most memorable moment from last year’s 27-9, Sweet Sixteen team, Coach Crean’s answer will surprise you. ”It wasn’t in any game. It was the day after the Michigan State game in East Lansing.”
“When we came back after a tough film session after Michigan State, the practice we had, I started to think `we’re going to be pretty good.’ They went at each other and it wasn’t chippy, it wasn’t frustration, it wasn’t `I’m better than you,’ it was `we’re better than this.’ They knew they were better than what they played against Michigan State and they had an embarrassment about the way they played. That practice showed that they could do something about that. So, I’ll never forget that practice, ever.”
Watch what Crean had to say, or click here for a complete transcript — via IU Athletics.