|Crean turns focus to Indiana's future|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 08 May 2008 22:07|
After a bumpy first month as the Hoosiers coach, Crean spent Thursday riding around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval with three-time winner Johnny Rutherford, hoping the changes at Indiana will go as smoothly and quickly as the laps.
Crean acknowledged the program's image had been damaged by recent allegations of recruiting violations, academic troubles and player dismissals before looking ahead.
``It's important to move on,'' he said. ``That's what we try to do as coaches, get through these situations with the hearing, the APR (academic progress report) and those kinds of things.''
With so many lingering reminders, switching gears won't be easy for the Hoosiers.
On a day rain washed out Crean's chance to be the honorary starter for Indy 500 practice, the Hoosiers were expected to file their official response to the NCAA's accusations. School officials did not plan to make the report immediately available to the public, and Crean provided no details about what was in the report. He said he had not been consulted.
Next month the school has a hearing in front of the infractions committee in Seattle. Former coach Kelvin Sampson, who accepted a $750,000 buyout in February after the NCAA accused him of five major rules infractions, and Crean are both expected to attend, although Crean is uncertain whether he will be asked to testify.
``I don't know yet what they'll have me do, but I knew from the beginning that I would be at the hearing,'' he said. ``Whatever they ask me to do, I'll do. But I think there's been enough damage to Indiana and it's time to move forward.''
Not so fast.
In July or August, the NCAA is expected to rule on Indiana's case and could hand down sanctions that go beyond the recruiting restrictions and loss of a scholarship imposed by school officials.
Crean will start next fall with only three returning scholarship players after kicking three players off the team last week. He said he can't wait to begin workouts that will be more than just 3-on-3 drills.
But the oddest twist in this saga occurred last week, when freshman forward Eli Holman told Crean he planned to transfer and became so agitated in the coaches' office that campus police were called.
Holman announced Wednesday he would attend Detroit Mercy, where he will be reunited with Ray McCallum, a former assistant at Indiana under Sampson.
Crean now believes the whole thing was planned.
``I have never had anything like that happen before, and it was disappointing on a lot of fronts,'' Crean said. ``I would say what caused it was him not getting an answer he would have liked. As I see now, it was all part of an orchestration. I respect Eli, and I hope he does well. But it's all starting to play out.''
The toughest part for Crean may be improving the team's APR score.
Indiana avoided being penalized Tuesday when it turned in a score of 899, well below the NCAA's mandated cut line of 925, because it made ``significant'' improvement from the previous year. With so many players leaving the program from last season, it's unlikely Indiana will make the 925 mark next year.
But Crean praised the school's academic counselors and Dan Dakich, who replaced Sampson as interim coach, for stressing classwork over the final two months of the school year.
``Dan Dakich did an excellent job trying to hold the reins down,'' Crean said. ``He did a great job of trying to hold the fort down. There were just too many deaf ears at that point.''
Apparently, academics also were a factor in Crean's decision not to reinstate starting guards Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis, who were kicked off the team by Dakich just hours before Crean was hired April 1.
``Some of it was pretty clear at that point, with the academics, but the decisions were made at different points in the week with the exception of the Holman situation,'' Crean said. ``Hopefully they will all get their education, get their degrees, get to play basketball somewhere and become productive members of society.''
But the toughest task comes now as Crean attempts to rebuild the program.
He expects to see former Indian coach Bob Knight at a charity event Friday, is working on a plan to help improve the team's academic performance and will be busy recruiting more players to Bloomington.
And he hopes to put some of the lessons he learned in the garage area, while visiting Penske Racing and Panther Racing, to use at Indiana, too.
``What separates drivers is that they've got to have focus and execute under pressure,'' Crean said. ``The more you're around different sports, the more you realize it's not that different. The thing that separates the great ones are the same things - discipline and focus.''
Two qualities Crean believes will turn around the Hoosiers program.