BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -Tom Crean is putting on his hard hat.
He's changed his practice regimen and revised his playbook. He's reinforcing Indiana's message about classroom expectations and making players understand that hustle, desire and teamwork are far more important to their success this season than victories. And he's asking fans for plenty of patience.
Crean's new job is rebuilding the Hoosiers.
``I think what's coming to light is that we can be creative and we have to give them every opportunity to be in every game,'' Crean said. ``But we can't lose sight of what we want going forward.''
Crean's job is to restore luster to a program that owns five national titles and was one of the nation's elite basketball schools. However, it will take time to fix the damage wrought by Kelvin Sampson's NCAA phone-call scandal. So Crean's renovation project begins at the foundation.
of waiting to learn what punishment the NCAA infractions committee hands down.
Players who were expected to be the cornerstone for a solid 2008-09 season have departed, leaving Crean with only one returnee who logged significant minutes last season, forward Kyle Taber.
Indiana opens the season Saturday against Northwestern State with nine scholarship players - four fewer than NCAA rules permit - and only four juniors or seniors. A treacherous schedule includes at least eight games against teams that open the season in the Top 25.
``It's a tough position to be in,'' said guard Devan Dumes, a junior college transfer. ``But I've played with my back against the wall as long as I can remember. It's a good challenge, though, and life wouldn't be as fun without good challenges.''
Crean insists this massive cleanup is the greatest challenge he's faced and believes Indiana's loyal fan base and long-standing traditions will help him finish the job.
It started with small steps.
Crean used exhibition games and two public scrimmages to get his players acclimated to playing in front of large crowds, figure out his rotation and find out how this team fits together.
(Bob) Knight, but not nearly as afraid as him as we were of the juniors and seniors.' We're nowhere close to that now. I think the chemistry will come when we don't accept a lack of effort or a lack of focus.''
The numbers appear to be stacked against the Hoosiers.
Taber is the only senior. Indiana has just three players taller than 6-foot-6, and there are nearly as many walk-ons (seven) as recruits on the roster.
In a state where Hoosiers basketball is king, bleak outlooks are not the norm.
Instead of discussing Indiana's Big Ten title chances or deep runs into the NCAA tournament, the Hoosiers are almost universally picked to finish last this season.
Fans are asking a series of repetitive questions: How much time will Crean need to improve the program? Will things get worse before they get better? How many games can Indiana win this season?
Crean has no easy answers.
``I have learned that you can't get ahead of yourself in anything,'' Crean said. ``They have to learn how to work. It's almost like becoming a professional and having to learn that work ethic and your capacity for fatigue and to get through it.''
Crean signed six new players this week, but they won't be able to help until next season.
ce, pride and victories.
``We can't expect one or two people to lead the way in scoring, in stature or in leadership,'' Crean said. ``Will it be that way all the time? I don't know. We have to find our leadership any way we can find it.''
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