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April 1, 2008

Crean set to take over at Indiana

MORE: Dismissed Hoosier will wait on Crean

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Indiana is turning to Tom Crean to bring respectability back to Hoosiers.

A couple dozen wins each year would help, too.

After a tumultuous season and turbulent coaching search, the Hoosiers finally hired Crean on Tuesday as what they hope will be a long-term replacement for Kelvin Sampson. Sampson resigned in February amid a phone-call scandal that included five major allegations from the NCAA.

The Hoosiers' rabid fans hope that the tinge of NCAA allegations, the craziness that overshadowed basketball for the past six weeks and the disciplinary problems that have continued in the program will all be forgotten now. Crean is expected to be introduced at a news conference Wednesday morning.

"I think he's a great choice," university trustee Philip Eskew said after confirming the hiring. "He has a Big Ten background, a Midwest background, he's recruited in the state of Indiana and he has an impeccable record, so I think Indiana is on the road to recovery."

For most Indiana fans, the changes can't come soon enough.

Sampson's resignation Feb. 22 led to the promotion of interim coach Dan Dakich, a threatened players boycott, and the ultimate indignity of losing four of their last seven games including a first-round NCAA game to Arkansas. The Hoosiers finished the season 25-8.

Losses were only part of the problem.

Six players skipped Dakich's first practice and never played with the same zeal after Sampson's departure. Dakich gave guard Jamarcus Ellis a one-game suspension for disciplinary reasons, and on Tuesday dismissed Ellis and Armon Bassett, another starting guard, after they missed a scheduled appointment last week and then failed to run extra laps as their punishment the next day.

Those with ties to the program believe Crean may finally be the solution.

"I think it's a very good move," said Jared Jeffries, a former Indiana star now playing for the New York Knicks. "He's proven himself to be a successful college coach at this level, a very good recruiter, recognize talent. That's who we need at Indiana, we need somebody who is going to be stable, a foundation for our future."

Crean, who led Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, will be responsible for rebuilding not only Indiana's reputation as a national power but also cleaning up its image.

The biggest question, however, is what kind of team will he inherit.

Starting forwards D.J. White and Lance Stemler both finished their senior seasons, and it's uncertain whether Bassett and Ellis, two of the starting guards, are gone for good.

On Monday, freshman guard Eric Gordon is expected to announce whether he will declare early for the NBA. Most figure, he's leaving, which would leave Indiana without all five of its regular starters from last season.

They're also short a scholarship next season, part of the self-imposed sanctions for Sampson's impermissible phone calls, and Crean's first job will be trying to keep two recruits Indiana has already signed - Terrell Holloway and Devin Ebanks. Both have requested to be let out of their national letters-of-intent.

But Crean is known as a strong recruiter and those who know him and the expectations of Indiana fans best believe he'll be a perfect fit.

"He's got a brilliant basketball mind - definitely a good hire for Indiana - I was very vocal about Dan getting the job, but Tom is definitely qualified and will do an excellent job at Indiana," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said before his game in Milwaukee on Tuesday. "Any way that I can help him, I definitely will."

Crean went 190-96 in nine seasons at Marquette. He leaves for a job that came open after Sampson's latest alleged missteps with the NCAA.

Since Bob Knight's firing in September 200, a move that sharply divided the fan base, the Hoosiers have struggled to find a suitable successor. Fans complained Mike Davis, who replaced Knight, never won enough. Sampson, Davis' successor, stained the university's once-impeccable reputation in less than two years, and many felt Dakich, a former Indiana player and longtime assistant of Knight, was not a big enough name to lead the program.

Athletic director Rick Greenspan also spoke with Washington State coach Tony Bennett, who said he was not interested, and the list of rumored candidates included names ranging from Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo to Butler's Brad Stevens and Wright State's Brad Brownell.

But Crean jumped to the front of the list Tuesday and signed a letter-of-intent to come to Indiana. Terms of the contract were not immediately available.

Crean was to meet with his Marquette team Tuesday night before boarding a flight bound for Bloomington.

Before taking over at Marquette, Crean spent four seasons as an assistant at Michigan State under Izzo, one year as an assistant at Pittsburgh and four seasons as a Western Kentucky assistant. He also was a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1989-90.

MORE: Dismissed Hoosier will wait on Crean



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