Tom Crean Has A Problem

I was sitting down this morning and watching the scrimmage from Hoosier Hysteria, preparing to write a few preseason columns on expectations for the season and then I saw the tweets about freshman Emmit Holt hitting teammate Devin Davis with a car. Holt was arrested with a blood alcohol level of .025. It seems, based on the reporting that I’m reading, that Davis had just gotten out of the car Holt was driving and somehow Holt struck him with the vehicle.

Davis is currently in the hospital in serious condition. (And it goes without saying that I, and everyone else, am hoping for good news for him and a speedy recovery.)

This is madness.

In the last nine months Hanner Mosquera Perea was arrested for OWI in an incident that occurred last February, Yogi Ferrell and Stan Robinson were arrested and charged with Minor Consumption of an Alcoholic Beverage and Possession of a False Identification during Little 500 weekend. And now Holt got behind the wheel impaired and hit a teammate with his car.

Let me be absolutely clear here. This is not a screed about college basketball players drinking and having a good time. Go find an IU alum who doesn’t have a story about seeing a player at a bar or at a party during their time at IU. Mine is a Todd Lindeman story.

A friend of mine was coming in town for the weekend and we were looking for a party to attend. He’d heard tell that Lindeman was known to frequent off-campus parties and indulge in a beverage or two so he joked that we should call Todd and ask what he was up to that night. Ha Ha. Very funny. Neither of us had ever met Lindeman before and he was not in either of our rolodexes.

After some asking and calling around we ended up at a party at one of the various apartment complexes, I have no memory of which one it was. We walked in the door and who do we see, expertly manning the keg and intentionally being 9-12 inches taller than the  next tallest guy in the room? Why Todd Lindeman! Hilarity ensued for us.

College students go to parties and drink. College athletes, being a subset of that larger group of college students, also go to parties and drink. Some college students have fake IDs that they use to obtain alcohol illegally prior to their 21st birthday. Some of those students with fake IDs are college athletes. And none of those underage-fake-ID-possessors, even the ones who are on national and regional television twice a week for months of the year, think they are going to get caught.

So, yes. IU basketball players drink (sometimes before they are legally allowed to do so). This is not surprising, alarming, or newsworthy.

But four players getting arrested in nine months for alcohol-related issues is surprising, alarming, AND newsworthy.

It also pisses me off.

Because it forces me to ask this question.

What the hell is Tom Crean doing down there?

I’ve been an ardent defender against the crazy throngs of Substitution-Pattern Analysts that have been calling for his head since midway through last season because one bad recruiting class leading to one bad year, after two very good to great years, is a speed bump you go over and don’t look back on. It’s not cause to throw the driver out of the car.

But this is different.

I didn’t write an entire book (Who Cares About Phone Calls? available by clicking the link on the right of this page) condemning Kelvin Sampson because he was a bad coach who couldn’t recruit. I condemned him for being a cheater and a liar and dragging a program that means a lot to me down to UK levels of ethics and corruption. We have a standard we expect to be upheld at IU in the way the basketball program runs and operates. It’s about more than basketball.

And Tom Crean came in, he cleaned up a terrible mess and returned IU basketball to the top, while recruiting kids we could support (Let’s just for a moment ignore Devin Dumas, if we could) and be proud of. Kids who went to class (presumably real, non-UNC, classes) and represented us well.

I can forgive some rough patches on the court, so long as our coach is not Sampsoning our program.

Four alcohol arrests in nine months and a kid in the hospital in serious condition and I can no longer say with certainty that Tom Crean is doing things the right way.

I don’t know what he’s doing. (And I’m not saying that in the I don’t know what he’s doing sort of way. I’m saying it in the don’t know what he’s doing sort of way where the emphasis is on my lack of knowledge and not on an implication that I know, but don’t understand or condone, what he’s doing sort of way.)

I can’t lay the blame on him entirely for the decisions that other people make. These kids all made these choices. Crean certainly didn’t call team meetings prior to Valentine’s Day, Little 500, and Halloween and tell the players to go get crunked and by the way here are my keys. But they did. And they got arrested. And now one of them has hurt somebody.

You are who your record says you are. And right now, Crean’s record says 4 in 9 months.

I had just gotten myself to the point where I was getting excited about Hoosier basketball season, after a year of fighting the battle of ridiculous public opinion for an entire year, but I’m right back to wondering how much effort I’m going to put in to making the drive down to use my season tickets this year.

I paused the scrimmage halfway through when I read the news, and I’ve since closed that window completely. I don’t know if I’ll bother reopening it.

I’m pretty sick to my stomach right now.

Crean has to fix whatever is broken in his program that has led to this happening repeatedly since February. And some of what he’s going to have to do is going to have to be 100% dog and pony show, PR crap. The things that will fix this culture of terrible decision making will be things that we won’t see unless we’re inside the program every day. But the public is going to need to see something. And that something, whatever it is, is not going to be the thing that fixes the problem. It’s going to be the thing that makes it look like he’s doing something. It’s just as necessary, but just remember that whatever announcement is made in the next few days about discipline for Emmit or new team rules about curfews or stiffer team penalties for infractions of any kind, that announcement is meaningless. It’s a show to make us think things are back on track again.

Whatever that action is might help, but the real work that needs to be done will be done in places we can’t see. And the results are not going to be immediately visible to the public.

Crean has a lot of work to do. And none of it has anything to do with basketball. I hope he can do it.

Jeff Taylor