Tom Crean’s career crossroads a result of losing, not his players’ off-court antics

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Tom Crean (Getty Images)

The pressure on Tom Crean at Indiana has never been greater than it is right now.

On Monday, news leaked that two sophomores on the team, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson, were going to be suspended for two games, as well as both exhibition, for failing drug tests over the summer. That came just days after an incident where sophomore Devin Davis was knocked unconscious and hospitalized in serious condition and running into the street and getting hit by a car driven by freshman Emmitt Holt. Holt, who is underage, was drinking and will face legal action as a result. Davis had reportedly been drinking as well.

Back in April, Robinson and star junior Yogi Ferrell were cited for possession fake IDs outside of a bar in Bloomington. That came two months after then-sophomore Hanner Mosquera-Perea was arrested for drinking and driving. Do the math, and in the span of eight months, six of the players on scholarship at Indiana have either gotten in trouble for drinking violations, failed drug tests or gotten hit by a car driven by their teammate while drinking.

The result?

The star columnist at the biggest paper in Indiana is now calling for Crean’s job. The radio host of one of the most popular shows in the state — a former IU head coach and player — is railing on Crean about the state of the program and how players are allowed to run wild. A national columnist devoted an entire story to the disconnect between Crean and his players. The first question on Crean’s first radio show of the year was a caller asking why Crean still has a job. Ex-players, former teammates of the guys that are currently getting in trouble, are speaking out on social media about what’s going on in Bloomington.

It’s so bad that Crean’s boss, athletic director Fred Glass, has to speak out publicly in defense of his head coach.

“Tom is absolutely not in trouble,” he told the Herald Times. “Tom is part of the solution. He’s not part of the problem.”

That’s probably true. It would tough to fire a coach with a $12 million buyout in November over a couple of failed drug tests from the offseason and a trio of alcohol-related incidents involving dumb college kids.

It wouldn’t be tough to fire that coach if the Hoosiers end up missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, which brings us to the heart of the issue here. The problem here isn’t that Crean’s players are getting in trouble, the problem is that they are getting in trouble on a team that isn’t all that good.

The Hoosier faithful are as intense and passionate as college basketball fans get. That Big Ten title that Crean won in 2013 was supposed to be their return to national relevance. They were supposed to be competing for Big Ten titles and Final Fours and the right to call themselves the best basketball program in Kentuckiana. Instead, they lost in the Sweet 16 despite being a No. 1 seed, followed that up with a 17-15 season and enter 2014-2015 looking like a longshot to make a return to the NCAA tournament.

They’re mad, and frankly, they have a right to be. This is Crean’s seventh season in Bloomington. He was supposed to be the guy that revived this program from the disaster that was the Kelvin Sampson era, and with the exception of one season, he hasn’t done that.

But you can’t tell me the reaction would be this vitriolic if Crean was coming off of a 27-win season where he finished fourth in the Big Ten and made the Sweet 16. Because none of what is happening at Indiana is really all that unique. It’s college kids using fake IDs to go to drink underage, college kids smoking weed during the summer, college kids making the stupid, inexcusable decision to get behind the wheel after drinking.

Crean’s job deserves to be in question, but it’s not because his players keep getting in trouble.

It’s because he hasn’t won enough games to protect himself against the irresponsible 19-year olds on his roster acting like irresponsible 19-year olds.