Top Candidates to Replace Tom Crean at Indiana
By: Andrew Vailliencourt
Following Indiana’s 75-63 loss to Georgia Tech in the first round of the NIT, the school has announced that Tom Crean will not return as head basketball coach next season.
Crean went 166-135 in nine seasons at IU. He turned the program around after devastating sanctions, reaching the NCAA Tournament five times, Sweet 16 three times and winning the Big Ten regular season championship twice. However, after missing the NCAA Tournament twice in the last four years, it became clear that someone else is needed to take IU to the top. Crean should be thanked and cheered for by fans moving forward, as it is important to remember that he did bring back the Hoosiers to relevancy.
However, it’s time to move forward. This list takes a look at a number of possible targets IU should have to replace Crean.
THE DREAM HIRES
BRAD STEVENS, BOSTON CELTICS
Career Record: 166-49 in six seasons at Butler, 155-158 in four seasons with Boston Celtics.
2016 Salary per USA Today: $3.66 million
Why it makes sense: This would be the Jim Harbaugh type hire for the Hoosiers, bringing home the Indiana native. Stevens went to two Final Fours at Butler, and has turned the Boston Celtics into a contender in his short time there. There’s not a single fan that would say no to this.
Why it won’t work: Stevens isn’t leaving the NBA. He has a great team in Boston and has all the resources he could ever want. It’s simply a pipe dream. Fred Glass has to at least make the call though and tell Stevens the job is his if he wants it. He’d have to offer Stevens a blank check.
BILLY DONOVAN, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Career Record: 502-206 in 21 seasons (Two at Marshall, 19 at Florida), 92-56 in two seasons with Oklahoma City Thunder.
2016 Salary per USA Today: $6 million
Why it makes sense: Donovan is an outstanding college coach. He led Florida to two national titles and four Final Fours in his time with the Gators, and made the NCAA Tournament 14 times. He is a great recruiter and his in game coaching is top grade in both college and the NBA. He led the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals last season. After Kevin Durant left the team to go to the Warriors, it’s possible that Donovan could want to return to the college game, where he can build his team the way he wants instead of living and dying by his lone superstar, Russell Westbrook. He would command a salary north of the six million he currently makes (as would Stevens) but Indiana is going to need to open to checkbook for any candidate on this list. If you want a top level coach, you have to pay top level money.
Why it won’t work: The obvious question is whether or not Donovan would consider leaving the NBA. He has a playoff team in Oklahoma City, even if they don’t have much of a chance at winning anything in the short term. If he did decide to leave the NBA, would he come to Indiana? Or wait for a Duke or North Carolina job to open up? Indiana also might not be willing to pony up the money necessary to get a guy like Donovan. This would be a reach, but would qualify as a slam dunk hire should it happen.
THE NOT-SO REALISTIC SHORT LIST
SEAN MILLER, ARIZONA
Career Record: 338-112 in 13 seasons (five at Xavier, eight at Arizona)
2016 Salary per USA Today: $4.35 million
Why it makes sense: Miller is back in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time this season, leading the Wildcats to a No. 2 seed. He’s reached four Elite Eight’s and six Sweet 16’s between his time with Xavier and Arizona. Miller is an elite recruiter, and hasn’t coached a team with double digit losses since the 2011-12 season when Arizona went 23-12. Miller entertained leaving Arizona for the Pittsburgh job recently (his alma mater) and could possibly be talked into leaving for IU with enough money.
Why it won’t work: The chances of Miller leaving what he’s built at Arizona is slim. He’s arguably in a position that is better than he’d be in if he left for IU. Arizona is a top program in college basketball and Miller is as close as ever to being able to reach his first Final Four. Not to mention that Miller is already getting paid a ton of money, so opening the checkbook might not be enough to land him.
TONY BENNETT, VIRGINIA
Career Record: 256-115 in 11 seasons (three at Washington State, eight at Virginia)
2016 Salary per USA Today: $2.1 million
Why it makes sense: Bennett has made seven NCAA Tournament’s, including now four straight at Virginia. He has reached two Sweet 16’s (one at Washington State) and one Elite Eight. Virginia is not an easy place to win, playing in ACC, and Bennett might want to be at a place that’s an easier sell to recruits. He has shown he can beat the best competition in the country, winning the ACC regular season title in 2014 and 2015, and has recruited the state of Indiana, stealing away Kyle Guy, who was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2016. He was offered the IU job previously, but turned it down. Now, IU is in a much better position than it was nine years ago, and can pay him a whole lot more.
Why it won’t work: Bennett’s teams can be hard to watch. They play incredibly slow on the offensive end, despite outstanding defense. It’d be a massive change compared to what IU has done the past few seasons, and might literally bore fans to death. Bennett, like others, could view himself to be in a better position than he’d be in should he come to IU, and would likely take a lot of convincing to leave what he’s built. His teams also have had a tendency to collapse in the big dance, losing in back-to-back years to Michigan State – first in the Sweet 16 and then in the second round, and falling to Syracuse in the Elite Eight last season.
THE REALISTIC SHORT LIST
ARCHIE MILLER, DAYTON
Career Record: 139-62 in six seasons at Dayton
2016 Salary per USA Today: $692,547
Why it makes sense: Miller is arguably the hottest name among mid-major coaches. He has now led Dayton to four straight NCAA Tournament selections, and reached the Elite Eight in 2014 with the Flyers. He is just 38 years old, and is ready to make the jump to an elite major program. He’s accomplished everything you can do at Dayton, but now needs to resources of a school like Indiana to take his career to the next level. He’s been an assistant at Arizona, Ohio State, Arizona State, NC State and Western Kentucky. Money won’t be an issue, even though Miller makes a little more than a million dollars a year with his new contract (USA Today number not updated yet), the only issue could be a large buyout. The jump to a major program worked out well for his brother Sean at Arizona, and it should for him at IU if he is offered the job. Expect Miller to be the top reasonable option.
Why it won’t work: Miller’s alma mater, NC State has an opening this year as well, and despite rational thinking that Indiana is a much better job, sometimes emotion and the draw of an alma mater can trump that thinking. It’s also possible that Miller just really loves Dayton, and doesn’t want to leave. He has had chances to leave before but hasn’t. However, IU is the type of job that would be tough for him to say no to.
GREGG MARSHALL, WICHITA STATE
Career Record: 454-172 in 19 seasons (nine at Winthrop, 10 at Wichita State)
2016 Salary per USA Today: $3 million
Why it makes sense: Marshall is one of the best coaches in the country, despite being at a mid-major. He gets paid like it too, making about the same as Tom Crean made at IU. He’s made the NCAA Tournament 13 times, making the Final Four in 2013, Sweet 16 in 2015 and his team was a No. 1 seed in 2014. He also won the NIT in 2011. This year marks the sixth straight tournament appearance for Wichita State under Marshall. If IU offered enough money, Marshall might be willing to make the jump to a major program. IU is on the level that could draw him away from Wichita State. His coaching talent paired with elite recruits would be a sight to behold.
Why it won’t work: Marshall is comfortable at Wichita State, and gets paid enough that he never has to leave if he doesn’t want to. He can pick anywhere he goes next. He very well could decide he wants to stay at Wichita forever. If he decides he is willing to leave, it will probably cost a fortune, but again, if IU wants a top level coach it needs to pay up. Marshall has turned down multiple jobs at the Power Five level, most recently Alabama. But he hasn’t gotten an offer from a school on Indiana’s level before.
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
FRED HOIBERG, CHICAGO BULLS
Career Record: 115-56 in five seasons at Iowa State, 74-75 in two seasons in Chicago
2016 Salary per USA Today: $5 million
Why it makes sense: Hoiberg was very successful in his time with Iowa State, leading the Cyclones to four NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16 berth. Now with the Bulls, there’s a chance he will either be fired or decides he wants to return to the college game where he was more comfortable. Indiana would be an upgrade over Iowa State, but keep him in the Midwest.
Why it won’t work: Hoiberg only coached Iowa State for five years, and never made it past the Sweet 16. He may not be proven enough for IU’s taste. He also has struggled in the NBA. It could be very costly to poach him from the Bulls, as Chicago stills owes him a lot of money, and IU might have to top the $5 million a year he makes right now. He also could stay with Chicago and decide he doesn’t want to go back to college. Rumors are he was not a huge fan of recruiting and it’s difficult to go back once you get a taste of life without it in the NBA. The timing with the end of an NBA season compared to college hoops could also cause problems, just as it would with Stevens and Donovan. Hoiberg is the most likely to leave the NBA of the three NBA coaches on this list.
STEVE ALFORD, UCLA
Career Record: 479-250 in 22 seasons (four at SW Missouri State, eight at Iowa, six at New Mexico, four at UCLA)
2016 Salary per USA Today: $2.63 million
Why it makes sense: The former Indiana great is having his best season yet at UCLA, a program similar in stature to Indiana. He’s made the NCAA Tournament 10 times, and reached the Sweet 16 three times, twice at UCLA. Alford may have interest in returning to his alma mater, and depending on what other candidates say, he might be on IU’s list of possibilities. He’s coached in the Big Ten before, leading Iowa to the tournament three times and the NIT three times.
Why it won’t work: As much as Hoosier Nation may love Alford as a player, he really hasn’t done a whole lot as a coach, and probably wouldn’t be in the discussion if it weren’t for his IU ties. He underachieved at Iowa, and was on the hot seat at UCLA before his strong season this year. Alford also has a huge buyout. If he were to leave UCLA before April 30, he would owe the school $7.8 million, and $5.2 million if he left after that date. This alone makes the possibility of Alford leaving pretty slim.
THE BACKUP PLANS
CHRIS MACK, XAVIER
Career Record: 183-90 in eight seasons at Xavier
2016 Salary per USA Today: $1.18 million
Why it makes sense: Mack has been terrific at Xavier, leading the Musketeers to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in his eight seasons. He has reached the Sweet 16 three times, and won two conference championships. Xavier has a history of producing great coaches, including Thad Matta (Ohio State) and Sean Miller (Arizona). Mack is the next man up, and could very well see success at a school like Indiana, should it come calling. Mack also has some Indiana ties, as he played two years of basketball at Evansville before transferring to Xavier. Money would be no problem here, as Indiana could offer much more than he makes currently.
Why it won’t work: Xavier is his alma mater, which could make Mack not want to leave. While highly successful, one could argue two of his three best teams came with Miller’s players during his first two years on the job. He’s had double digit losses in five seasons, but did make the big dance in four of those five. Mack likely won’t be first up on the call list, but should the Miller brothers and Marshall say no, Mack wouldn’t be a bad backup plan.
CHRIS HOLTMANN, BUTLER
Career Record: 112-84 in six seasons (three at Gardner-Webb, three at Butler)
2016 Salary per USA Today: n/a (but likely around $1 million)
Why it makes sense: Holtmann has led Butler to three straight NCAA Tournaments and is seen as one of the better up and coming coaches in college hoops. He recruits the state of Indiana well, and would almost certainly jump from Butler to IU. He beat Indiana this past season.
Why it won’t work: Holtmann probably doesn’t have enough major experience to get the IU job. Just three years at Butler without advancing past the second round isn’t going to be good enough for most fans. You won’t find many people that disagree that he has potential, but he may need one more stop before a job like Indiana, or at least a few more years. However, should other candidates turn down the job, Holtmann could get a look.
CHRIS COLLINS, NORTHWESTERN
Career Record: 72-59 in four seasons at Northwestern
2016 Salary per USA Today: n/a
Why it makes sense: Collins has done what seemed impossible and gotten Northwestern into the NCAA Tournament. He turned the program around in four years after being an assistant coach at Duke for 13 years. IU can offer better money, facilities and of course has a much stronger basketball tradition and program.
Why it won’t work: Collins simply hasn’t done enough to be considered for the job. Sure, he had one good season that led to the Wildcats making the big dance, but that alone shouldn’t be enough to get consideration for the IU job. His Duke assistant coaching experience is nice, but to run a program like IU, it’ll take more sustained success as a head coach.
MICK CRONIN, CINCINNATI
Career Record: 305-157 in 14 seasons (three at Murray State and 11 at Cincinnati)
2016 Salary per USA Today: $2.2 million
Why it makes sense: Cronin has consistently done more with less while at his alma mater. He was an assistant under Bob Huggins at UC and then an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville before taking the head coaching job at Murray State and then UC in 2006. He has made the NCAA Tournament nine times, including the last seven years, and reached the Sweet 16 in 2012. He considered leaving Cincinnati for the UNLV job after last season, but decided to stay. He would almost certainly leave for the Indiana job should it be offered to him.
Why it won’t work: Cronin hasn’t been the most successful in March. He has only made it out of the first round three times in his nine appearances, and only once made it to the Sweet 16. He also had health issues that caused him to miss a chunk of the 2015 season. Indiana might be too big of a stage for Cronin, despite his success at UC.