Tom Crean knew he was walking into a difficult situation at Indiana in the aftermath of Kelvin Sampson being fired and looming NCAA sanctions.
But he said this week it was worse than what he ever could have imagined. And much of that had to do with the roster he inherited.
“I had no idea what I was walking into there (at Indiana),” Crean said this week on The Rex Chapman Show.
“I took the job on a Tuesday, by the following Monday, a vice president (of Marquette) said why don’t we treat this like a bad April Fool’s joke and you come back.”
Indiana did indeed hire Crean on April Fool’s Day, 2008.
And he says what felt like bad pranks started right away.
“I found out the first day we had 19 Fs with three-and-a-half weeks left of school, started finding out about the flunked drug tests and that was just the beginning of it,” he told Chapman.
“We would go clean lockers out and find lighters and roach clips. I had a player’s parent try to negotiate failed drug tests down — if we got the two failed drug tests wiped out, the player would come back.”
In the end Crean had to completely overhaul the roster on short notice. Only walk-ons Kyle Taber and Brett Finkelmeier returned from the prior year’s squad. Crean’s first IU team went 6-25 overall and just 1-17 in the Big Ten.
It took three full years to build a competitive program.
“It was three years of craziness,” Crean said.
“There were regrets during that, but there was a belief we could build it up and the fanbase was so good when we first started,” Crean said. “There’s nothing like a sold-out game. When that game is sold out and the fans are behind you, there’s nothing like it.”
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