With the confirmation that Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell are leaving the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team, there has been quite a flurry of emotions stirred up again among those in the Hoosier Nation. There are many that want Coach Crean’s head on a stick again (see the past uproar when the Hoosiers had their end-of-season losing streak). What I don’t get is that the fans were unhappy with how the team was playing and now they are unhappy when players that have statistically underproduced are leaving the program? There’s a great analysis of the impact that the departing players will have on the program (got to throw in Marlin’s departure as well) on btownbanners.com and, in all honesty, the team isn’t going to be hurt that badly due to the departures. When you look at the class of recruits that we already have coming in and now add in three more spots to fill on the roster (don’t forget Vonleh’s early departure) with some potentially choice transfers, next year looks like it could be a very exciting year.
I posted the following on Facebook on Monday, 3/17/14:
The Hoosier basketball season is over and I’m strangely OK with it. I’m going to miss seeing Will Sheehey in the candy-stripes. He has been one of my favorite Hoosiers to don the cream and crimson. I hope the off-season is full of a lot of introspection and soul searching within the program to figure out what caused such a talent-rich squad to fall short on so many occasions. This season is over so the anticipation for next season starts today.
The more I think about this season, I really am sad for Will Sheehey. He has put so much into the Hoosier program over the last four years and it’s unfortunate that he didn’t get to play in the post-season to finish out his Senior year at Indiana. I hope that the underclassmen on the team have learned from Will about how to preserver.
Most folks will now start the talks of if Noah Vonleh will stay or enter the NBA draft. I hope he stays because the Big Ten season showed me that he has a whole lot of growing to do. We saw flashes of things that he can build upon but he needs to get stronger and learn how to play against players more his size. If he dreams of playing in the NBA, he has to learn how to play against guys his size or bigger because almost every team in the NBA has a 7-footer these days. Another reason for him to stay is that it will help the program out a great deal. Cody Zeller was a good player as a freshman but he really became comfortable with the game his sophomore year. Staying that extra year was one of the wisest decisions that Zeller made (second only to choosing to wear the candy-striped pants in the first place) and you can point to a large part of the success of the 2012-2013 team being due to Zeller being down-low.
I am optimistic about the team that the Hoosiers will field next year. We got to see some good growth by our freshmen this year towards the end of the season. I think they are starting to understand how grueling a Big Ten season can be and they’ve experienced the humbling switch from the high school game, where they were each the best of the best, to the Big Ten season, where their talent level is average. Now the question is if they will learn from this and work to improve their skills to take them to the next level when compared to other Big Ten talent. Now that you’re a sophomore, no one cares what you did in high school.
The elephant in the room
There are a lot of folks that are calling for Tom Crean’s head in all of this. I think it’s time to stop, count to 10, and think about some perspective. Last season was a good team with a lot of good talent. They made a great run through the tournament and lost to a very good Syracuse team. All of the Indiana forums this year are covered with folks that thought that last year’s team should have won it all. To them, it’s Tom Crean’s fault that they didn’t hang a banner. Don’t forget that Jim Boeheim is no slouch of a coach. He has averaged a 75% winning percentage over 37 years at the same school. He wins 63% of his tournament games. Loosing to that coach should not be a surprise. He has spent a long time learning how to beat teams and putting what he has learned into practice.
I’ve helped coach youth basketball before and you’re going to have kids that may not follow your game plan or buy into your vision. Some of the season looked like that is exactly what was happening. When that happens, you’ve got to let them fail a bit and turn them over to the team’s leader to let them work together to get everyone on the same page. In Boy Scouts, the adult leaders are there to guide the boys and to provide a safe environment but they are led by their fellow Scouts. It’s fairly obvious when there are no Scouts leading from within. I believe that what we saw for a large part of this season was a group of players that were missing an active leader on the team. Towards the end of the season, the team started to come together better and I think that was due to Sheehey accepting and exerting his role as the leader. The coach can come up with a game plan but he can’t run the plays from the sidelines. There is a point in time when he hands it over to the players to execute. Hopefully next year we’ll see a team a little more mature and ready to execute the plans drawn up by the coaching staff. I’m also curious to see who is going to be the leader of the team next year. Ferrell is the obvious choice since he’ll be a Junior and runs the offense as the point guard. In the end, we can all call him the leader but it’s a role that he has to accept and embrace for it to be successful.
So, how was the season? Well, if you’re an Indiana fan, it felt a little like this:
I came across the above story earlier today and it made me wax philosophical about my time in Bloomington. One of the little things he mentions is one of the sounds that will forever stick with me: the sound of snow hitting the dead leaves in the trees. To this day, when I hear that sound I am instantly transported back to my Junior and Senior years at IU. I lived off campus those two years and there were a lot of nights that had me working in the computer labs.
I was a Computer Science major and this was at a time when working on stuff at home was not an easy proposition. To be able to work on programming assignments at home, you had to have a dial-up modem, which would then tie up your phone line. I couldn’t imagine what being a CS student today is like…
My walk back home had me walking through wooded areas and tree-lined streets. On nights when it was snowing, I remember the quiet roar of the snow falling through the trees and hitting the dead leaves that were still clinging to the trees.
The other day it actually snowed down here in Birmingham. When I opened the front door to check on accumulation, I was greeted with that old familiar sound coming from the oak tree in the front yard.