Crean, Calipari turning down rhetoric for game

If you were hoping Tom Crean and John Calipari would continue the back and forth jabs they’ve been throwing at each other since the first Indiana-Kentucky matchup, you’ll be disappointed.

The long-time close friends have been getting each other’s fan bases riled up all year by tweaking each other over the result of the first game. Crean sent cracks back at Kentucky’s players for saying Christian Watford’s 3-pointer was a lucky shot, suggesting that the scoreboard tells the story at the end of the day. Calipari thanked ESPN for using Watford’s 3-pointer for motivation. Crean said that the best part about that was “it goes in, every time.”

But with the rematch approaching, Crean and Calipari both indicated that they plan on toning it down this week and trying not to overplay the angle.

“I don’t plan on doing much of that this week,” Crean said. “… Sometimes that’s just to be combative back. I’m not into all that competition and one-upmanship and stuff like that. That’s not really what our friendship’s based on, but if people have fun with it, that’s OK, too. See I don’t have 8 million followers on Twitter like he has — or allegedly has. See, I tweaked him. I don’t want to try to keep up with him.”

Instead, Crean and Calipari spent much of their press conferences complimenting their teams and each other. They’ve known each other since 2001 when Crean was at Marquette and Calipari returned to college coaching and took the Memphis job.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Crean said. “Even if I didn’t know him very well, I would put him up with anybody as far as a basketball coach. I remember when we were in Conference USA together when he had come to Memphis. I learned more watching his game tapes even when we weren’t in competition that helped me in the sense of spacing, misdirection, defensive things, trapping, things of that nature. Just by watching his game tape. I went into that league, 33, I think was my age, and Denny Crum, Bob Huggins in that league, Bobby Lutz, then it was Rick Pitino, John Calipari in that league. It was a total clinic every time you’d watch game tape. John, I think the biggest thing, he just continues to evolve in so many ways with his basketball. As good as he is and as much talent as he has as a coach and with his team, he’s constantly asking questions, looking to adjust. …I learn as much from watching him coach as much as anybody out there.”

Crean said he’s particularly impressed with Calipari’s coaching job this year. Obviously, the Wildcats have a ton of talent. Freshman forward Anthony Davis is a favorite for national player of the year honors, and he and swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and point guard Marquis Teague were three of the top five recruits in the Class of 2011 according to Guard Doron Lamb and forward Terrance Jones were ranked No. 13 and No. 21 respectively in the Class of 2010.

Calipari has generally worked with rosters that loaded in his time at Kentucky, but Crean said this group is more impressive because of the way they move the ball. The Wildcats have 483 assists on 990 field goals this year.

“John is such a good coach for a lot of different reasons,” Crean said. “But maybe this year more than ever, that team really, really shares the basketball. When you look at the talent on that team, and when you look at the upside of that team and where some of those players are just really scratching the surface of where they’re gonna be in basketball in their careers, and he’s got them moving the ball like that. That’s really, really strong. I imagine that’s hard to do. He’s done a phenomenal job. I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve improved. I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve won so many games and they’ve won so many games in a row.”

Crean said he thinks his team hasn’t had a problem dealing with the hype at all in terms of the rematch and of figuring out the game plan. One problem they have had, however, is getting back used to life on the Eastern time zone after spending Monday-Saturday on the West Coast.

“We’re still trying to recover from West Coast time,” Crean said. “We were out there a week, and I’m glad we did, because it allowed us to really get entrenched with what we were trying to do and get our bodies where it needed to be. Well, there’s a flip side to it. People can think it’s easy. It’s one thing to get off a plane and go about business. It’s a whole other thing to have all this surrounding, but they’ve gotta get their bodies back, back in school and be playing at a high level against as good a team as there is the country. We just have to try to get through the process on that, but they’re very even-keel. They’re very locked in.”

NOTE: Hoping to turn this into a bigger and more nuanced story later — mostly because I’m trying to figure out how exactly to write a story about a coach and his religion without it appearing that the newspaper is endorsing said religion —  but figured I’d share this quote.Crean said in Portland he thought this season had made him a better coach and a better person. I asked him on Tuesday to elaborate.

“I think it’s constant,” Crean said. “I think if you’re not getting better, it’s like anything else, you get worse. You owe it to a lot of people. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family. You owe it to your team. When you coach and when we were having success at Marquette, I don’t think we ever took it for granted. I don’t think I ever worked that way. We were always pushing. Always pulling, always hungry, but you get here and you find it’s a lot harder to get because of what we’re dealing with and things are a lot harder to come by in the sense of winning games and getting your team where it needs to be and you realize that you’ve gotta be clicking on all cylinders. It’s never just about talent. It’s never just about lack of talent. It’s about everything being in place. I think that’s what we kept pushing for all the time. Just to make sure, ‘OK, as we get this team better, as they keep improving, let’s make sure we’ve got everything moving in the right direction so when we do get better, we didn’t miss it over here and we didn’t miss it over there. I think it’s the same way in your life. You’ve gotta have spiritual leadership. You have to have it in your own life. You have to have it for your family. You have to have it for your team. Because you’re going through so many hard times that have so little to do with the result on the court. The result on the court is what everybody sees. It’s the process, and it’s how hard it is to get through that process and there’s gotta be belief. There’s absolutely no way around that, in my mind, without having just an incredible faith and belief in God that he’s going to help see you through it, that there’s a plan for it. That you’ve gotta help him guide you to build on your tools. You learn along the way like I said the other day that he expects you to do the work. It’s not like you come out and say, ‘I feel like I’m a better Christian, so things will be easier.’ No, it doesn’t mean anything. It could be harder. It could be a lot harder. But let’s not try to figure it out, let’s just make sure we do all the work and we’ve got everything in place and you keep your priorities straight. I’d like to think that in the last couple of years, we’ve made strides in a lot and I think that would be one of them. You really do realize when you’re in some fights like we’ve been in to build up that you’re certainly not doing it by yourself. You may not see who’s helping you, but he’s there.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 1

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 2

AUDIO: Remy Abell

AUDIO: Cody Zeller

AUDIO: Derek Elston

AUDIO: Christian Watford


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  • Boomer says:

    DD,I look forward to your nuanced story about a coach and his religion (without it appearing that the newspaper is endorsing said religion). I’m fine with coach Crean being a religious man but I’m really tired of hearing about it from him (and his tweets). Personally I think it’s inappropriate because I think religion and faith is a private matter.

    Crean’s quote, I think, verges on saying our winning is some sort of God ordained destiny. I get nervous when he says things like that and when he says we’ve gotta have “spiritual leadership.” I’m actually becoming concerned that the next scandal IU faces will have something to do with a player or players being ostracized because they aren’t religious enough or of the “right” religion. Seriously.

  • jayrig5 says:

    Dustin, I can see the dilemma with building a story around that quote.

    But what I will say is that’s an incredibly healthy attitude, in my opinion, about how religion affects sports. I can’t tell you how horribly irritating it is when athletes/coaches seem to attribute plays, wins, or championships to divine intervention, as if the other team had no people of faith on it. Just saying.

  • Harvard for Hillibillies says:

    I find all the talk of God with this team as offensive. I will forever cheer for the young men that wear cream and crimson, but I would by lying if I acted like many of the statements in that last paragraph did not turn my stomach.

    I used to get criticized on here for bringing up the Twitter stuff..I think it’s obvious now, as it was obvious to me then, that our coach wants to bring his Christian faith out of the private realm his own living room and into the halls our basketball program. I don’t think the pressure to put that one young men is fair. I believe they should come to IU with the freedom to believe what they want to believe.

  • jayrig5 says:

    Boomer, I obviously disagree, although we’re coming from the same place. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what Crean said, nor do I think it’s wrong for him to Tweet on his personal account. However, I get what you’re saying with the fear of players being ostracized for not being of the same religion, or even due to degree of faith. I’m extremely sensitive to issues like that, and if there were ever evidence of that, I would come down on it, hard. As would others. But that hasn’t happened, and along with my earlier post, I just don’t have an issue. If anything, I wish more people in sports would think along those lines.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Seriously Boomer, you missed the entire point on what Crean said. He is tweeting, you are receiving and reading. It would be impossible for him to tweet what you want. So, if you don’t respect his freedom of speech, thought, religion then it is up to you to stop reading him. Our Constitution literally guarantees the right to speak, read, write, think, and practice whatever religious/spiritual thought we want without fear of interference. Crean is motivated by his beliefs, you should be ashamed of attempting to limit or silence them. People gladly literally die- proudly- to guarantee this does not happen in America.

    DD, you write about the entirety of Tom Crean, religion and all. Don’t deny me the right to his thoughts, his ideas, his values and his beliefs.(I would think the same thing about yours). To do so would interfere with and deny my rights and fail your obligation as a reporter of people, society and events, some of who believe in God and some of who don’t. You can not a-priori deny it, you would not only be putting a muzzle on Crean, you would be dictating to me and all other readers about what/who Crean is/should be about.

    For good measure and your enjoyment. Amen.

  • Chet says:

    My hs coach was, IMHO, a hypocritical POS, but I’ll give him this, our pre-game prayers consisted of, ‘let us do our best and don’t let anyone get hurt.’

    Of course, it might have held more weight had he let injured player leave the field.

    Bill Griffith…Fort Wayne…hypocritical bastard.

    That will probably have to be deleted but it felt good to post it.

  • Just Is... says:

    LOL… Chet, he (Griffith) coached in my hometown too (Connersville)… and suffice it to say… if he left town on a motorcycle, he would not have left any friends behind ! 🙂

  • Jimmy says:

    “I’m actually becoming concerned that the next scandal IU faces will have something to do with a player or players being ostracized because they aren’t religious enough or of the “right” religion. Seriously.”

    What a silly thing to worry about.

  • Spe says:

    I think the Coach’s comments are absolutely tremendous. The only time he mentioned a specific religion was the reference to someone assuming that because you’re a better Christian that life is easy. He isn’t endorsing any specific religion, nor downplaying any religion. If his tweets bother you, then ignore them. Because he is the basketball coach of a university does not mean that he speaks in every single moment as the mouth of IU. I applaud the choice to speak up and recognize God in this work. (Notice he didn’t say what God’s name is nor did he say it’s a specific thing.) Hopefully everyone can get behind this type of comment and appreciate it for what it is.

  • coachv says:

    i worry about having a head coach who puts his faith in and, to a great degree, entrusts his his program’s future in his imaginary friend. he works for an institution of higher learning and he espouses devine creation. that means he rejects the scientic evidence of evolution. how can you do that at a university? it is ignorance and does not reflect well on indiana university.

    when crean leads the team in prayer, how many people in that locker room are forced to pretend they believe and are made very uncomfortable. the university needs to tell crean to shut up and keep his religious beliefs to himself. what he is doing is against the law in any other field. can you imagine if your boss made you gather in prayer constantly and credited god for business success?

    consider the possibility that recruits won’t play for him because they are smart enough to not believe in make believe.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    There are even coaches who make a religion out of winning and/or losing. Those live and die in Kentucky.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Spe. You have it right. +++++++

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Coach V…stick with basketball.

  • Fellas,
    Let me first say that I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to go with this here or for that matter if I’m actually going to do anything. It’s obviously a delicate issue and I think to properly explore it requires a lot of space and time and for that matter, opportunity to discuss these things with him further. Maybe I can get enough out of him from upcoming press conferences to write something fair and serviceable. Maybe I’m going to need a sitdown with him in the future and maybe he won’t be willing to give me that. I’m not making any promises here that there will actually be a story someday. I thought this quote was worth sharing considering that in press conferences and on television this week, he went beyond Twitter to address his religion and actually started doing it publicly. Plus, when he was finished, I actually heard a TV guy behind me say, “Wow, that’s awesome.” And especially since it was my question that got it out of him, I didn’t want to sit on it and hand it to the TV guys. Hope you guys find it at least interesting. We’ll see if it becomes something else.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    DD…it really was great that you asked and shared it with everyone. It was unusual and, in many ways courageous, that TC spoke so openly and deeply. You did a good thing asking the question and writing about that side of him. (My son shared it openly with a big number of his soldiers). It is who Tom Crean is and reflects on what his players see and respect about him.

    You know what I think would be a great story (after this weekend or two)- that you allow TC to read all of the posts and that he share his thoughts about all of them with us through your story. I suspect it would be very good and deep reading for and about all of us.

  • Tsao,
    You mean his Twitter account posts or the posts on our blog? Either way, it’s almost definitely not going to happen because he 1) is a busy man 2) doesn’t like me that much. But I’m not sure what direction you’re going with this.

  • coachv says:

    tsao dunger

    how about i stick to science and you, and the easter bunny, and the tooth fairy, and santa can all go take in a magic show.

    constitution. separation of church and state. taxpayer paid salary. lawsuit. what’s so hard to understand here?

    seriously, what kind of moron do you have to be to believe in that god malarkey?

  • coachv says:

    besides, if i stick to basketball i’ll have no one to talk to here.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    The whole of it DD. He (TC, not He)must know there are people who strongly support his view and expression of religion and beliefs and his use of basketball as a “pulpit” where he appears to be comfortable giving witness; others who are strongly oppose it and, generally, are uncomfortable with it; and a whole range in-between.

    While it goes unsaid, obviously many sports people feel one way or another. An intelligent story acknowledging the divide, the role it plays on this ‘miracle’ season (funny how some call it a ‘miracle’ season but object to the recognition by TC of a source that drives him), the force behind his beliefs…etc. And, I think you are intelligent enough and deep enough to handle it well, with seriousness and without bias. I think that is why journalists exist, to shine a light (no religious meaning to the phrase)to who we are.

    Otherwise all we need is a box score.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Well CoachV, entertain yourself with a book on the rules of the English language. Pay particular attention to the chapters on sentences, paragraphs and the use of capitals.

    Then on the Constitution….etc; it must be hard to understand. You obviously didn’t.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    DD- as to his being busy, that’s why I said after the season; and he doesn’t have to like you, just answer your questions. Otherwise, just ask it in any open forum… he would not be the first public figure to dislike questions but their public role mandates transparency I believe.

    (Mind you, I think he has done a good job this year; and I have made it clear that he has a right to express his views as anyone does). But a public role does demand he address issues that may affect that role. And your role requires that you ask questions until they are answered…(his) like or dislike of you has nothing to do with it. Bob Knight would have answered you. (I didn’t say you’d like the answer).

  • Tsao,
    I think I’m pretty much with you here, just wasn’t sure if I properly understood. At the next proper place and time I’m interested in delving deeper into the religious issue. That may or may not be the press conferences in Atlanta as there is obviously a lot more to discuss. Getting him to sit down with me and look at blog posts or his specific Twitter entries (which is what I thought you were suggesting) is a whole other issue entirely, as I could promise you he would not agree to that.

  • Boomer says:

    Tsao TsuG, I didn’t miss the point of what Crean said. I read and I heard what he said and I understand completely and fully what he said. As for the Tweets, I used to follow him on Twitter but I haven’t now for quite some time, precisely because of the religious quotes and the fact that a couple of the people he quotes are well known by many for their intolerance.

    You need to reread what I wrote because I, in no way, suggested anything about trying to silence him. I only said that I thought his talking about his religion was inappropriate – that’s called sharing my opinion. I didn’t say one word advocating he be silenced. I have nothing to be ashamed of and I certainly don’t appreciate you telling me I should be ashamed of sharing my opinion while lecturing me about freedom of speech.

  • Harvard for Hillibillies says:

    Totally disagree with you, Tsao. I’ll elaborate when I have more time to express my reasoning. The danger is not in what our coach believes. The danger is the public use of that belief to shield him from fair judgment and evaluation within his own profession. It empowers through the use of marketing yourself untouchable by your proclamations a man of God rather than the quiet trust in God based on a truer faith in your heart.

    My guess would be that Dustin became quite uncomfortable when the coach lays down the heavy gavel of God to create an immediate dividing line the interviewer must decide which area to stand. He has his freedom to speak his beliefs, but what does it show to have no ear, to totally be devoid of respect, for a person that may find faith outside his Christian doctrines? It abuses religion by empowering yourself as superior because you give no credence to someone having any faith different your own. It creates a feeling of “you’re either with me, or against me” because “you’re either with my God, or against my God” in every one on one relationship/discussion he enters.

    What a great protective wall it provides for him and not at all anything that gives me a feeling of genuine spiritualness.

  • Jhice says:

    I actually cringed a little when TC, on Senior night, made a comment about how “God loving, and God fearing” his players are. That is not the type of rhetoric I want to hear out of a coach at a public institution. If he was the coach at a private, religious university it would be a completely different thing.

    Also, does this mean that Crean is not in the business of recruiting young men that are of another religion, or perhaps no religion at all? I assume there are players out there that might not want to have a particular brand of religion forced on them when they get to college and would just as soon play elsewhere.

    I also find it silly that men of strong faith in sports always seem to claim that God is testing them when they perform poorly on the field/court, and that God is blessing them when they do well. The simpler and more logical answer to performance on the field/court is that sometimes you give it 100% and do well, other times you don’t work as hard and you perform poorly. Makes way more sense to me.

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