Normally I don’t pay much attention to coaches. I may hate opposing players, or think they are overrated, or wish we had them on our team, but the opposing coach is more of a non-entity.
That’s why I find the revulsion I feel for Tom Crean, the head basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, so interesting. I’ve come to really despise him, because he seems to have every despicable quality in the book. He’s a poor sport who won’t give the opposing coach an honest handshake if the Hoosiers lose. During games he stalks back and forth like a reptile in a pet shop cage and ventures far out onto the court in violation of the rules. He’s a braggart in victory and a whiner in defeat. When he loses, he’ll sulk for extended periods before facing the media and answering their questions. And recently he weirdly berated the assistant coach of an opposing team. He just seems like a thoroughly unpleasant guy who has some deep-seated issues.
He’s done a fine job at Indiana, I’ll give him credit for that. He took a fabled basketball school that was on its knees after years of futility and some bad head coaching hires, he recruited some excellent players and coached them well, and he turned things around to the point that the Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular season championship this year. Some of his former players say he has been a tremendous friend and help to them. But, what Tom Crean possesses in recruiting and basketball savvy he seems to utterly lack in charm and sportsmanship. If I were an Indiana fan, I’d be celebrating his success but cringing with embarrassment at some of his antics.
I’ve always thought that coaching was an honorable and important profession, because coaches can have an incredible impact on the young people they mentor and teach. For that reason, I think coaches should be role models and always strive to exhibit the qualities — like sportsmanship, and generosity in victory and graciousness in defeat, and accepting responsibility — that are so important to success in life. Crean doesn’t do so. In my mind, that makes him somebody who can figure out how to win basketball games, but not a very good coach.