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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Crean takes over at Indiana

Ex-Marquette coach calls IU post No. 1 in country

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Darron Cummings/AP Photo

Tom Crean shows off a shirt after being introduced as Indiana's men's basketball coach. Crean met the media Wednesday in Bloomington, Ind.

— Tom Crean couldn't say "no" when Indiana offered him the coaching job.

He thought back to the undefeated 1976 team he watched as a child, the first coaching clinic he attended with Bob Knight, the appearance of Kent Benson in his hometown of Mount Pleasant, Mich., and the respect he had for the program.

Yes, his loyalties always seemed to be with Indiana, and after his introduction Wednesday as the new coach, he's finally a Hoosier.

"This was a heart decision," Crean said, his voice cracking. "This was not a business decision or a legacy decision. I'd had other opportunities to walk away (from Marquette), and none of them felt like this. I'm going to miss those people a lot, but I'm excited to be here."

Indiana fans are just as eager to have him in Bloomington.

"If you ask people, some might rank it (the job) in the top three or the top five or the top 10 in the country," Crean said. "To me, it's No. 1."

By giving Crean an eight-year deal worth $18.24 million, an average of $2.3 million each season, the Hoosiers paid a hefty price to forget one of the darkest chapters in school history. Kelvin Sampson, who resigned amid an NCAA scandal in February, was to be paid a total of $1.1 million last year before accepting a $750,000 buyout to go away.

Sampson's alleged NCAA violations, player suspensions and player dissension all made wins and losses moot at a school that lives and dies with basketball. Crean's job is to clean up the mess.

He wants to restore Indiana's national prestige, just as he did at Marquette, and he challenged his new players to complete that task with the same energy and passion he's bringing to the program.

"I'm going to look for people who understand why we wear the candy-striped pants and why we wear Indiana on our jerseys," he said. "It's going to take time."

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