The Rise of Indiana Basketball

Story posted January 6, 2013 in CommRadio, Sports by Ryan Stevens

When someone walks into Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana for the first time, most likely the first thing they will see are the 5 national championship banners hanging from the rafters.

The banners have their own tradition behind them because Indiana is one of the only schools in the country that only hangs banners for national championship teams.  

That alone gives someone an idea of what basketball really means to the school, not to mention the fact that the last undefeated season in Division 1 basketball happened under Bob Knight but for Tom Crean that kind of pressure was nothing new to him before. 

Kelvin Sampson was hired to replace Mike Davis at IU in March of 2006 and inherited a team that bowed out in the second round of the NCAA tournament that year. He was the big name prize Indiana was looking and hoping for, but what the country didn’t know was things in Bloomington were about to crumble right before everyone.  

Indiana hired Sampson despite being in the middle of an investigation at his previous coaching stop at the University of Oklahoma. At the end of a three year long investigation, the NCAA ruled Sampson would not be allowed to make phone calls or recruit off campus for one year, but when star Indianapolis recruit Eric Gordon decommitted from Illinois and signed with the Hoosiers instead, the NCAA was hot on Sampson’s trail again.  

In February 2008, the NCAA ruled that Sampson lied to the NCAA and IU officials regarding his role in the impermissible calls. Eventually, Sampson resigned and former Hoosier great Dan Dakich took over the temporary reigns. Now the University that was once considered basketball glory was now at the bottom of the Big Ten, but that meant the only way was up and the Hoosiers were now in need of a new leader.

Tom Crean is one of the notable coaches that served under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. In 1999, Crean left Michigan State to become head coach at Marquette where he would spend 9 years compiling over 150 wins and a Final Four appearance for the first time since 1977. He brought in notable recruits during his time at Marquette, Dwyane Wade and Steve Novak among others. Crean was a major player in getting Marquette to switch from Conference USA to the Big East.

So when Indiana came calling in 2008, Crean knew he had an opportunity he couldn’t pass up stating, “The tradition at Indiana could be stacked up against the tradition of any other college sports team anywhere because of everything that has gone on here, in the sense of how many players have played here, how many championships have been won here.” 

This was going to be a tough process and in Crean’s first three years, Indiana compiled records of 6-25 (the worst in school history), 10-21, and 12-20.  Even though the records may not have showed it, recruits were finally giving Indiana the attention Crean had sought after since the day he took the job. Notable recruits in the class of 2009 include 1000 point scorer Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, who hit the game winning three pointer to knock off #1 Kentucky in the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. 2010 included Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey, but couldn’t compare to the immediate impact of 2011 McDonald’s All-American Cody Zeller.

The years’ freshmen include Yogi Ferrel, Peter Jurkin, and Hanner Perea. The point is that the message is being delivered to recruits, in the state of Indiana especially, that Indiana basketball is back and here to stay. A 27-9 campaign, in which Indiana knocked off eventual national champion Kentucky, Ohio State, and Michigan State before bowing out in the Sweet 16, launched the Hoosiers into this season being ranked #1 in all preseason polls.

Already this season Indiana has knocked off Georgetown, North Carolina, and pulled out a tough one in Iowa City against Iowa this week to start off Big Ten play. Indiana comes into the Bryce Jordan Center to give Penn State arguably their toughest test yet on Monday

Even though Crean will never be able to escape the shadows of IU legends such as Bob Knight, Dan Dakich, Steve Alford, and Calbert Cheaney just to name a few, there isn’t anyone that knows more about living in the shadows. Tom Crean’s wife, Joani, just so happens to be the sister John and Jim Harbaugh.

Now as the holiday season wraps up, one can only wonder what  the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are like when two men are most likely arguing over strategies heading into post-season play, but the way Coach Crean’s Hoosiers are performing as of late, he could very well be the one with bragging rights at the next family gathering.

Ryan Stevens is a freshman majoring in telecommunications.  To contact him, e-mail

About the Contributors

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Ryan Stevens

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Ryan is a senior from Bloomington, Illinois majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in english.  He has been involved with numerous radio shows, play-by-plays, beat writes and producing various Penn State athletics events since his first days of being on campus in the fall of 2012 with ComRadio. Since the fall of 2013, Ryan has been involved with State College’s ESPN Radio 1450 as an assistant producer intern and high school football reporter.

During the summer of 2014, Ryan co-hosted Sports Central with Cory Giger streaming over Altoona, Pa. and State College Pa. markets. Ryan also assisted USA Basketball media coverage in New York for World Cup of Basketball exhibition games.

Ryan was the marketing & communications intern for USA Track & Field at the national office in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the media contact for the 2015 USATF Hershey Youth Outdoor Championships as well as the 2015 National Junior Olympics.

Ryan is also a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. He can be reached via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and following him on twitter @RyanAStevens.