"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Ticking Clock


A loss like Thursday's against MSU creates internet fury, as one thing Coach Crean has created in his eight years is high expectations. Two 10-6 Big East seasons and a constant Top 25 ranking has that effect. When you bow out in the first round every year, the natives get restless.

I love Coach Crean. He's the best thing that's happened to Marquette basketball in decades. He's taken a historied program in the dumps and has improved it in countless and priceless ways. He's superb with the media, the students, and the alumni, not to mention the Milwaukee community. He's brought us a Final Four, the Big East, the Al McGuire Center, dozens of weeks in the Top 25, big wins, ESPN coverage, and a complete explosion of excitement at the Bradley Center with a commensurate increase in attendance figures.

And, sure he's highly paid. He deserves every penny and then some. If Marquette told you they were spending $2m/year on advertising and marketing, no one would bat an eyelash. The investment Marquette has made in Tom Crean has paid off in triplicate.

On a micro-level, Marquette's implosion on Thursday night was not unexpected. MSU is a quality team. Jerel McNeal, our Big East Defensive POY was out. Our seed wasn't representative of our tournament resume. The pundits on ESPN predicted a loss, as did Vegas, and Marquette obliged. Every one of our losses have valid micro-level excuses.

On a macro-level, while Coach Crean has brought so much to Marquette, one area that needs dire improvement is post-season play. There are disturbing statistics. 8 years, 15 post-season tourneys (CUSA/BET included) - 10 one and dones. With the exception of 2003, Crean's teams have faded down the stretch, year after year.

So what does this all mean? Crean gets superlative marks for so many elements as head coach. But post-season is how you measure the success of a program, i.e., five years from now, no one will remember that ESPN's GameDay was at Marquette. But March Madness is forever.

We're currently at the level where we can make the NCAAs each year, 4 of our last 6. The next level is WINNING an NCAA game in March. Had Travis not gone nuts to win that game vs. Holy Cross in 2003, we would be sitting on zero NCAA wins in the Crean era. The object is no longer to get to the dance. It's to win one.

If in 12 months, we lose in the first round of 2008, look out. -- There's a finite number of post-season failures that can be absorbed. I don't want to find out what that number is.


Anonymous said...

Crean is a great coach. I agree with everything you stated in your comment. I must bring up the final four run with Wade. Today Villanova was playing and they talked about when Villanova knocked off Kansas a few years back in the NCAA Tourny that their program TOOK OFF! We went to the damn final four and, for the most part, have been average every since. As has been mentioned before on this site, we have awesome guards, that is a given. But with the entire starting team returning next year if we don't at least finish a VERY CLOSE second in the Big East and have a VERY deep run in the tourny next year, it is clear that we need a new man to run this program. Next year there can be NO excuses! If Crean cannot go deep with this current team coming back plus a few bigs that we needed, then we need a new coach!

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding. Tom Crean is the best thing that happened to MU basketball since you-know-who retired in 1977. Sure,post-season success has been limited but Coach Crean has restored pride and commitment to the basketball program.

For the record, Al's NCAA record was hit or miss for some time. In 1971, for example, the team was ousted in the second round by Ohio State when Allie stepped out of bounds. Or 1973 when Marquette was upset by the then brand-new Bobby Knight at Indiana. There were a lot of failures before 1977 happened -- and even then MU barely made the tournament.

That's history. All Coach Crean does is recruit fine young men who graduate and lead Marquette to the Top 25. We got to the final four in 2003 and we'll do it again soon. What our coach has really done is elevate our expectations from the Bob Dukiet and Mike Deane days.

I was in Winston-Salem for the MSU game and while I was disappointed in the loss, my confidence that what we have in Milwaukee is something special again was and is unwaivering. We'll be National Champions again, if not with this team, with one soon, And Coach Crean will be at the helm.

Anonymous said...

One final thought. In sitting with a group of Carolina fans at Winston-Salem, their take on MU was they have the talent for a Top 10 team.

If anybody ought to know, it's those guys. I'd love to have another Robert Jackson join MU next year, but so would about 100 other college programs.

I trust Coach Crean knows what he's doing.

J.J. Pauly said...

alright...here's my take...al mcguire always said that he judged whether or not a team was great by strength of its bench, not its stars. in tom crean's tenure, the best bench we had was 2003 (TT, Chapman, among others). Since then all our recruits play significant minutes and we lost production by bringing burke, lott, kinsella, or even fitz at times, into the games...kansas goes 8 deep without skipping a beat (which is why i have them winning the tourney), unc plays 12 guys on a consistent basis...marquette was playing 8-10 guys a night all year, but they were not getting bench production. often times, wins and losses are determined by who steps up from the bench, not who is in the starting lineup...we deep depth at every position if we're to make a deep run with the talent we have.

Anonymous said...

To Wolfgang: No one can dispute any praise you have for Crean, it's all completely true. So, what is your limit? 5 more years of post-season failure? 10? Where do you draw the line? That's what the writer was trying to say.

Wolfgang, do you have a limit or is always losing in March OK with you as long as we have all the other stuff?

Anonymous said...

To WOlfgang:
The simple fact that UNC fans told you we have the talent to be a top 10 team and then we go get BLOWN OUT ON NATIONAL TV WITH EVERY FUTURE RECRUIT WATCHING is a sign that we may need a new coach! I am as big a fan of Crean as you are but with expectations comes a need to win and with the exception of D-Wade this program is an average big east team at best. Just look at the youth of the Big East this year. All of those teams will be a year older with another round of new fresh recruits coming in. We will be lucky even with our entire team back next year to make a deep run in the tourny. Trust me when Isay if we don't have a nice run in the tourny next year Crean must go!

Anonymous said...

That last post was pretty crazy. If a recruits impression is so fragile that one bad lost will turn him off of an otherwise very strong program, do we really want that recruit? We had many exciting wins on prime time this year. Along with lots of positive national press coverage. A good coach in the hand that has proved he can build a strong program is a billion times better than delusional thinking that the next savior of Marquette basketball is only a phone call away. If that were the case, why would the program have been so poor prior to Crean? Do we want another 25 years of mediocre basketball before we can land a coach as good as Crean again? Anyone with a realistic perception will realize there will be some setbacks and disappointments even in the best of basketball program and roll with them instead of becoming totally delusional.

Anonymous said...

Crean is great with the media. Students will lap up anything a coach tells them. And alumni? Who says he's great with alumni?

Besides, why does any of that matter? He obviously works himself (and his assistants) into such a freaking frenzy that the players can't help but come out tight. And year after year his entire coachign staff departs. It's happened every single year he's been here.

We don't need a new coach. We need our current coach to get some therapy.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of being the last word on the subject, let me raise the final following points:

1) My limit with Al was his entire career at MU. You may recall he did not win an NCAA championship until his last game, yet I never heard anyone wanting to fire him.

2) Who would Marquette get to run the program? No one with the class or the "get it done" attitude of Tom Crean.

3) We probably need some stronger inside play and I trust that will come in time. I'd love to see another Maurice Lucas.

4) Ease off guys. You stir up so much animosity that you chase Crean off and you may end up with Bob Dukiet II? Anyone for that?

5) The reason many of you are so mad is Tom Crean raised expectations back to the days of you know who. But you know who had 13 years before the NCAA Championship came home.

6) And then we had Hank.... enough said.

Gene Frenkle said...

Seriously. Get rid of Crean?? What are you people smoking? Why? Because expectations are now higher than "Gee, I really hope we can make the tournament"? C'mon.

Look, wanting Crean's teams to win in the first round is one thing. But, if he doesn't get that done in three consecutive NCAA tournaments, (some of) you are ready to run him out of town? My God people, what is your attention span and patience and loyalty.

Be honest with yourselves. This is Marquette. Not Kansas. Not Duke. Not North Carolina. It's Marquette. If you get rid of Crean for not making for supposed shortcomings in the NCAA, do you not think he'd have about 100 offers coming his way?

Sure, I'm disappointed like everyone else in the tournament results the last couple years. But for God's sakes. Look at some of the track records of other "great" coaches and how many/few accolades have they had compared to Crean?

As for his coaches leaving, many of them leave for HEAD COACHING JOBS...the sign of a good coach and program.

Crean's done nothing but throw himself into this job, the school, the alumni, and the tradition. If it weren't for Crean, MU would still be in C-USA and wouldn't have nearly the national recognition the school is finally getting.

I'd like to think that his program should get a little more loyalty from "fans". How short attention spans do some of you people have? What would you replace him with? It would be a PR debacle the size of "Gold".

The number of coaches out there that have been to more than one final four are few and far between. If Crean doesn't get to one every five years, you want to can him? Fine. And what do you replace him with? Hope MU gets lucky and finds what... another "Crean". This is just ludicrous the thought of getting rid of him.

Gene Frenkle said...

The Badgers lost!!! How many final fours has he been too? If they don't make it to the sweet 16 next year, they should get a new coach!!!!!

Sound ridiculous, right? That's what this 'fire Crean' stuff sounds like.

Again. How many sweet 16's did MU go to between 1980 and 1993? How many NCAAs? How many final fours? I'll ask again, did everyone enjoy the 80s?

You don't change Crean unless his team has totally shut him out, or they aren't getting to the NCAAs consistently. There's more to Crean's "success" than winning a national title. He doesn't need one to be a success and MU fans should feel the same way.

Kevin Buckley said...

Enough with the exaggerations.

While there are a handful of internet extremists who want a new coach, most are simply worried for the future, as the trend is upsetting. As I wrote, there is a finite number of post-season failures that can be absorbed. -- Imagine if we're one and done the next two years with the "big 3"??

Marquette itself taught us this lesson. Remember the last coach who reached a plateau?

Bottom line. You can find a tiny handful who've run out of patience. But the crushing majority want Crean to succeed, as he's great in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the Marquette basketball community is proud that their beloved was a part of the 65 team field. Its getting bounced in the first round three of the last five years that is tough to swallow. Frankly, its embarrassing. This team is so inconsistent. It is incredibly frustrating.

What happened to Dominic James' jumpshot. Why can't Marquette recruit or at least develop a big man to create underneath. I watched Ousmane Barro get manhandled against DePaul from the first row. For a man so blessed by his physique, I am sickened by his lackluster play.

I was in Vegas for the MSU-MU game. Going ten minutes without a field goal led to deserved heckling. What is our problem in the tournament? Why can't Crean get his teams up for such intense play? He is paid very handsomely, indeed, he is the highest paid employee of the university. He needs to figure this out and quickly. His job is safe as long as he continues to coach and recruit teams that pack the Bradley Center. But these one and dones have to end next year where I expect great things.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome post. At least someone gets it. You people who ask for patience with Cren are the same one on MUSCOOP demanding that James stop shooting or that the team practice more free throw shooting. Fact is that some of this is coaching and when a team comes out flat 3 out of five years, something may need to change. They need a nice run next year or Crean should be on the hot seat....
I would hope he puts this kind of pressure on himself.

Anonymous said...

And if we lose next year in the first round, that will not be a reason to fire him either Hilltopper.

Getting there is the hardest part. Then it is a crapshoot. You could go 32-0 during the year and win every game by 50 points, but if you have one bad game where the shots are dropping in the tournament, you're done.