Georgia and Tom Crean are finalizing a deal to bring the former Hoosier head man to Athens, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowsiki. The highly photogenic Crean takes over a Georgia club that let go of former coach Mark Fox after this year’s SEC tournament.
Crean was fired from Indiana on the first Thursday of last year’s NCAA tournament, and his one year sabbatical comes to an end a year to the day later. In nine seasons at the helm in Bloomington, Crean saw the Hoosiers off to four Big Dance appearances, but lackluster performances in those postseasons and an 18-16 campaign in his last year spelled his end as head of one of the most storied hoops programs in the country.
Crean spent a year away from coaching college ball, but his name continually popped up as this or that club parted ways with their head coach. Pittsburgh reportedly met with him as recently as Tuesday.
He spent his year away from coaching as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, but in hindsight his return to coaching hoops was always inevitable.
The Georgia gig is something of a strange animal. The Bulldogs play in the SEC, which has experienced a sort of hoops renaissance in the last few seasons. This year, Kentucky dipped somewhat, while Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, and Auburn made ascendent strides. Mark Fox always recruited well to Athens, and he kept players around for long college careers, but Georgia never notched a tournament win in his nine years in charge.
This is a huge hire in the SEC.
That said, this is a significant hire for Georgia, since Crean brings with him a parade of experience coaching big time college hoops. Before his tenure at Indiana, he spent nine years at Marquette, leading the Golden Eagles to five Big Dance berths and a Final Four in 2003 with none other Dwyane Wade under his tutelage.
A basketball mind and trophy case rivaling that of John Calipari landing square in the SEC’s collective back yard plops a powerful recruiting magnet down in the conference’s immediate future, so that suddenly the Bulldogs can entertain big name prospects on equal footing with Mike White at Florida, Frank Martin at South Carolina, Bruce Pearl at Auburn, Rick Barnes at Tennessee, and now Cal at Kentucky.
It also works to Crean’s advantage that Georgia doesn’t hold Indiana-level of expectations for men’s hoops. At least not right now, anyway.