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October 28, 2010

Tom Crean


THE MODERATOR: Joining us now at the podium is Indiana head coach Tom Crean.
Coach, if you would like to go ahead with an opening statement, and then we'll open up the floor for questions.
COACH CREAN: I think first and foremost for us, we're excited to have more bodies, more quality players in our program all the time. And I think our bodies are starting to look physically more like Big Ten players, and we've got to build that mindset now that you have to have to compete in this league at the highest level.
I like where our mindset is at this point. I like where our mentality is going. I think anytime you have a quality team you have quality depth. If you have quality depth that means you have consistent players.
And that's what we've got to build right now, from top to bottom. We've got to build consistency in our approach every day, a consistency in our ability to make plays and the more consistent we get, that's going to help us do what is really important early on in the season which is string some successes together. And I think anytime you have a team that's still relatively young but that hasn't had success, they have to have some feelings of success.
And they have to -- we talk every day in our program about earning victory. And the four components of that are constantly how smart you are, how tough you are, how physical you are, how fundamentally sound you are.
If you can get those four components locked in, well, then, you have a chance to get consistent. You have a chance to get better. But we've had a very good offseason in the sense of people changing their bodies and mindsets and work ethics and are working on their work ethics.
We're not healthy right now in the sense of practice, but we don't have anything that I look at that's going to keep us right now from being able to start the season pretty much with our team intact, and that's very important because injuries played a huge part in our team last year.
And so Matt Roth is back. Maurice Creek is back, even though we don't practice with Maurice Creek every day yet. His strength is not where it needs to be yet. His knee is sound and healthy, but his strength is not where it needs to be.
But we're gaining ground. And I like that. I think the league and itself is as good as it has been in my three years as good as I can remember it in somebody who has grown up in the Big Ten area and watched it from afar. And riding up here today with Don Fischer he made a great point, which I think is very reflective of where this league is: There's probably seven teams in this league right now that could win it by the end of the year.
And when you look at that, when you look at the quality of the teams, when you look at the quality of the coaching, and it's obvious with some of the programs right now when you look at where Michigan State's at, when you look at Ohio State, when you look at Purdue, even without Robbie, I think that's an incredible team, because, number one, for the guy running the program, knows everything that it takes to win, and they've got a lot of quality players inside of it.
I think Bruce's team at Illinois could be knocking on the door of a Final Four national championship type of program, if he gets his young guys to understand what his older guys understand, with how hard it is to win in this league. But they have a tremendous quality. And I don't think that there's nearly enough conversation nationally about what Minnesota's capable of, what Wisconsin's capable of or what Northwestern's capable of.
And when you look at those programs, it's a great league. And one final point that I'd like to make is when you look at Michigan, and when you look at what John Beilein has done over his career and you look at his winning percentage over his career, the man is an incredible coach.
This goes back to my days in the Big East and it certainly is now. There might be some preparations that are as hard, but there are none that are harder than getting ready for a John Beilein-coached team, and I think it's just a matter of time before that program is back where it needs to be.
I mean, he walked into a situation -- he didn't walk into a Big Ten champion. He didn't walk into a team that was going into NCAA tournaments all the time. He's had to rebuild it. And I think he's a phenomenal coach.
And it is always very challenging to get ready for his teams. And you could say that about every team in this league. But when you're talking about programs that are that good, with the way John coaches, with the way Tubby Smith coaches and Bo Ryan, and they're not even getting a ton of the attention around the country, that just goes to show how good this league is.

Q. I guess I know it's still early, but can you talk about the decision-making you're seeing in practice, where it is and where it needs to be?
COACH CREAN: I think it's better. And one thing we're doing is we have referees and a lot more right now. We don't just have them refereeing scrimmages 5 on 5, they're refereeing drills and I think anything we can do right now to tighten our game up in the sense of footwork, in the sense of getting into the lane and making decisions, in the sense of physicality of play and playing without fouling, you know, not negating the hustle that we're trying to get across, I think it's good.
Now, it will take some time. We've just got to continue to get stronger with the ball. We've got to continue to make really simple plays, as we always say. Hit singles, not home runs. That's so crucial for us.
But we're also trying to have a lot more movement in our offense right now. So hopefully those things are going to help. But it will be a period of time before we can see if the decision-making is really getting better.

Q. What have you seen from Jordan in terms of being more confident in his offensive abilities, not just being a distributor?
COACH CREAN: Oh, I think that he's really making strides. I was asked a question the other day, and it's really hard to answer: Who has changed the most physically? And we can't pinpoint one or two guys. We look at our whole team, they all look different. Maybe that's because they were that young.
But Jordan is stronger, and I think the strength has brought more confidence to his game. We need him to be -- he may not be the verbal vocal leader that we need just yet, but he's got to be the example leader. And he's got to be in a situation where he doesn't accept anything from his teammates in the sense of how they play and the hustle that they play with and the decision-making they play with that he wouldn't accept from himself. He's got to hold teammates, when he's on the court, to the standard that he holds for himself.
But he's shooting the ball extremely well. He's moving well. His pull-up game is coming. He's continuing to get better in the pick-and-roll. He's got to continue to be able to deal with full court pressure and trapping and things of that nature. And defensively I wouldn't call him a standout yet, but he's certainly not on the other side either.
He's holding his own defensively and playing with a lot of force and resolve right now, which is exactly what we need from him over the long haul.

Q. Could you just talk a little bit about Gee's overall game, what type of progression you've seen from him since he came to Bloomington and what type of impact you see for him this season?
COACH CREAN: Well, he's got a want-to that's very uncommon for young players. Even though he's a little bit older, he's still young to the game because he's only been playing since the age of 17.
But without a doubt, if he's not the hardest worker when it comes to outside of practice time, he's in the top two or three. And that's exactly what you want. He's setting a standard for himself in the way that he's trying to improve with the willingness he has to learn. All three of our new guys have an inner pride that it's very hard for them to accept mistakes.
Now, you like that. You don't want guys that accept mistakes easy. But at the same time they have to learn that there's a lot of growth that goes on inside of their game. He epitomizes that. He's 7'1" with a seven, eight and a half wingspan, and we're constantly trying to get him to understand just how big and long he is.
And he's getting better movement in his feet defensively in the sense of the coverage. Your team is really determined defensively by how good your 4 and 5 men give help. And you can have a good to great team based on how good they are with that. And that's one thing that we're really trying to get him to understand, not just be a shot blocker, but a guy that can rotate, change shots, move people around, control the paint.
He's running the floor better. He's getting more comfortable. Anytime there's a lot of traffic right now around the rim in the sense of making a post move, he hasn't gotten that down yet. But in the sense of rolls off the screens and in the sense of isolations and in the sense of slipping to the rim and the sense of running the floor, he's really making a lot of strides.

Q. Having the success you had at Marquette and coming to Indiana and having two off-par years, what was the biggest thing you learned from transitioning from Marquette to Indiana?
COACH CREAN: Keep getting tough-minded players that have been raised on winning. I don't think there's any -- I don't think there's anything even close. You have to have talent. Certainly you've got to have positions. But you have to get people that are raised on winning.
I look at our Marquette teams, in the sense of the way we're trying to recruit now, year-round winners, people that won during the high school season, people that won during the summertime. If they played a different sport, which I always love, that they won in that.
And I think that competitive mindset, it's very, very hard to get it if you didn't have it coming in. You can make it better and you can add to it, especially in the mental toughness realm. And you can make them physically stronger.
But you have to have people that have been raised on winning, and I don't think you can ever get away from it no matter what level you're at. If there's anything I've learned is that that equation works, no matter what, no matter what level, and probably no matter what sport.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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