I don't think I need to argue the obvious fact that the '08-'09 Hoosiers were definitely not the greatest team in school history. However, they may go down as one of the most beloved.
When Tom Crean came onto the scene after the Kelvin Sampson fiasco, to say Indiana was in a rebuilding process was an understatement.
It was more like the house had exploded and all that was left was a cracked foundation.
However, things began to look up, as excitement and positivity radiated from Crean when he was announced as the new coach of the storied program in Bloomington. His words at the press conference were: "[because] It's Indiana... It's Indiana."
This excitement was equally felt in the Hoosier faithful. Despite the knowledge that this year would be rough, Assembly Hall was consistently filled with faithful fans who cheered on their team. The intensity with which this team played was rewarded with applause and adoration from a fan base that has been waiting to return to the "promised land."
When I look at the success of the '08-'09 Golden Eagles of Marquette, it excites me to think about what lies ahead for Indiana. Despite finishing No. 23 in the country, the Golden Eagles worked their way to as high as No. 8 before hitting the hardest part of their Big East conference schedule at the end of the season. However, they finished the season without their court leader, Dominic James.
I realize Marquette was under a new coach this year, but those are Crean's guys.
In nine years at Marquette, Crean never had a losing final record and only failed to make a postseason tournament once, while making Marquette a household name in college basketball.
And do I even need to mention the name Dwyane Wade?
There are two main things that continue to excite me about Crean:
1. His ability to get his players to play hard-nosed ball regardless of their talent level
This was no more evident than in each game during the '08-'09 season. Despite only winning six games, often time the baby Hoosiers would give their opponents a hard 30-35 minutes (and be competitive during most of those games) before simply running out of gas against more talented teams. Freshman mistakes also came into play many times late during tight games, but as the season went on, you could see the continual growth.
The mere fact remains that Crean coached a team of mostly freshmen scholarship players and a bunch of walk-ons that typically wouldn't be playing D1 ball. Despite this, they were never a push-over.
2. Crean can recruit
This was apparent at Marquette when he walked in and immediately signed a top 25 class. History repeated itself when Crean signed a top 10 class in his first full year of recruiting for the class of 2009. He has a knack for finding guys who have potential and extracting that potential from his players.
Given these two things, among others, the future looks bright for the Hoosiers. Once Crean gets some top-level recruits into Bloomington, the sky is the limit for this once perennial top-level program.