ATHENS, Ga. – Tom Crean and his family are scheduled to arrive at Georgia on Friday morning, and he will be formally introduced as the school’s new basketball coach at a 3 p.m. press conference. It is believed this will be Crean’s first time on campus as his interview took place in Florida.
Georgia made a splash with the hire, getting a big name who has been to a Final Four and three Sweet 16s this century. But what happens now that he’s officially on board? And what exactly is Georgia getting beyond the big name?
Here is some intel gathered from talking to various people in the basketball industry, at Georgia and Indiana.
- Assistant coach Jonas Hayes could be retained by Crean. It’s not clear if that was mentioned during the interview process, but it appears Crean understands Hayes’ importance as both a recruiter and a Georgia alumnus.
- Matt Bucklin, Georgia’s operations director, also could be retained. Bucklin is the nephew of Tom Izzo, who is very close to Crean. Izzo and Crean worked together at Michigan State in the 1990s.
- When it comes to building their programs, Crean and predecessor Mark Fox seem to be similar. They don’t depend on 5-star recruits (though wouldn’t turn them down), are known for being clean in recruiting and focus on finding recruits who fit their system. And both Crean and Fox are known as good developers of players.
- But when it comes to their on-court systems, Crean and Fox diverge. While Fox emphasized defense and had offenses that struggled, Crean is very offensive-minded. In four of his last six years at Indiana, the Hoosiers ranked in the top 10 nationally in the KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency ranking. So Georgia fans who have wanted more points and more exciting basketball – even at the cost of some good defense – probably will get their wish.
- The point guard is very important to Crean’s offensive system, and the inability to have a great point guard was part of his undoing the last few years at Indiana. Crean’s offense can score in bunches if it has a point guard and shooters. They will take, and hit, 3s. Tyree Crump, therefore, should have a home in this system.
- What about Jordan Harris, the sophomore guard who was suspended for the latter half of the season and wasn’t around the team? Harris’ situation appears to not be tied to Fox, but he is believed to be working toward reinstatement.
- Back to recruiting: Crean very famously signed Dwyane Wade at Marquette when Wade, from Chicago, was under-recruited. There were other examples of lesser-recruited players he signed at Indiana, including Victor Oladipo, who was rated No. 144 overall in the country in 2010 by Rivals when Crean signed him. He turned into an All-American and the second overall pick in the NBA draft after his junior season at Indiana. But Crean did get some big-name guys: Cody Zeller was the nation’s 13th overall prospect in 2013 and Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana. He went on to be the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft.
- Four years ago, Indiana and Michigan State were battling for a post prospect from Michigan. The prospect seriously considered Crean and Indiana but decided to go south. The prospect: Yante Maten, who chose Fox and Georgia instead.
- Retaining Hayes would be huge for potentially getting de-commits Ashton Hagans and Elias King back in the fold. But hiring Crean also could help: Crean and the Hagans family previously had contact, apparently at a development camp. Hagans, the 5-star point guard, could reclassify and join a team as soon as this season. King is also said to want to play with Hagans, so while King remains a 2019 recruit it would help him with Georgia if Hagans rejoins. Since Hagans de-committed last month, citing uncertainty over Fox’s future, a bunch of big-name programs have come in. So Crean and Georgia now have to catch up.
- Crean is very similar to his brother-in-law, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, in personality and temperament. They are both extroverts, energetic and not afraid to speak their minds.
- But in some way Crean is also similar to his other famous brother-in-law, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh. While Jim Harbaugh has changed jobs a lot, both John Harbaugh and Crean have been relatively stable. Crean was at Marquette for nine years, turning down bigger jobs until Indiana came along, and then stayed there for another nine years before being let go.
- For some insight on Crean, there have been two very in-depth stories done on what he did over the last year: Sports Illustrated did this piece and The Athletic also had this piece. Each story includes how Crean toured the country and studied how to do a better job the next time he became a coach. He will bring what he learned to Georgia.
- Finally, just some inside baseball-type information, but indulge me. The scene when Crean was hired Thursday night was a bit surreal. Greg McGarity and Jere Morehead got off a plane at Athens-Ben Epps Airport after returning from interviewing Crean in Florida. Three reporters, yours truly included, were there to greet McGarity and Morehead, who declined comment but then climbed into McGarity’s car, where they led a hastily called teleconference with the UGA Athletic Board executive committee. Reporters were invited to call in – McGarity wrote down the number and gave it to this reporter to call – and we listened to them approve Crean’s hire and six-year contract, with McGarity and Morehead still sitting two cars over in the airport parking lot. When it was over the two administrators drove by, rolled down the window to make sure we had everything we needed, confirmed the press conference was Friday, and we all said goodbye. … Surreal, but all in a night’s work for administrators and reporters.