Apr 012008
Authors: Michael Marot

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – Indiana University will hire Marquette’s Tom Crean as its basketball coach and is expected to introduce him at a news conference Wednesday.

University trustee Philip Eskew confirmed the hiring. Eskew said Crean had signed a letter-of-intent with the university and was meeting with his team Tuesday night.

Team spokesman J.D. Campbell said a news conference had yet to be scheduled.

The hiring comes near the end of a tumultuous six-week period in which former Hoosiers coach Kelvin Sampson resigned amid an NCAA scandal, interim coach Dan Dakich replaced him and then lost four of seven games.

Dakich also suspended guard Jamarcus Ellis for disciplinary reasons for the Hoosiers’ game at Penn State, and announced Tuesday that Ellis and guard Armon Bassett had been kicked off the team for missing two scheduled events.

Crean, who led Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, will responsible for rebuilding not only Indiana’s reputation as a national power but also its sullied image as a squeaky clean program.

“I think he’s a great choice,” Eskew said. “He has a Big Ten background, a Midwest background, he’s recruited in the state of Indiana and he has an impeccable record, so I think Indiana is on the road to recovery.”

Now the question is what kind of team will Crean inherit.

Starting forwards D.J. White and Lance Stemler both finished their senior seasons, and it’s uncertain whether Bassett and Ellis, two of the starting guards, will return after being punished for missing an appointment last week. When they didn’t show up to run laps the next day, Dakich decided to dismiss them from the team.

On Monday, freshman Eric Gordon is expected to announce whether he will declare early for the NBA. Most figure, he’s leaving, which would leave Indiana without all five of its regular starters from last season.

Outside the administration, the decision was greeted warmly, too.

“I think it’s a very good move,” said Jared Jeffries, a former Indiana star now playing for the New York Knicks. “He’s proven himself to be a successful college coach at this level, a very good recruiter, recognize talent. That’s who we need at Indiana, we need somebody who is going to be stable, a foundation for our future.”

Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, who led Indiana to the 1981 national title, also endorsed the move.

Some thought Thomas might be a candidate to take over at his alma mater, but Thomas, who has never coached at the college level, said Sunday he was never contacted by university officials.

“He’s got a brilliant basketball mind – definitely a good hire for Indiana – I was very vocal about Dan getting the job, but Tom is definitely qualified and will do an excellent job at Indiana,” Thomas said before his game in Milwaukee on Tuesday. “Any way that I can help him, I definitely will.”

Crean went 190-96 in nine seasons at Marquette. He leaves for a job that came open after Sampson’s latest alleged missteps with the NCAA.

Sampson left in February amid a phone-call scandal that brought five allegations of major infractions from the NCAA. Dakich’s promotion to interim coach fueled threats of a player boycott and the Hoosiers (25-8) never recovered. They lost four of their final seven games, including a last-second defeat against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals and an 86-72 loss to Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Since firing Bob Knight in September 2000, a move that sharply divided Indiana fans, the Hoosiers have failed to find a suitable successor. Mike Davis, who replaced Knight, never won enough to satisfy Indiana’s rabid fans, and it took Sampson, Davis’ successor, less than two years to stain the university’s once-impeccable reputation for playing by the rules.

Sampson took the Indiana job in March 2006 and two months later was penalized by the NCAA for making 577 impermissible phone calls between 2000 and 2004 when he was coaching Oklahoma.

The second wave of charges emerged in October when a university investigation found Sampson and his staff made more than 100 impermissible calls while still under recruiting restrictions and that Sampson participated in at least 10 three-way calls, another violation of the NCAA’s punishment.

Athletic director Rick Greenspan called the violations secondary, imposing a one-year extension of the NCAA’s recruiting restrictions and pulling a $500,000 raise. The Hoosiers also took away one scholarship for the 2008-09 season.

However, an NCAA report released Feb. 13 by Indiana claimed Sampson provided false and misleading information to investigators from both the university and the NCAA, failed to meet the “generally recognized high standard of honesty” expected in college sports and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the program.

Sampson has denied intentionally providing investigators with false information.

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