Tom Crean loves college basketball far too much to stay away. The former Georgia, Indiana, and Marquette coach was eager to work for ESPN again. He officially made his return last week and will serve as an analyst both in-studio and at games.
Awful Announcing recently caught up with Crean to discuss his new job, if he has any interest in returning to his old one, and other topics.
Why go back to ESPN?
“I enjoyed it when I did it after Indiana. Once you go through the initial process of change. It’s like ‘I really want to work, and I want to do it in basketball.’ I have a lot of respect for the TV process. The way people do things. I came in and I learned a ton. Frankly, I got a lot of energy from doing it and being around the people when I did it the first time (Crean is seen above with ESPN in 2017).”
How are you going to be better at television this time around?
“That hit me (last week). I was way more relaxed and confident going in. That helped. I still had a couple of glitches. The bottom line is I felt prepared. I spent a lot of time studying film, studying last year’s games, and looking at foreign trips. There were so many good teams that went to other countries to play. And I spent a lot of time watching games this year. You learn a lot, so I felt way more prepared walking in.”
Did anything strike you as funny during your first stint on ESPN?
“Sometimes Adnan Virk, when I would work with him, he’d be sitting, feet up on the desk, leaning back, and munching on something (off air). As soon as it was time to talk (on air), he never broke stride. He got right into it. I said, ‘this is a true pro.’ There’s a certain amazement at how quickly people think on their feet.”
Do you see yourself coaching again?
“I think so. Yeah, absolutely. At some point. I’m not in a make-or-break mode right now. The infrastructure and who you’re working with is so important. One of the things that really hurt us (at Georgia) is that I went with an athletic director that I thought was going to be there. When COVID hit, months after that, he retired. So, you only get two years with him. I think it’s so important that you have an opportunity to build something. In this day and age, it’s win first, build your program later. But you’ve got to have somebody who’s going to be there with you while you’re going through it because it’s not easy.”
Is there anything wrong with Gonzaga?
“I think there are a lot of different ways you can guard Drew Timme. When you can bring double teams and traffic to him and take away his passing ability, that affects them. I think they need way more consistency from their guards. And they’re not getting that knock-down shooting wing. The guard play has got to pick up. They need to get more movement. I think they’ll be fine. But they’re playing teams that can exploit things that they’re not as good at.”
How would you evaluate Jon Scheyer’s rookie year at Duke so far?
“I think he’s doing a really good job. The one thing that stands out is that for such a young team, and I think Jeremy Roach has a lot to do with this, is that their communication is really good. … Mike Krzyzewski’s teams were always well-known for their communication and talk on the floor. For such a young team and a new coach, you’re seeing that there’s a residual effect to what they’ve done in that program. They did a really good job in the (transfer) portal getting Ryan Young and Jacob Grandison.”
Should North Carolina be worried?
“Yeah. It’s well documented: the abundance of shots the guards have taken and the low percentages. I think they miss Brady Manek. Brady Manek could shoot. He was quick. He could move without the ball. He gave confidence to everybody that he played with… I think their defensive numbers are a little misleading. Until they improve their on-ball defense, until they become harder to score against, I think they’re going to struggle.”
You coached Anthony Edwards at Georgia. What did you think of his acting in the movie Hustle?
“I thought he was outstanding. He’s such a real person. There are no airs to him. I think he was able to work into that role and be believable. He’s got a gift. For a 21-year-old, he’s as real as it comes in the sense of what you see is what you get. He’s naturally funny.”
How competitive are your in-laws, the Harbaughs?
“If there is any type of competition that can even remotely be created, Jim is going to do everything he can to win it. John is not going to give him a leg up. Joani is going to figure out her way to get an edge too. It’s a family that if there’s any type of competition, they’re going to figure out how to win it. But sometimes you just concede it to Jim because he’s just not going to give in.”
Can you give an example of Jim not giving in?
“One of the best was a few years back in the pool in the summertime. Jim went against all the kids, his own and mine to see who could swim the longest underwater while holding their breath. And he won. He wasn’t going to give in.”
Do you and your wife Joani compete against each other a lot?
“My wife is as competitive as any of them. She doesn’t have to win at everything like Jim does, but she wants to win her share. I let her win. Happy wife, happy life. There’s no question about that. And she would say that she would win anyways, but we don’t compete that much. She’s a tennis player. I’m just learning. I don’t get invited to play. I have more fun watching her compete against my son, whether it’s pickleball, tennis, or something else.”
[Photo from Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images]