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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 11:38 pm

Highlights of Crean's visit to Fort Wayne

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

Indiana coach Tom Crean made the 3-hour trek from Bloomington to Fort Wayne on Sunday to speak at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Development as part of the Youth for Christ of Northern Indiana’s dinner event.

Let's run through some of the highlights from what Crean had to say in interviews and in his 37-minute speech.

* On former Bishop Luers star James Blackmon Jr., who is recovering from left knee surgery that will keep him out of offseason activities until at least September: "He's a very strong young man. He's a very smart young man. He's going to have to handle the ball for us this year. He's got to be able to defend the ball even more. He can become a more all-around player all the time, and he was working toward that. We didn't want to take any steps back from that. But his attitude has been tremendous. Even when he's down a bit when he's injured, he doesn't stay down. He's got a great spirit about him."

* On the Fort Wayne community: "People are really concerned about making the community better. Everyone in Fort Wayne knows they have a special place. You don't run into too many people that are not proud to be in Fort Wayne. But it's very easy to rest on your laurels when you've got a good community, and this one never does. They're always trying to make it better. What I love are the people that have done very well in their life. They want to keep sharing. I think Fort Wayne has got a huge pocket of that. To help youth put their life in the right way, to help them be centered toward Christ and to have them have them know what's in front of them and make the right kind of choices, I love it."

* On incoming freshman center Thomas Bryant: "We've got a very young front line. It's going to take a while for us to get that (impact). The biggest key with him is we have to remember he had a lot of developing to do. He just turned 18 a week ago Friday. I'll be very careful and patient with him. His lower body needed to get stronger. His vertical jump needed to improve. We've got to let him grow up and be a freshman. That's the bottom line."

* On his early days in coaching: "I found some people that were willing to be hard on me at times. They wouldn't let me get my head down. When you're young, you think you've got a lot of answers. I've got a 20-year-old, a 16-year-old and a 10-year-old. All you parents know what I'm talking about. But I loved basketball. I really wanted to develop something with it. I learned early on it wasn't going to be playing. I don't get those opportunities without people willing to take a chance. I know I didn't deserve them. But someone looked and could read the passion I had for it."

* On the Halloween night accident involving then-Hoosier big man Devin Davis: "I thought I was doing everything I could possibly do to help our team understand that we had to grow up. I was disciplining. Let's help them understand the three things I hope they all leave Indiana with. That's the understanding of how to be selfless. That's the understanding of how to solve problems. And that's the understanding that somewhere down the road, they're going to have to be the spiritual leader of their home.

"We got into that moment. I'm standing there talking to my team after an outstanding practice. I'm talking to my team about all the things we're not going to do that night, Halloween night. We've got a big event the next day, a lot of fans coming in for a really big practice. I'm talking about it. They're looking back at me. I'm thinking I'm reaching them. I'm feeling OK.

"All of a sudden I get a knock on the door at 2:45 in the morning. I'm in a dead sleep. I look at my phone. I notice I missed a call. I go to my door and see our media relations director. He says, 'We've had an accident.' No matter what I thought about my leadership at that point, I couldn't have felt a greater failure. Driving to the hospital, getting in there, I've got a team of guys who are looking at me a little differently than they were looking at me at 4:30 in the afternoon. I'm somewhere between crazy anger, which I might have shown, disbelief and trying to get to the bottom of what happened. I go into the room. We had a young man right there not looking good. I had to tell his parents. Then I had to gather up the team. 

"What I was able to do was ask God to help get me centered on what was most important. Because I love those guys. I think they love me back. Some made a mistake. Indiana's going to get a lot of attention in basketball no matter what. Things started to swirl around. This person said this. This person wrote that. My wife and I were heading up from the first floor to the third floor, she says, 'You know what, Tom? We're going to be OK. We've got God with us.' 

"From that moment on, I learned right then and there at the age of 48 you can't internalize the negatives of the world. You can't internalize the back slaps. You can't internalize the punches. Because the moment you internalize them, you make them bigger than your faith in God or your faith in yourself or your faith in your mission or your faith in what's most important. It's real easy to feel good when people are telling you how good you're doing. It's real easy to feel really bad when you hear about how you're not doing it right.

"You know what? God didn't put any one of us here to be better than the next person. He gave each and every one of us gifts and talents. It is our job to figure out every day how we're going to do that by trusting Him and by helping those around us. I'm embarrassed to say I was 48 before I figured that out. Forty-eight. You think about the 10-year-olds, and the 11-year-olds, and the 12-year-olds, and the 13-year-olds, and the 14-year-olds, and the 15-year-olds, and the 16-year-olds, and the 17-year-olds, and the 18-year-olds, and you can keep right on going. God put us here to help. He puts us here to serve, to lead, to encourage, to inspire, to motivate, to give people chances.

"We went through our hard moments that year. We recovered."