Tom Crean finally gets respect at Indiana — for now

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Indiana head coach Tom Crean directs his team in a second-round NCAA Tournament game against Kentucky on Saturday. The Hoosiers won 73-67. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tom Crean is the kind of coach you like only when he’s your coach and, even then, only when your team is winning.

He works every Indiana possession as if the planet’s fate hangs in the balance. He walks and talks the sidelines like a carnival barker. I’m guessing four miles a game and enough words for a Stephen King novel.

The only thing more exhausting than being Crean is playing for him. How his charges can concentrate on the task at hand with their coach’s constantly yelling is hard to fathom. Studying for a final with heavy metal blaring from the radio comes to mind.

But guess what? It works. Crean’s team surprised most people by winning the Big Ten regular-season title. On Saturday, Indiana beat state-line rival Kentucky to advance to the Sweet 16. Will it last? Depends on whom you ask.

Lots of people have a once-loved/now-hate relationship with him.

He was loved at Marquette for getting his 2002-03 team, which included a guy named Dwyane Wade, to the Final Four, and then hated for jumping ship and going to Indiana five years later.

He was loved at Indiana when he was hired and then doubted when the Hoosiers didn’t live up to expectations. There were big questions after his 2012-13 team, ranked No. 1 in the country for a long stretch of the season, lost in the Sweet 16 to fourth-seeded Syracuse. The whole frenetic act seemed too much.

But Crean made it work again with a team not loaded with talent.

Right now, the on-again, off-again relationship in Bloomington, Ind., is very much on again. The Big Ten coach of the year has gotten the last laugh on all his supporters/detractors. For now.

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