The reaction at Assembly Hall when Christian Watford hit his last-second 3-pointer was pretty awesome. With the Indiana Hoosiers dropping the No. 1 team in the country in that fashion, it was pure pandemonium. At least for everyone but Tom Crean. The Hoosiers coach had an equally memorable reaction, but it was one of: “What in the world just happened?”
He looked angry, frustrated, excited and perplexed all at the same time, which I didn’t really know was possible at the time. As he says in this interview, it was a hard look to describe, but people everywhere got it.
Tom Crean joined 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis with Dan Dakich to talk about his reaction to the game-winning shot against Kentucky, the intensity of the moment, where the team goes next, being a studier of late-game situations and the progression of Christian Watford.
Your reaction after the shot went in was pretty classic. You appeared stunned. What were you thinking?:
“I think I was still mad. I really do. I don’t know. My brother-in-law said that night, ‘I totally got what you felt.’ I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Just the intensity of the game and I was happy and when I saw that the basket counted, it was almost like, once they went to the monitor it was, ‘Let’s see here; is it too good to be true?’ … Then it was and it was a lot better. I felt like we almost squandered an incredible opportunity. I was probably mad at myself more than anything. But I’m ecstatic that we won. … You couldn’t have drawn it up any better. It’s beyond belief. In that sense, it’s awesome.”
It’s hard to react in the moment because you’re spending the entire game reacting and figuring out what to do next:
“Exactly. There’s no question about it. We can keep getting better. As you’re going through a game, you say, ‘You know what? I should’ve subbed this guy here, I should’ve subbed here.’ We did a little subbing, got a little quick-triggered when we got up. … That won’t happen again. … But we needed to be better defensively at the end and we wouldn’t even have been in that spot. And I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s parade because it’s been a long three and a half years to have everybody enjoy that.”
With another big game coming up, and finals this week, how will you handle it?:
“I think that the most important thing for this team, for us as coaches and them for players, the individual workout was outstanding. … I think it’s really important for us to control what we can control, which is making sure that the improvement is right, making sure that they continue to build that unity and togetherness, especially defensively. … We started the preparation early last week and we’ll start it again early this week. … We spent more time on concepts and breakdowns than just putting in the main offensive sets and things that they run.”
On late-game situations:
“The one area that [our assistants] do such an incredible job with the preparation and the scouting. The one part that I try to make sure that I’m locked in to as any of it is the situational stuff at the end of games, because that’s what so many of them come down to. Whether you’re trying to climb up, like we have been, or whether you’re trying to keep the climb going even higher and when you’re elite like this, so many of those games are going to come down to the end. You’ve got to understand what you’re trying to do, but you’ve also got to understand that, during the course of the game, that’s where you win or you lose. … All those things add up.”
On the improvement of Christian Watford:
“The thing that really set him back is, from the second day after spring break on … he did such a great job of building and getting better, but he got hurt two days before practice started and he missed a very, very valuable two and a half weeks. All of that chemistry of playing five-on-five together, getting up and down, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of every guy … we lost that with him. … After the second game, when he struggled, we had a heart-to-heart and I’ll give him credit because he bounced back.”