Tom Crean was immediately mentioned as a candidate to be Georgia’s new men’s basketball coach. Can the school close the deal?
With two NCAA Tournament appearances during Mark Fox’s middling nine-season tenure, the men’s basketball job at Georgia doesn’t appear to be great. But three big names immediately surfaced as potential candidates to replace Fox, including former Indiana coach Tom Crean.
According to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, Crean is expected to meet with officials at Georgia on Thursday.
Almost alongside the news of Fox’s firing last Saturday, Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News reported Crean would be interested in the Georgia job. Crean started his rounds in the coaching carousel by meeting with Pitt earlier this week to replace Kevin Stallings, but he left there without a deal.
Crean rebuilt the Indiana program from the scandal-ridden dust Kelvin Sampson left behind. A 6-25 record in his first season (2008-09) and a 28-66 record over his first three seasons gave way to four NCAA Tournament bids and two outright Big Ten regular-season titles over a five-season span. That stretch was highlighted by a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and a Big Ten Coach of the Year for Crean in 2016.
But an 18-16 record in 2016-17, with a first-round loss in the NIT, doomed Crean and he was fired. He has spent this season as an analyst for ESPN, but a return to coaching has been inevitable from the time he was let go by Indiana.
Georgia offered the job of replacing Fox to former Ohio State coach Thad Matta this week, but he turned it down. Since Crean’s name surfaced so quickly after Fox was fired, it’s fair to say he should be atop Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity’s list of candidates until further notice.
Crean can and should survey all of his options, and his tie to Pitt as an assistant coach there for one season in the mid-90s probably made that a lead he wanted to follow through. But he seems to want Georgia, and Georgia should want him. It should just be a matter of closing the deal.