Everything from posters to T-shirts to computer mouse pads have at some point been created to illustrate the five national championship banners hanging in Assembly Hall.
To fans of Indiana University men’s basketball, the banners are an incredible source of pride.
However, it’s the time elapsed between banners that has uncomfortably positioned coach Tom Crean in the crosshairs of IU fans convinced he’s doing everything in his power to do their program’s glorious tradition a disservice:
Thirteen years separating titles Nos. 1 and 2; a veritable canyon (23 years) between 2 and 3, five basketball seasons from 3 to 4 and six years from 4 to 5.
Do the math (and round up) and those red banners included an average wait of 12 years.
But that 1987 banner is becoming as dusty as footage of Keith Smart’s clutch baseline jumper inside the Superdome is grainy, and Crean knows it.
How can he not? The coach is probably reminded of it daily in one form or another.
This past season signaled the 28th consecutive winter the Hoosiers did not win the national championship, the ultimate look-at-us basketball platform that stands as the most valued recruiting and fundraising mechanism out there.
Crean looked as though he might grab his “One Shining Moment” two years ago with a starting lineup that included 7-foot sophomore Cody Zeller, 6-5 junior guard Victor Oladipo and senior point guard Jordan Hulls.
Unfortunately, a team that won 20 of its first 22 games faded like stonewashed jeans, going 9-5 down the stretch.
A 61-50 loss to Syracuse — think Orange coach Jim Boeheim showed his players footage of that ’87 final and the ensuing IU celebration a couple hours before tipoff? — in the Sweet 16 officially yanked the plug on what might have been.
Indiana has gone 37-29 ever since.
Completely unacceptable if you’re an IU backer old enough to remember Bobby Wilkerson’s fall against Michigan in the 1976 championship game, Uwe Blab’s hook shot or anything regarding Steve Bouchie or Todd Jadlow.
This includes a 16-20 record against Big Ten Conference foes. Even less acceptable.
What’s worse is, the rallying cry among those wanting Crean sent packing always includes the same two words:
First of all, even if Stevens does return to his home state, there is no guarantee he’s going to give banner No. 5 a new neighbor in two, three or even 10 years. Or ever.
Great coach, but college basketball is littered with great coaches.
What Stevens achieved at Butler was storybook stuff, removing the “mid” from mid-major and leading the Bulldogs to national runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011.
Butler fans weren’t expecting Final Fours. Indiana fans will be.
That’s an awful lot of pressure to place on one’s self, family, close circle of friends and players.
Maybe it’s time Indiana fans remember the mess Crean inherited when he became coach in 2008. That’s the Tom Crean no Indiana fan seems willing to remember.
Could it be those same five banners are limiting their view of the big picture?
Not that it would be the first time.