Georgia didn’t need to sell Tom Crean on the men’s basketball job. By the sound of it, this is the job Crean wanted.
Crean spoke glowingly of the Georgia program during his introductory news conference Friday afternoon. He even brought up Vern Fleming as one of his first favorite players when he was younger.
Crean, who had a Final Four run at Marquette and three trips to the Sweet 16 with Indiana, declared the Bulldogs to be a “basketball program inside of a great university.” He loves the fact that Georgia's football team is steeped in tradition.
Crean gushed over the opportunities Georgia has as a basketball program. With the SEC’s recent improvement and with the resources available in the state, Crean, hired Thursday evening, has set some lofty goals for himself as the new men’s basketball head coach.
“It is going to be an absolute honor and a privilege to join (athletics director) Greg (McGarity) and this entire athletic department, to join President (Jere) Morehead and this entire university, to join every alum, and continue to build this program into what it can continue to become,” Crean said. “And that is one of the most outstanding, energetic, driven basketball programs in the country that can compete and play for national championships, that can play for conference championships, that can play for any championship that’s put in front of them by working toward it on a daily basis.”
One of those aforementioned Sweet 16 trips came in 1983, which was Georgia’s only visit to the Final Four. So the fact Crean is already stating the phrase “national championships” is likely music to a lot of ears.
Mark Fox, the coach Crean is replacing, never publicly spoke about a goal as lofty as a national championship during his nine years on campus. Crean brought it up on his first day.
When McGarity visited the Crean family at its home in a Sarasota, Florida, suburb, he got a first-hand look at the former Indiana head coach’s vision. Nonetheless, McGarity came away impressed.
“We have a chance to do a lot of great things,” McGarity said. “I’ve always wanted to have a program where you’re in football season, and you’re really successful, and you transfer right into basketball. It’s non-stop from September to March. With Tom’s excitement, he certainly will motivate people to come and watch a brand of ball that will be fun to watch.”
Crean’s introductory news conference began at 3 p.m. Friday, with the new coach wearing a navy blue suit, a red tie and a Georgia lapel on the left side of his suit. He spent the first 27 minutes giving an opening statement that could have easily served as a motivational speech. He went through the personal turmoil he endured following his firing at Indiana. He spoke about his decision to step away from coaching to gain perspective over what he could to improve as a coach.
When it came to Georgia, however, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Sure, there isn’t much basketball-rich tradition at Georgia. That doesn’t mean Crean can’t create some of his own.
“We started out at 6,700 fans (at Marquette),” Crean said. “At the end, nine years later, we were at 16,453 and we'd had 29 sell outs.”
As it pertains to his coaching style, Crean wants players to be multidimensional. He wants Georgia, a team that finished the 2017-18 season 31.8 percent from behind the arc, to shoot the 3-pointer with consistency.
He singled out forward Nicolas Claxton as a player who sees fitting his versatile style of play.
“I look at him and watch him play throughout the year and I say that is the living proof of somebody that can be versatile and multidimensional on both ends,” Crean said of the 6-foot-11 rising sophomore. “We could go right down on the line but I don’t want to name every player. I use him as an example because of the size.”
Crean has been regarded as a highly motivated and energetic head coach. That was most definitely on display during his first appearance with Georgia.
“There are so many parallels of what has happened in this program and what can happen in this program,” Crean said. “The bottom line, the foundation, it all falls under the umbrella of tremendous excellence that’s a part of this university.”