In April 2008, Tom Crean did his best Baltimore Colts impression and left Marquette to go clean up Kelvin Sampson's mess at Indiana. Marquette fans were left hoping that President Robert Wild, S.J., and Athletic Director Steve Cottingham would be able to hire a coach who could continue the recent success that the men's basketball team had experienced, having made the NCAA Tournament 3 years in a row. Many names were kicked around by the Golden Eagles faithful, but I don't think anyone expected Marquette to hire a guy who had been an assistant at Marquette for just 1 season and had only 1 season of experience as a head coach. But that's what they did when they hired Buzz Williams.
It was the right decision.
Not only was hiring Buzz Williams the right decision, it's turned out that in just three seasons, Buzz Williams has surpassed the 9 years of accomplishments by Tom Crean. How do I know this? Results speak for themselves.
Look, I know what you're thinking right now. "But Brewtown, Crean took the team to the Final Four!" Slow down. That 2002-2003 team had a once in a generation player in Dwyane Wade, 2 NBA Draft picks in Travis Diener and Steve Novak, and the most talented big man that Crean ever had in Robert Jackson, and Jackson completely just dropped into Crean's lap by accident. Heck, Robert Jackson was so important to that Final Four run that everyone seems to forget that a Crean coached/Wade led Marquette team got bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the year before. BY TULSA.
So I put this to you: What did Tom Crean ever accomplish without Dwyane Wade?
Well, he managed to go 38-24 in two seasons with two NBA Draft picks on his team with a 15-17 record in conference play. IN CONFERENCE USA. Crean then promptly proved what a draw the Big East is by managing to recruit the Three Amigos to come play at Marquette. But all that led to was 2 first round NCAA Tournament exits before finally -- FINALLY -- a Tom Crean coached team won a NCAA Tournament game without Dwyane Wade in 2008 against Kentucky.
But in the very next season, in his first season as head coach, with a team crippled figuratively by Crean's departure evaporating the incoming recruiting class and literally when Dominic James broke his foot with 4 games left in the regular season, Buzz Williams recreated the exact same results with a first round NCAA win over Utah State.
Which brings us to this year. With a team consisting entirely of guys he recruited, and with a senior class of scholarship players who weren't on the team when he was hired three years ago, Buzz Williams has Marquette in the Sweet 16, something that hasn't been accomplished without lucking into a once in a generation superstar since 1994.
And so, as we move forward to our Friday night matchup with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, we also move forward and close the door forever on the Tom Crean Era. It turns out that we're better off without him.