Tom Crean himself called it a “classic college basketball game at the highest level.”
Then the Indiana coach drew attention away from his team’s thrilling 72-71 victory Sunday at Michigan — a win that gave the Hoosiers their first outright Big Ten Conference championship in 20 years — with his involvement in a heated post-game exchange with Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer.
Indianapolis TV station WRTV caught footage of the incident, in which Crean approached Meyer and began pointing fingers and yelling at him.
“You know what you did!” Crean can be heard shouting. “You helped wreck the program! You helped wreck our program!”
An Indiana assistant then pushed away Crean, who walked away with a smirk on his face.
Meyer was an assistant coach at Indiana under former Hoosier coach Kelvin Sampson, who was fired after committing NCAA violations that led to severe sanctions for the program. Meyer was cleared of major violations.
It was unclear whether Meyer did or said anything to instigate Sunday’s exchange. Meyer wasn’t made available for interviews after the game, according to various media outlets.
Crean, speaking on Monday’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference, called the incident a “professional misunderstanding” and said he later called Meyer to apologize.
“We discussed a couple things, I apologized for that, and in retrospect, wished I never would’ve addressed anything after the heat of battle in a game,” Crean said. “But we move on.”
Michigan coach John Beilein said he didn’t witness the incident, but saw video of it Monday morning.
He wouldn’t comment on Crean’s actions, but defended Meyer, saying he’s a “great coach” who helped rebuild Michigan’s program, and that he was proud of the way Meyer showed poise in the situation.
“I will say that Michigan’s always going to win with class, and they’re going to lose with class,” Beilein said. “We’re never going to use victory or defeat as a platform to vent any frustrations that we’re going to have.”
Ubel’s second chance
Purdue, which faces Nebraska in Thursday’s first round of the Big Ten Tournament, defeated the Huskers 65-56 in Lincoln on Jan. 16.
But Nebraska played that game without senior forward Brandon Ubel, who missed his second straight game because of a hairline fracture in his elbow. Ubel, now healthy, averages 11.2 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds.
“They’re obviously a much better team with him,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We were fortunate enough to catch them at the right time. They’ll be an improved team just from that fact.”
Painter said Purdue was able to get some easy baskets inside against Nebraska — the Boilermakers had 30 points in the paint — that he doesn’t expect to be there with Ubel in the lineup.
“He has size, so he can help you on the defensive end on that back line, but he can also go out and guard,” Painter said. “It’s kind of the same versatile attributes that he has offensively. He can pass and catch the ball. It seems simple, but when you have size and you can pass and catch the basketball, the ball doesn’t stop with you. You get good movement on offense.”
This week’s Big Ten Tournament will determine the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but is the team that wins considered the conference champion?
Not in the eyes of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who considers himself “old-school” when it comes to determining a conference champion.
“Winning a conference over an extended period of time shows the grit and mettle of a team being able to hang in there for months,” Ryan said. “Tournaments were made for money, for a lot of different reasons other than what sports were originally designed to do.
“Anybody that would ever say the Big Ten Tournament would be the champions of the conference, I’ve always thought was ludicrous, because of the way I was brought up.”
Wisconsin, by the way, has won Big Ten Tournament titles in 2004 and 2008 under Ryan.