Crean returns to Marquette for honor

MILWAUKEE -- Ignoring any hard feelings about his abrupt departure for Indiana, Tom Crean returned to Marquette and was inducted into its sports hall of fame along with Dwyane Wade and the rest of the 2003 Final Four men's basketball team on Saturday night.

The celebration was held at the Bradley Center, the site where Crean helped lead Marquette's resurgence in college basketball and, eventually, in the Big East.

"It's like anything else," the 15th head coach in Marquette basketball history said before the induction ceremony. "The memories are constant. You don't have to walk back in just to have great memories. I was part of a great team, one of the best teams in the history of Marquette."

Crean, who was hired on March 30, 1999, got Marquette moving forward in 2001-02, as he coached the Golden Eagles to a 26-7 record and the team's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1997. The 26 victories were the third-most all-time and represented the program's first 20-win season since 1997.

His teams averaged more than 20 wins a season in his nine years. He led the Golden Eagles to five NCAA tournament appearances, including the 2003 Final Four.

"It's an honor for me to have been the coach," he said. "It's an honor for me to have been the coach of that [2003] team. It's a culmination of bringing back a lot of memories that everybody will be able to go back and look at that participated in it. But more importantly, those that followed it will be able to have their own memories. That's what's most important. There were a lot of really good things inside of that team and inside of the nine years and that's where the memories are."

The 2002-03 men's basketball squad finished the season 27-6 overall and 14-2 in Conference USA, earning them a No. 9 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. They captured the 2003 Conference USA regular season championship and then made the program's third NCAA Final Four appearance and first since 1977.

"They brought national acclaim back to the university, again, through the basketball program," Crean said. "Obviously, national acclaim was here already academically and for the stature of the university as a whole."

But it all came to an abrupt end when Indiana University made him its 28th head basketball coach on April 2, 2008.

Still, Crean said that what he enjoyed at Marquette has never been lost.

"When I originally came here, we showed a lot of Michigan State films to this team," he said. "I know they got sick of it, but I never did because that's what success looked like to me. Marquette is what success looks like to me."

Crean will need those memories as well as mining some from Indiana's past basketball successes as he hopes to improve an Indiana team that finished 6-26 overall and 1-17 in the Big Ten during his first season.

"It's really great to be in a place like Indiana where you can go back decade after decade and show what success looks like in the Indiana program to your team," he said. "The fans don't need a reminder of it, but I don't ever get tired of talking about what we did or giving an example or showing a film clip or showing a game tape."

Before coming to Marquette, Crean spent four seasons as an assistant at Michigan State under Tom Izzo, one year as an assistant at Pittsburgh and four seasons as a Western Kentucky assistant. He also was a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1989-90.

Bill Cords, the former Marquette athletic director who hired Crean, and several others were also inducted into the hall of fame.