BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (CBS / AP) — For years, Tom Crean has wanted to bring Calbert Cheaney back to Indiana.
Finally, the time was right for one of the school’s all-time greats to return. The former Big Ten player of the year and the conference’s all-time scoring leader has been hired as the Hoosiers’ new director of basketball operations.
“We knew that we wanted him when that opportunity came, and, needless to say we are extremely, extremely excited,” Crean said at a news conference.
Cheaney was the 1993 national player of the year at Indiana, then was the No. 6 overall pick in the NBA draft. He averaged 9.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 13 seasons while playing for five teams, and he spent the last two years working for the Golden State Warriors.
Cheaney said his heart always remained with the Hoosiers, and opportunity knocked when Drew Adams left to work for ex-Indiana star Steve Alford at New Mexico. Cheaney got a call from Crean and made the move after checking with his family.
“This is where I played,” he said. “I had some great years here. Even when I was playing in the league or was enjoying retirement, or even when I was at Golden State, I would always watch Indiana play.”
Crean has been forced to rebuild after Kelvin Sampson’s NCAA recruiting infractions, and he hasn’t posted a winning season in his three years at the school. In Cheaney, he now has a tangible connection to the school’s glory days.
“He knows exactly what it takes to get where a great deal of them want to go, but he also knows exactly what it takes to be successful in the places that they have no idea are out there,” Crean said.
Crean said Cheaney had made six trips to the campus since Crean was hired in 2008, occasionally practicing with the players.
“One thing that always stood out to me our first year here was how willing Calbert was to come back and give back to this program in a very tough turn, where leadership had to come from the past because we just didn’t have people here who knew what it was all about,” Crean said.
Crean said his newest staff member will be involved with on-campus recruiting and will make observations about the players, but he will not be an on-court coach during practices.
“He is a very, very good basketball coach,” Crean said. “That’s big for us. There’s no doubt about that. I don’t think there’s any question if he had chosen to stay in the NBA, he could have done that.”
Indiana reached the NCAA tournament every year Cheaney played. Now, he gets a chance to try to duplicate that success as a mentor.
“I really enjoy teaching, I really enjoy trying to transfer some of the knowledge that I’ve had over the years to other players to help them in this world, not just as players, but as people.”
(Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)