Crean relatively ecstatic about Super Bowl matchup

ANDY LYONS / GETTY IMAGES Indiana coach Tom Crean's brother-in-laws are John and Jim Harbaugh, who will square off in Super Bowl XLVII.
ANDY LYONS / GETTY IMAGES Indiana coach Tom Crean's brother-in-laws are John and Jim Harbaugh, who will square off in Super Bowl XLVII.
Posted: January 29, 2013

TOM CREAN'S Saturday is going to be one of the most significant of his basketball life. His Sunday will be one of the most significant of his family life.

ESPN's "College GameDay" will be in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday. It will be a daylong big deal as No. 3 Indiana gets ready to play No. 1 Michigan on ESPN at 9 p.m in Assembly Hall, one of college basketball iconic arenas that was filled even when IU was at the bottom of the Big Ten standings. For the Michigan game, it will be jammed to the rafters with noise that only true-believing basketball fans can make.

Crean, the Indiana coach, figures to leave the gym sometime after midnight on Sunday morning. Sixteen hours later, the Super Bowl will commence 810 miles away in the New Orleans Superdome. Will Crean be there?

"I will be there," he promised.

Of course he will. The Ravens are coached by John Harbaugh. The 49ers are coached by Jim Harbaugh. Their sister Joani is married to Crean. So the IU coach is the brother-in-law of the two Super Bowl coaches.

"It's amazing, it really is," Crean said. "The thing that's amazing most about it, if you're living in it, is those guys are high-level coaches day in and day out. When you're in the family and you're privy to some of the things that go on behind the scenes and all the different things that lead up to this moment, you really appreciate it that much more.

"I appreciate it as a coach, but I also appreciate it as somebody that has a leadership position. Those guys are tremendous leaders. It's no accident. Joani's the same way. It came from Jack and Jackie."

Last week, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, the parents of the Super Bowl coaches, were in Bloomington to visit with the Creans. Jack was a football coach for 43 years. Jackie was in charge of the 17 family moves. There is football and then there is the Super Bowl.

"There's been so many requests," Crean said. "Jack and Jackie could be busy 14 hours a day with all the opportunities [for interviews] that are there."

Crean got to spend 45 minutes with his wife's parents in the middle of last week.

The IU coach also got to spend some with retired manager Tony La Russa, who was in town to talk some hoops, football and baseball.

"Tony has been through our friendship, he's gotten to know John and Jim and there's such a connection that builds," Crean said. "I've met people through them. It's such a great connection. Those guys absorb everything that comes their way. They're decisive and they take the next step. Whenever I'm around Jack and Jackie, I see exactly why that happens."

The game itself will be the problem for the family. How exactly do you root?

The family had experience when Jim brought his San Francisco team to Baltimore on Thanksgiving 2011 to play John's team. The Ravens won, 16-6.

"It will be hard," Crean said. "It was really hard for Joani on Thanksgiving. I know it was very hard for her parents. Nobody saw them because they were back in an office watching. That's extremely hard.

"It's not, well, one's going to win, one's going to lose. One is going to have the most ultimate moment professionally and one is going to be very down as a result. The thing that makes it such a unique family is the one that's at the top of the mountain that day is going to feel a lot worse than the one that isn't.

"I don't know how it will be. You want to say, 'What a great thing, they're there.' But you know it's going to be intense, it's going to be combative. They're going to give their team everything they have. They already are . . . That's why they're in the positions that they're in. It will be a great football game."

And Crean will be there. He won't be driving the 12 hours through Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi to New Orleans. He will be flying, after some sleep or no sleep.

Providentially, his IU team does not play again until the Thursday after the Super Bowl at Illinois, a 2 1/2-hour bus ride or short plane hop. So Tom Crean will be there for the Harbowl, a coach watching the coaches who just happen to be family.

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