Yahoo Sports College Podcast: Tom Crean talks about his football life

Tom Crean and Jim Harbaugh at Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. (Getty Images)

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When Yahoo Sports expert Pete Thamel recently sat down with Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean, it wasn’t to talk about college hoops or the program he’s building down in Athens.

Rather, the pair sat back and talked about what everyone is talking about this time of year.


As you might know, Crean is married to the former Joani Harbaugh, giving him two of the most famous brother-in-laws in the country. Joani’s father was also a football coach and Crean has always took full advantage of trying to find parallels between how they coach their sport.

Here are some of the topics that Crean discusses in an interesting and illuminating interview:

How John Harbaugh first showed him that football coaching could affect basketball (~3:30 mark) 

“The person I really started having the technical conversations with and really starting to see the parallels was with John Harbaugh. Especially when he was special teams coach with the Eagles … We would have some really good conversations. It was like a light bulb would go on more and more for me, how much that played in both offense and defense, especially when it came to skill development.  When it came to hand placement, how you moved your feet, how you got around people. Because we’re always looking for space, we’re always looking to create space, but we’re always looking to play downhill. Even though I didn’t know those terms at the beginning, I started to learn. There are a ton of parallels here.”

On how he cultivated relationship with New England coach Bill Belichick (~7:00)

“The relationship is credited to two people: Tony LaRussa, who became a friend of mine in 2002, I guess it was and Mike Lombardi, who has a longstanding relationship with Bill.

“So my first time getting to be around him was at the University of Florida football clinic … Urban Meyer was the head coach, Tim Tebow was still playing … So we went in and spent a day. And I got a chance to walk around with Bill and watch how he evaluates positions. And that was interesting to me because it was a whole other level of being able to see how he sees it. He actually did a demonstration of offensive tackle/defensive end hand placement, right there on the field. And people are watching it and I’m loving it. ‘Hey, I might get thrown on the ground by Bill Belichick!’ I didn’t really want that, so I’m leveraging myself. But he was showing me technique. You see it when you watch film when you watch practices, he’s a hands-on coach. He’s not standing there with his arms folded.

“He’s been very accessible to me. I never try to wear it out, he’s been excellent with me.”

How he learned some of his most important coaching lessons from an NFL coaching clinic (~19:30) 

“I learned so much, so many different ways. I was probably the only basketball coach in a group of 800-900 people, whatever they had there. I saw what a first-class clinic looked like, but I also saw what a first-class program looked like. How they made everyone feel a part of that.”

How he watches other sports to gain an edge (~22:00)

“Football is really the one that taught me to look at other sports but there’s so much to learn from tennis, soccer, basketball and hockey. Tom Izzo and I used to go as assistants at Michigan State and watch these NHL players come in and train before they go back to camp. And we started to learn about VO2 Max and bike testing. We’d go in there and watch these guys do these bike sprints and watch the level, because Tom is a great learner too. He doesn’t always want you to know that. But he likes to learn, he likes to study.

“When you see that, not only do you see something that you can apply, but it makes you think of all these different things that you can do. Having something more than just the mile run, which Tom grew up on, was important to Tom.”

To listen to the entire interview, follow the subscription links at the top of this post.

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