By Jim Weber
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: If you watched Minnesota upset No. 1 Indiana last night, you witnessed a scene straight out of the 1992 film, The Mighty Ducks.
With the No. 1 Hoosiers trailing by five with under 30 seconds left, Will Sheehey fouled Gophers guard Andre Hollins, then reached for his eye and collapsed on the court as if he had been knocked out in a prize fight. According to ESPN’s Dan Dakich, Indiana head coach Tom Crean screamed for the referees to go to the monitor to check for an offensive foul. They did, only for the video to reveal Sheehey had blatantly flopped:
If you’re unfamiliar with The Mighty Ducks (first of all, shame on you), there’s a scene at the beginning where Gordon Bombay (played by Emilio Estevez) becomes the youth hockey team’s head coach and is still in his evil lawyer phase. Losing badly to an opponent, Bombay asks Charlie (Joshua Jackson) to grab his eye and fall down when pinned up against the boards to draw a penalty.
Except, Charlie wouldn’t do it. He had more integrity than his coach, which eventually sparked Bombay’s reformation. (How this clip is not on YouTube is a travesty).
The difference between the movie and last night, of course, is that Sheehey actually faked the injury. While there’s no proof that Sheehey was instructed to flop by Crean, there is video of Crean on the sideline in the timeout before the play clearly talking to the team about high elbows.
And if you look at the video of the foul further, it’s clear that Sheehey positions his face right next to Collins’ arm to try and sell the eye injury.
Point blank: I don’t believe for a second Sheehey did this without Crean’s instruction. It was way too deliberate and premeditated. And the way Crean instantly demanded the officials to look at the monitor makes it even more apparent he orchestrated the flop.
Crean is already on his way to becoming a college basketball coaching villain as a very sore loser. Whether he’s throwing temper tantrums on the sideline like a toddler, blowing by opposing coaches after a loss or even ripping the Big Ten over weekly awards if his players don’t win, he’s definitely caught the eye of college hoops fans.
On Tuesday night, Crean hit a new low by apparently pulling a Gordon Bombay. Where’s the respect for opponents and the game as a whole? Where’s the integrity he is supposed to be instilling in college kids?
After looking over video of the controversial Derrick Nix-Cody Zeller incident from last week, I don’t think Zeller flopped by initiating the groin shot there. But Sheehey’s flop was clear as day.
If I’m Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, I’m pretty limited in what I can do to reprimand Crean since there’s no rule against flopping at the college level. But the first thing I would have done Wednesday morning is call Crean up and say, “Don’t ever do that again.”
Beyond that, flopping should clearly be addressed this offseason. Trying to draw technical fouls when trailing late in games makes NBA flopping look downright petty. Instead of fining players, the NCAA should rule any flop like what Indiana did last night is a technical. Because there’s no way something like that should have no risk and prompt announcers like Mike Tirico and Dakich to say players should flop like that more.
We should name it the “Tom Crean Rule.”
The scariest part? If Crean is willing to resort to this tactic during a regular season game when Indiana has almost definitely assured itself a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, who knows what he will resort to in the NCAA tournament if the Hoosiers are trailing late.
I know the sports media overreacts to everything these days, but Crean deserves all the heat he brought upon himself Tuesday night by channeling his inner Gordon Bombay.
I’ll give him this though, Crean has pulled off something I never thought possible: Becoming the sorest loser in a family that includes Jim Harbaugh.