Remembering Crews, with an eye to the future

Back to Article
Back to Article

Remembering Crews, with an eye to the future

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Jim Crews, head basketball coach of the Saint Louis University men’s basketball team for four seasons, was officially removed of his coaching duties following the Billikens’ loss to George Washington in the Atlantic 10 tournament on March 10. Crews’ tenure was marked by two distinct halves, a successful first half and disappointing second. The first two seasons were the final two in arguably the greatest period in the history of SLU basketball. In those two seasons, the Billikens finished with a record of 55-14 and featured an NCAA win in each year. The 2012-2013 season was particularly impressive, due to the circumstances that went beyond basketball for that group. Rick Majerus, the coach prior to Crews, who brought him out of retirement as an assistant, found himself unable to perform his duties as coach due to health concerns that eventually would take his life.  Coaching that season under an interim tag, Crews led the Billikens to perhaps their finest season ever and was recognized for his efforts with a National Coach of the Year award from Sporting News and the NABC.

The following season was more of the same success for SLU. Led by Atlantic 10 player of the year Jordair Jett, and four more senior starters, SLU won the conference’s regular season title and looked primed for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. After a thrilling game against NC State in the round of 64, SLU lost to fifth seed Louisville by a score of 51-66. While this loss was a heartbreaking one for fans, it was not seen as the end. Rather, many believed that the immense national success brought about by Majerus and then Crews would continue with the remaining players and incoming freshman (now sophomore) class.

Unfortunately, this has not happened. The past two seasons have featured identical 11-21 records and inconsistent play, which ultimately led to the dismissal of Coach Crews. It is a disappointing end for a man who has been an incredible ambassador for the university, but one that is easy to understand.

Before continuing to the next part of this article, I would like to thank Coach Crews for his work with the program. His departing press conference is one of the best you will find. He talks about his career, spanning from Indiana until SLU. But beyond basketball, he gives anecdotes about his family and relationships with his former players. Most importantly, it is real. It is a genuine representation of how he has represented this program, and it took an incredible amount of strength to sit at that table and speak. Mind you, this occurred minutes after it was publicly announced he had been fired. There are not enough words to describe the class with which Coach Crews carried himself. Here’s to a happy retirement, Coach. In two years, when the majority of his remaining players are juniors and seniors, seeing Crews in the crowd at an NCAA game would be a perfect ending to an era that began with so much promise.

The point of this piece, beyond reminiscing on the last four years, is looking forward to the next coach of SLU. Per the press release on slubillikens.com, “SLU is looking for a coach with a history of success and who understands the Department of Athletics’ commitment to the strategic objectives of educating, competing and building community.” In addition, Athletic Director Chris May has said that an emphasis will be placed on candidates with head coaching experience and a record of success. The second aspect of these qualifications would appear to delay the naming of a new coach until NCAA tournament play has finished. SLU may decide to hire an up-and-coming assistant, a mid-major coach looking to move up or a veteran leader with major experience. Regardless of the route they choose to go, it is almost certain that there will be the financial backing of Richard Chaifetz. The alum whose name adorns SLU’s basketball arena was a key cog in landing Rick Majerus, and would appear to be a major player going forward. The financial support of Chaifetz and other donors is a huge benefit to attracting a good candidate, but there are multiple factors for why SLU is one of the most attractive jobs this spring.

The aforementioned Chaifetz Arena is a state of the art, on campus arena in the heart of a major market that finds itself devoid of an NFL team for the first time in 20 years. This gap in local sports is an excellent opportunity for the Billikens to re-invigorate a desperate fan base. Beyond television and the arena, the Bills have the recent success of 2009-2014 to point to as a blueprint for the future. SLU has proven as recently as two seasons ago that a nationally-ranked team can exist in the heart of Midtown St. Louis. It is imperative the athletic department finds the right candidate to bring the program back to that status, and it might not be as difficult as many think. While the last two seasons have been difficult, there are players that remain who a new coach could mold into productive parts on a contending team. Will it be an easy process? No. There will likely be large changes to the roster under new leadership, but changes that ultimately will prove necessary in order to ensure SLU can return to the success of only a few seasons ago, but of a sustainable variety. This national search is one of the most important moments in the history of the program. While many have begun suggesting candidates, it will be difficult to discern for at least a few more weeks who is a true contender for the job. Regardless, the right hire will lead SLU on the path to recovery and make Chaifetz Arena the place to be for players and fans.