My interactions with Joani Crean, the sister of Jack and Jim Harbaugh
‘Let’s meet Monday at Cook Hall’ the text read.
It was from Joani Crean, sister of Super Bowl XLVII bound brothers, John and Jim Harbaugh and wife of Indiana’s basketball coach Tom Crean.
She had agreed to speak to me.
Joani Crean was the third piece in my four-piece puzzle on a story about what it’s like to be a coach’s wife at a major university, and since basketball reigns at Indiana — she was the major piece.
But if I was shocked by the first text, the second one made me stop jumping. Then my jaw dropped.
‘What coffee do you drink? I’ll bring you one,’ Joani had typed.
Since Day 1 of meeting her, that’s how Joani Crean has always been. She may be the first lady of Indiana basketball, but she doesn’t let that define her.
The day I talked with her was two days after Indiana upset No. 1 Kentucky. She shared such vivid memories of the game. We talked for about an hour and I asked her so many questions. Her answers to two of them stuck out the most.
The first was: ‘What is a Thanksgiving like with so much success around the Harbaugh family table?’
“We don’t get one,” Joani told me.
Between her husband Tom’s basketball squad and John and Jim’s football teams, the family was lucky to even get to see each other. That was the year they had the Harbaughs play on Thanksgiving. The best thing that came out of that is they were able to be in the same city as a family, but they didn’t all get to sit down around the same table.
Then I asked her the second question, one of my most burning questions: ‘Who are you?’
That was the basis of my entire story. Who are these women who stand behind their husbands through wins and losses and rarely get recognized?
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