‘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?
Then Tom Crean’s wife, John and Jim Harbaugh’s sister, the first lady of Indiana basketball said this: “I’m just Megan, Riley and Ainsley’s mom.”
I went back to Indiana in December for a non-conference game the Hoosiers were playing so I could see my friends. My best friend Mike works for the athletics department. His office is right next door to a lounge for the coaches’ families during the games.
As I walked to see Mike, I saw Joani down the hall. I was just going to slip into the office. I didn’t think she’d remember the college kid she spent an hour with the year before.
She again surprised me. She walked up and gave me a hug, asked how I was doing and where I was now.
As a reporter, this blew me away. Generally, as a journalist, you get so in-depth with every detail of a 1,000+ word story that they stick with you. You could sit down anywhere, any time and recount things about that person. Rarely does that person know or ask anything about you.
But Joani remembered every bit of our conversation. That was the coolest part. Joani Crean, whose husband’s team was ranked No. 6 in the country at the time, genuinely cared about catching up.
That’s the Harbaugh sister for you, humble and caring amongst all the success.
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