ROSEMONT, Ill. — When Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean sees Jim Harbaugh, it’s almost always in the context of a family gathering. But as of December, the brothers-in-law have another connection: both are head coaches at powerhouse Big Ten programs, now living driving distance away from one another instead of a cross-country flight.

But Harbaugh’s new gig as the Wolverines’ head football coach hasn’t changed him, Crean said Thursday at Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Chicago.

“I’ll tell you what — not at all,” he said.

Crean has already had the opportunity to watch Harbaugh coach in person. He and his wife, Joani — Harbaugh’s sister — came to Ann Arbor on Sept. 12 to witness the Wolverines’ 35-7 win over Oregon State in their home opener.  

“My son had a baseball game in Jackson, so we got in the night before and stayed at (Harbaugh’s) house,” Crean said. “He was obviously with the team, and then we went to the game, stood on the sideline, which was pretty cool. Then we spent time together after his recruits left and went to his office, and spent time the next morning.”

Though Harbaugh is returning to coaching college players after a four-year stint as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Crean said nothing has changed about the pair’s coach-to-coach dynamic.

Then again, coaching isn’t typically the main topic of conversation when the two spend time together.

“It’s family when we’re together like that,” Crean said. “It’s my kids (and) Joani, obviously, so that’s what it is.”

Though Harbaugh and his team’s 5-1 start have generated levels of excitement not seen in Ann Arbor for years, Crean dismissed the possibility of the pressure or spotlight getting to his head.

After all, said Indiana’s eighth-year coach, Harbaugh held elite company in the Chicago sports landscape in the late ’80s and early ’90s. In an era dominated by the reign of the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Crean recalled, Harbaugh joined the duo as a third local figurehead.

“It’s not like he’s never dealt with this before,” Crean said.

Football aside, Crean said Harbaugh’s return to Ann Arbor seems to be treating the family well. It’s the city where Joani Harbaugh and Crean were married, where Harbaugh attended high school for two years.

“To me,” Crean said, “that’s who he is.”

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