Sunday, March 18, 2007

Crucial Time for Michigan basketball

Well, St. Patrick's Day was glorious for more reasons than simply binge drinking beyond belief. The Tommy Amaker era of Michigan basketball has finally come to a close as athletic director Bill Martin did the right thing and pulled the plug on Amaker's tenure. And after how much I've been looking forward to this day, it was too bad I was way too drunk to go to the press conference announcing the firing. Why on God's green earth would they have it at 430 pm on St. Patrick's Day. It just doesn't make sense. They couldn't wait until Monday? I really wanted to see the look on Tommy's face as he cam to the realization that he just can't cut it as a coach. This is like a 31-year old baseball player being demoted from AAA to AA. It's like "listen buddy, you're 31 years old and getting demoted...the majors aren' realistic. Tommy is either going to be an assistant again or coach some rinky dink college, but he shouldn't get another major college basketball head coaching job. The best coaches eat, sleep and breath winning and Tommy just didn't do that. Basketball wasn't everything to him, it was showing class and running the program the right way. But in the end, it comes down to winning and he just didn't do enough of that.

Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey you suck!

But now that he's gone, I should stop ragging on the guy. I wasn't at the press conference but apparently you went away thinking, "Man, I feel bad such a nice guy got fired". But what can you really do when the in-game coaching just isn't there. Being a high character guy only takes you so far at a Big Ten school. I was real impressed by Tommy telling both Legion and Manny Harris that "they should honor their committments to Michigan" and that "the place for them is Ann Arbor". How can you really go away hating someone like that? And as I write this, I'm already reading that Northwestern is thinking about firing Bill Carmody and they might want Amaker. Good for him, that might be a better fit since Northwestern doesn't really care that much about winning.

As for possible replacements: there's been a lot of names thrown out there already. A lot of people want a big name, but what they don't realize is that it probably isn't financially possible for Michigan. There's no way they are going to pay a basketball coach more than the football coach. And to pry away a guy like Jay Wright from Villanova and Tom Crean from Marquette, you're going to need to pay a lot of money. Not to mention an elite coach is going to want some promises about a practice facility and possibly some guarantees about a renovation for Crisler Arena. The Michigan athletic department is at a crossroads right here because they have essentially been running the basketball team as if it was in the MAC. The facilities suck, the coaching staff is one of the lowest paid and has some of the worst accomplishments of anybody in the Big Ten. The athletic department has this far fetched belief that simply going into a room wearing a block M on yuor shirt is just going to blow people away. Well, if you haven't noticed, 18-year olds don't exactly remember the Fab 5 like it was yesterday. Michigan basketball carries no weight these days. It's time for Bill Martin to put up or shutup. However, the new coach, whoever it may be, is going to need to come to the realization that basketball will never be king here. Boosters are football people in Ann Arbor and that will likely neve change. But here are some of the names that have been mentioned in the past few days and I think are actually feasible:

John Beilein of West Virginia (I think it would work)
Rudy Tomjanovich (I thought he might have died)
Tom Crean (not happening because he hates playing Izzo, but experts say otherwise)
Lon Kruger of UNLV (this is the message board favorite right now, has Big Ten ties from his Illinois days)
Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois (Might be possible, has some Michigan ties, not much of a track record)
Gregg Marshall of Winthrop (no Michigan ties, but maybe)
Jay Wright of Villanova (I just don't see him leaving there for a place like Michigan)
Larry Brown (it's been mentioned, but I doubt they have the money or if Brown actually would want to do it)
Mike Montgomery of Stanford fame (This is my choice, he's proven he can win at a school that places emphasis on academics, but does Michigan want to spend the money?)

That's just a preliminary list. My gut tells me the three that are going to be the frontrunners are Kruger, Lowery and Beilein. Andy Katz was on ESPN radio earlier today and said he thought Beilein made the most sense, but that he has a 2.5 million dollar buyout at WVU, which might be too steep for Bill Martin and co.

And here's an interesting quote from today's New York Times, which says a lot about the potential for the Wolverines and their basketball program:

"Publicly, Big Ten coaches will say that the firing of Amaker is unfortunate, but privately they are concerned about the reawakening of a power that won a national championship in 1989 and made the title game in 1992 and 1993 behind the famed Fab Five."

Personally I think either Kruger or Beilein would be great fits here, and I would be happy with either. The next few weeks should be a real exciting time for Michigan basketball, and is probably Bill Martin's last chance to prove himself as an athletic director.

All things considered...I want Beilein.

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