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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

UM could have done better than Amaker

Sitting around the office yesterday, everyone wanted to know if Michigan hired the right basketball coach.

Tommy Amaker? Excellent recruiter who signed Eddie Griffin and Shane Battier. Brian Ellerbe was a good recruiter too. One of Ellerbe's biggest failings was that, for whatever reason, he couldn't keep most of the good ones he signed. Any coach worth his salt as a recruiter should be able to attract good players to Michigan. The program basically recruits itself.

Amaker was an assistant for nine years at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski, which means he learned from one of the best. How much he retained, we still don't know. In four years at Seton Hall, Amaker's teams went 68-55 (15-15, 15-15, 22-10, 16-15) with one NCAA Tournament appearance.

At a lot of institutions of higher learning, a career mark of 13 games over .500 results in unemployment.

Ask Jerry Green, who never had a losing season and guided his teams to the NCAAs in all four of his years at Tennessee. Green is now sitting around counting the zeroes on his buyout check. Ask Jody Stiebing, who was fired at New Orleans after being named Sun Belt coach of the year.

Amaker receives a promotion. I guess it really does pay to know people in higher places.

Amaker, 35, is the safe choice for Michigan athletic director Bill Martin. Amaker was hired because he played and coached at Duke, one of the great college basketball programs in the country. I'd prefer that UM select a coach based on merit.

How about Ben Braun, who has done a wonderful job at California? After Rick Pitino rebuffed Michigan for Louisville, the former Eastern Michigan coach became Martin's No. 1 choice.

Braun used Michigan as leverage to secure a contract extension from Cal. I think it says a lot about the current state of UM's program when Braun elects not to pursue what used to be his dream job.

Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson? Too expensive for the Wolverines, but well worth the investment. Rates among the very best tacticians who extracts maximum effort from his players. Proven track record. Wins wherever he goes. Strong disciplinarian.

Sampson booted his best guard, J.R. Raymond, off the team for violating team rules. The move eventually caught up with Oklahoma, which was one player short in the postseason.

Juxtapose Sampson's action with Amaker's softball approach regarding discipline. Amaker babied the temperamental Griffin, Seton Hall's best player, after he punched a teammate, suspending him for only one game.

Xavier's Skip Prosser? Wasn't seriously considered for Ann Arbor. All he does is win.

Kent State's Gary Waters? A Michigan native and a former assistant under Braun at Eastern Michigan, Waters wanted the UM job badly.

Kent State has become the dominant team in the Mid-American Conference, advancing to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years. This year the Golden Flashes upset Indiana in the first round.

Waters doesn't have Amaker's name recognition. He did not interview for the UM job.

Amaker doesn't have Waters' sixth sense for coaching. Not that it matters.

Becoming the basketball coach at Michigan should be a privilege. Not a birthright.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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