Sunday, March 4, 2007

Michigan almost beats Ohio State -- So why am I relieved?

My University of Michigan Wolverines almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college basketball season on Saturday, taking #1 ranked Ohio State down to the wire, even leading with minutes to go, before, predictably, falling apart in the final minutes of the game. The win would have given Michigan victories over Michigan State, Indiana, and OSU in the past few weeks and likely would have given the Wolverines a birth in the NCAA Tournament. Plus, beating hated rival Ohio State, knocking them down from the top ranking in college basketball, would have made the win even more sweet.

Yet, even though I wanted Michigan to win, and even though I was disappointed in their loss, I wasn't bitterly disappointed. And I wasn't as into the game, cheering for the home team, as I should have been. That's because, deep down, I don't really think I wanted Michigan to beat Ohio State. Sacrilege? Maybe. But I have a justification.

As the Michigan basketball program has stayed muddled in mediocrity the past few seasons, I have become convinced head coach Tommy Amaker is the wrong man to lead the Wolverines. Don't get me wrong, Amaker is a fine coach. And how he brought Michigan out from underneath NCAA scandal and probation, doing all the right things off the court, being a great representative of the program and the school, is commendable. But, on the court, Michigan is a disaster. Players simply do not improve under Tommy Amaker. If they are decent when they show up as freshmen (like Daniel Horton) they stay decent. If they are raw and have untapped talent when they arrive on campus (like Brent Petway), their full potential is never realized.

While Amaker may be pristine off the court, his inability to get the most out of his players, and improve their abilities is inexcusable. Petway is a perfect example. The kid can jump out of the gym, and has more raw athletic ability than any player I have seen in a long, long time. He even shaved the design of the Michigan football helmet into his head for the OSU game. Now that's dedication. But, on the court, Petway has still yet to fully develop as a player, and still looks as unpolished as the day he started as a Wolverine. Courtney Sims, the Wolverines big man, should be a dominant player, but he's not, and likely never will be under Amaker's tutelage. If there's one thing college coaches should be good at, it is helping players develop their game, and Amaker simply isn't good at it. Sure, he may be popular with the athletic department, and his players, and he is a good recruiter (though he hasn't lived up to the expectations he created when he was able to get one of the top recruiting classes in the country at Seton Hall before he was hired at Michigan) but that shouldn't be enough. At Michigan, nothing other than winning should be acceptable. And failing that, simply having your players show progress in their career would be encouraging. We've seen neither from the Amaker regime.

So who do I suggest the Wolverines hire to replace Amaker? Marquette's Tom Crean. Crean has created a great program at Marquette and let's not forget he recruited and coached Dwayne Wade. Not only that, but Crean has experience in the state of Michigan, having attended Central Michigan, and, more importantly, having been Tom Izzo's top assistant at Michigan State. Despite a down year for the Spartans this season, they still rule the basketball courts in the state of Michigan, and Izzo continues to dominate both in-state recruiting and bragging rights. Who better to take him down and restore the Wolverines to prominence then the man who coached under Izzo for four seasons and was his top assistant for two of those years? Plus, Crean has proven he can lead a successful program both in the regular season (he has had a winning season every year he's coached at Marquette) and the tournament (he reached the Final Four in 2003).

Tommy Amaker assuredly would have saved his job with a win over Ohio State (and likely would have clinched his first NCAA tournament birth as Wolverine head coach). He most probably has saved his job regardless. But, Michigan shouldn't be so lackadaisical with their basketball program. They need to think seriously about the future of their program, and should Tom Crean be willing to listen to a pitch to come back to the state of Michigan, they should explore it. Otherwise, Michigan will continue to be stuck in neutral for the foreseeable future.

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4 comments:

NY Warrior said...

if Amaker is toast, all the best in finding a great new coach.....but it won't be Tom Crean.

Scott Warheit said...

As a Marquette fan, I can understand not wanting Crean to leave. And I don't have any "inside" information that Crean would want to come to Michigan (or Michigan would even consider Crean), but they would be crazy not to look at him, and with his background in the state, I'd have to think Michigan would be a pretty attractive job for him.

We'll see.

-Scott

ADR said...

Let me get this straight - we need to lose games now in order to win them later? I think we should rethink.

I'm really looking forward to this blog as a fellow Tiger fan and UM Law grad!

Scott Warheit said...

Thanks for reading and commenting ADR.

Yes, losing now to win later isn't really something you want to cheer for (it is the same dilemma I've had with the Lions for the past few seasons) but at some point, we really need to move away from Amaker and towards a new direction, that's mainly my point.

-Scott

 

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