Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What is the University of Michigan's Men's Basketball Team Waiting For?

I really am a fan of the University of Michigan athletic program. I know it doesn't seem like it reading the posts in this blog, but I do want Michigan, especially its basketball team, to get better, and get better fast. But the way they are handling their search for Tommy Amaker's replacement is just so, well, non-existent. While teams like Minnesota are hiring Tubby Smith (who, as previously mentioned, would have been perfect for Michigan and it was a huge mistake to miss out on him) and Iowa is at least trying to woo Bruce Pearl away from Tennessee (albeit unsuccessfully), Michigan has done absolutely nothing. And I'm getting very impatient.

There's a very interesting subplot to the Pearl rumors too. According to the Detroit Free Press, even though Michigan has not contacted Pearl about their head coach opening, Pearl, unsolicited, brought his own name into the mix.

"There are some jobs that are open," Pearl told the AP last Friday. "Iowa and Michigan are both jobs that in a different time and a different place -- like I said, I worked my whole life to be at a place like Tennessee. I was a Hawkeye for a long time. I've recruited Michigan well for years as an assistant at Iowa and a head coach at Southern Indiana, and here and (Wisconsin-) Milwaukee. I've always recruited Michigan. Those are opportunities that you certainly try to get to, but I'm here. I'm in the SEC. I'm at Tennessee. I go to work every day trying to reward Tennessee for bringing me here."

As the author of the Pearl story, Mark Snyder, points out, this isn't the first coach to mention Michigan, despite Michigan not mentioning anyone. Ernie Kent of Oregon did the same thing last week. So is Michigan talking to anyone? Not according to the Detroit News.

Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery , Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings and Butler's Todd Lickliter -- rumored to be candidates for the Michigan job -- all saw their seasons end in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. However, none have been contacted by U-M.

What is Michigan waiting for? For Iowa to hire the coach Michigan may have their eye on? For Kentucky to hire their first choice and leave us with the leftovers? Now, I am all for a deliberative process that looks at all the top candidates, conducting interviews, numerous interviews of the same candidate if need be, and makes an ultimate determination on who the best man for the job is. But, that isn't what Michigan is doing here. They are wasting weeks and not interviewing anybody. In the meantime, they've lost Tubby Smith, and if they wait much longer, they will lose other top candidates too.

And in the meantime, some great recruits who have committed to Michigan, including Alex Legion and Michigan's Mr. Basketball Corperryale Harris, have to be getting restless wondering their head coach is going to be. And everyday, their phones have to be ringing off the hook with opposing coaches trying to recruit them away from Michigan, telling them that Michigan obviously doesn't care much for the future of their basketball team. True or not, Michigan's inaction certainly will feed into that perception.

So what should Michigan do? Well, not to repeat myself again, and again, and again, but Michigan should hire Tom Crean (another guy they apparently have not even considered talking to, which is mind-boggling). At the very least, they need to, you know, talk to potential candidates. Because at some point, and that point will be here soon, it will be too late, and the top coaching candidates will be gone or no longer interested, and even worse, our top recruits may be gone with them.

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