This is a terribly difficult post to write with any degree of certainty. Coaches lie constantly up until the moment they take another job. Bill Martin has no motive to disclose the serious candidates, either. The basketball program's resident message board insiders are so pissed at the state of the program and the departure of Amaker that they spin everything to make the athletic department look terrible and can't be considered reliable. As an example of the latter, the hot rumor currently being promulgated on the boards is that Memphis' John Calipari approached Michigan and Martin "turned him down," cue outrage etc. Even assuming there is a nugget of truth somewhere in that statement, the same insiders have been declaring Michigan's program to be such a joke that no serious candidate would take on the massive challenge posed by not having a practice facility. So either you believe the latter and Calipari's only response to the idea of coaching at Michigan would be an imperious laugh or you believe the former, in which case you have conclusive proof that these insiders' perception of the program is hopelessly warped, with the inescapable rider that whatever information you wish to extract from their OMG insiderz reports has to be adjusted for derangement.
So take all of this lightly. A brief survey of my personal opinion developed from reading everything available follows.
Beilein is probably the first choice. This is the easiest and most sensible explanation for the lack of movement in the search. Beilein has reached the NIT final on an improbable buzzer-beater...
...so any potential overtures have to wait until after the final Thursday night. We know that Beilein is -- or at least was -- very much willing to move. He was almost signed, sealed and delivered to go to NC State last year (some reports even had him paying half of his own buyout) until the deal fell through at the last moment. In the wake of the buyout fiasco, Beilein dumped his agent. Unless a strong run in the NIT with a bunch of freshmen convinces him to stay, Beilein's ready to move on to a greener pasture.
Further evidence re: Beilein: we haven't even bothered to interview any of the hot mid-major candidates:
"We haven't been asked for permission," said Tom Weber , Southern Illinois athletics representative, regarding Lowery, the Missouri Valley Conference's coach of the year.
"I haven't been contacted at all regarding coach Stallings," said David Williams , Vanderbilt's vice chancellor for university affairs and general counsel.
"We haven't been contacted," said Barry Collier , Butler's athletic director.
(Stallings, by the way, is a new name that's come up, usually accompanied by a resounding "meh.")
Do you have any (wrong) ideas about Michigan's next coach?
Michigan has not contacted West Virginia's John Beilein, unless you count the flower arrangements disguised as my columns. But that could be because Beilein's team is still playing in the NIT. If this drags on two more days, that could mean Michigan is waiting for Beilein -- which would be good news for U-M fans.
This is your third push for Beilein. What are you, his agent?
No. But if I were, I would respond to this silliness that he can't recruit and that his modified Princeton offense won't work with the athletes in Michigan.
First, the offense: West Virginia averaged 69.7 points in Big East play this year. That was more than Jim Calhoun's team, Jay Wright's team, John Thompson III's team or Jamie Dixon's team. It was 0.3 points less than Rick Pitino's team. And those guys all had more talent in the same league.
As for recruiting: HE COACHES IN MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA. Put him in Ann Arbor. His recruiting will improve dramatically.
What about Beilein's $2.5-million buyout?
That is entirely up to athletic director Bill Martin. Martin does not have to consult with the school's regents to write that kind of check.
He is also totally ganking my schtick. I wave my fist impotently at thee, Rosenberg!
Meanwhile, Wojo expresses concern about Beilein's upside:
But there is cause for caution. Beilein never has recruited well, earning him the teasing label -- he "does more with less." Is "doing more with less" the plan U-M is ready to embrace? In five seasons at West Virginia, Beilein has made the NCAA Tournament twice. I get nervous about coaching geniuses who built their reputations on smaller stages and haven't had the opportunity to prove their system works elsewhere.
Yes, West Virginia is in the Big East, and Beilein has proven something there. But it's fair to wonder if he has the energy, charisma and connections to compete on the recruiting trail with the Big Ten's best. I do think Amaker's outsider status hurt him.
In retrospect I don't know if it was so much Amaker's "outsider" status that hurt him. My theory: it was his status as one of the most privileged black guys on the planet that was damaging. He grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, a Washington DC suburb that's 3% black with a median household income of almost $75k and am median family income of almost $95k. He went to friggin' Duke. He married a woman who was so good at being an academic she was widely cited by dumb Detroit columnists as a reason Amaker wouldn't get canned. His resemblance to Condoleeza Rice goes much deeper than just the (striking) physical aspects. He has as much in common with hardscrabble Detroit ballers as she does, for instance. On the other hand, Beilein is a real boostrap kind of mofo, coaching at a community college before hitting the big time at, uh, Nazareth, LeMoyne, and Canisus. If you look beyond relative levels of melanin, it's Beilein who can relate to people who've struggled for everything they've ever gotten.
Also: it is even possible for anyone to recruit worse than Tommy Amaker? That sounds flip, but I mean it. Is it remotely within the realm of possibility that a competent coach who is likely to build an upper-half Big Ten program with 5'8" point guards from Grosse Pointe, duct-tape, a piece of gum, and some socks -- MacGuyver stizz -- can recruit worse than Tommy Amaker? Before answering please consider that Amaker's recruited two point guards, one of whom is Jerrett Smith, in six years, has offered scholarships to guys like Kendrick Price, Anthony Wright, and Reed Baker, Rainmaker (who ironically enough seems the perfect fit for Beilein's three-mad offense), and coached at a famous name school that's 30 miles away from one of the country's most fabulous talent mines.
To be fair, this isn't Wojo's question. He's does question the potential upside of a Beilein because he's not likely to recruit like Matta:
But how high is the upside? Is Martin even seeking a major upside or hoping to get lucky? In U-M's hunt for a home run, is Beilein a ground-rule double?
Let's be clear on this: Beilein wouldn
't be a bad choice. He wouldn't be a cheap choice, and if U-M lands him, the financial commitment would be significant.
He would be a safe choice, which seems to be exactly what U-M wants.
Fair points, but unless we can pry a Jay Wright free -- doubtful -- the alternatives are most certainly not safe, and the reason they have more upside than Beilein is the reason Cheick Samb has more upside than Jason Maxiell: who the hell is Cheick Samb?
No one could be hotter than Steve Alford was eight years ago this month. His 12th-seeded Southwest Missouri State team (since morphed into simply Missouri State) had beaten 4th-seeded Wisconsin and 5th-seeded Tennessee to reach the Sweet 16, before falling to 1-seed Duke.
And Alford's team did it with punishing defense: the score of the Wisconsin game was 43-32. If Alford could do that with the recruits he had in Springfield, MO, the thinking went, just imagine what he could do at a "power"-conference program.
We've since found out what he could do. Not much, and he's now fled the power conferences entirely.
Jumpin' Jebus, that's Chris Lowery except with an annoying Indiana pedigree. (Sort of: should be noted that the Salukis earned a 4-seed this year; Lowery's less of a risk because part of his appeal comes from building a 4-seed worthy team over the course of the regular season, not merely fluking his way to the Sweet 16.) Wonk then lists his number one priority for any new coach: recruiting. Damn! This is where Jalen Rose, assistant coach comes in. We've got it all figured out:
HEAD COACH: John Beilein
RECRUITIN' ASSISTANT: Jalen Rose
GENERALLY IMPRESSIVE ASSISTANT: Jon Bon Jovi
Lon Kruger might be lying but probably not. He says he's not interested:
"No contact at all and no thoughts about any other positions," Kruger said in a national teleconference on Tuesday. "Barb and I decided three years ago to come to Las Vegas based on a couple things: No. 1, people we wanted to work with, we felt good about the people here and their sincerity and establishing the type of program we thought was possible here. No. 2, it was a community in which we wanted to live. We love living in Las Vegas, it's a great place to live a lot of energy, excitement and a lot of things going on. We're here, we've been thrilled by the three years and haven't thought at all about living anywhere else."
Remember, Kruger and his wife are now old and when you're old living in a post-atomic nightmarescape is preferable as long as it doesn't snow. UNLV just experienced the first success it's had in a long time and with the well-heeled boosters (cough Steve Wynn) UNLV has, Michigan can't outbid the Rebels.
Bruce Pearl not interested. Um...
"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."
Oh, hell. Even thinking about the most recent North Dakota game has been the mental equivalent of touching a hot stove but the thing must be confronted and slain, and then we can move on.
THE STEAMING HORROR OF THE THING ITSELF
Penalties. I spent most of the game cursing out the referee in a wild, confused rage. It was the perfect storm of crappy college hockey officiating, featuring all the Save The Children penalties available: weak roughing calls when a forearm got too high and the like. My favorite was the linesman-called penalty on Hunwick that the referee had stared directly at and decided not to call. The crack production crew didn't even show us replays of many off-screen calls, so I have no idea how mincing the particular application of the rules was in this particular instance.
What I do know is that you have to be a very special kind of asshole indeed to give a player a ten minute misconduct in the third period of an NCAA tournament game. Yeah, TJ probably said something, but his recollection is as follows:
"The ref was chirping at me more than I was chirping at him," Hensick said. "I don't want to get anybody in trouble. I didn't really say much to him except at the end when I was getting sick of hearing what he was saying."
Unless Hensick threatened something truly vile, and that doesn't seem to be the case, the ref was way out of line. But I can't say I was even a little bit surprised. College hockey referees are too often determined to make themselves the show.
Stupidity. Standard college hockey reffing bitch aside, there were some completely inexcusable penalties Michigan took. The standout was Brandon Naurato highsticking a guy to the ice after play had stopped. I hesitate to criticize Red Berenson for a lot of reasons -- built the program with his bare hands, could kill me with his glare alone, etc. -- but Michigan has been a stupid, undisciplined team for a while now. This year's surfeit of unnecessary penalties and awful turnovers was the worst it's ever gotten. If Berenson was Tommy Amaker he'd be getting roasted for never teaching Matt Hunwick when to pinch (never, if you're Hunwick) and when not to (always). He was the captain and he symbolized the team: indisputably skilled but dumb as hell.
Even though the referee was obviously an enormous tool, Michigan should have been able to adjust to that and keep their arms down when they went in for a check.
Sauer. Undid a half-season's worth of goodwill in 30 minutes. Was sold out on a few goals but gave up some howlers. The Oshie wraparound was a weak shot that went between Sauer's arm and his body. The Bina goal was a an unscreened snap shot from the blue line. Oshie's second goal was shot from behind the goal line and bounced off him before going into the net. A couple other goals were savable, if tough. The difference in the game came halfway through when UND's own horrible goalie briefly turned into Patrick Roy and shut Michigan down. Probably the second worst game of his career (the Notre Dame game in which he gave up a laugher from the blue line on the first shot of the game is still the king tuna) and the worst time to have it. I doubt we see much of Bryan Hogan, as Red's proven it takes a crowbar to separate him from his starting goalie, but God I hope he's for real.
- TJ. Obviously a huge blow. Kevin Porter, if he returns, is going to see his points fall off a cliff.
- David Rohlfs. Shockingly effective at forward after two seasons pressed into duty as a mediocre but safe defenseman. Provided a power presence in the corners totally lacking elsewhere on the team except on certain nights when the third line was going. Lack of an equivalent senior on next year's team will be a smallish problem, but the three junior grinders below will probably pick up most of the slack.
- Jack. Two years was all we could expect, really.
- Hunwick. As noted above: a skilled player but one prone to mental breakdowns. Hard to believe he actually warranted the CCHA's defensive defenseman award, as by my count he was only the third best defensive defenseman on his team. Will miss his minutes because of the huge turnover Michigan is experiencing but won't miss all the odd-man rushes and breakaways that were his fault.
- Cook and Dest. Functional by the end of their careers. Also will be missed. Though it's likely the incoming freshmen will easily match their talent level, these guys were unlikely to turn the puck over in inopportune places. It's unlikely we'll be able to say the same for their replacements.
Kevin Porter. I personally doubt he returns. The Coyotes will want to sign him after his big year -- the alternative is to wait and risk losing him for nothing if Porter wants to shop himself around after his senior year -- and Porter might be wise to take a grab at a signing bonus now, as I can't envision his points going anywhere but south when he's not playing with the best passer in recent Michigan history.
Chad Kolarik. Supposedly a good bet to return. Needs to work on his defensive game and learn that it's okay to pass the puck once in a while. Could go if he gets offered one of those "don't walk" contracts, but I don't think anyone in the NHL saw Kolarik play last year and saw a surefire NHLer.
Mark Mitera. No read on him. Had a disappointing year between last year's and this year's WJCs and ended up not making this year's team, but also had a ridiculous dozen-or-so-game streak in which opponents did not score when he was on the ice. A first rounder of Anahiem's a couple years ago, is certainly a threat to get signed. Would be a devastating loss, leaving Michigan with Kampfer and a hastily re-switched Summers as the only returning defensemen. A lock to play Jack minutes if he returns.
Andrew Cogliano. Oiler fans, once confident that Cogliano would return to school next year, have changed their tune and I'm leery. One of those guys who swore up and down he'd be here for four years upon arrival; those guys have a zero percent accuracy rate about their own futures to date. Obvious top-line center and centerpiece of the powerplay if he returns. Working against this: Edmonton has acquired an AHL affiliate and needs to stock it. Working for it: the trades of Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth have garnered a bounty of picks and prospects and Edmonton may put Cogliano on the back burner for a year.
Lebler, Miller, Naurato, Turnbull. All quality players that aren't ever going to be stars. Lebler will be a sophomore, the rest juniors. With the incoming class consisting of a lot of smallish offensive centers, are likely to find themselves as Rohlfs-esque wingers on scoring lines, especially if Cogliano's back. A key part of next season will be finding someone on this crew capable of playing on the top line.
Summers. Was a bit of a nightmare at defense, plagued by turnovers and bad decisions. Was far more effective at forward. Unfortunately, Michigan is unlikely to have the luxury of playing him there without Johnson's return.
Fardig. An effective fourth-liner and penalty-killer, but will be in tough for playing time if Porter, Cogliano, and Kolarik return. Six forwards come in this recruiting class and at this moment only two are outgoing. Has dabbled on defense both for the NTDP and at Michigan and may get moved if there's a surplus at forward.
Ciraulo. Has likely seen the most playing time he's ever going to, but became a fiesty little c
ontributor on the fourth line by year's end. Will probably see Charlie Henderson minutes from here on out.
THE GREAT WIDE OPEN
For two years Michigan has been the same team, a top heavy array of scorers with prone to stupid faith-shattering breakdowns and shaky goaltending. This has been good for not much: first-round exits in the NCAA tournament and watching other teams raise CCHA and GLI banners. In a sense, the departure of the defensemen and TJ is a relief. The team next year might be terrible. It might be fantastic. But it will definitely be different.
Sometime soon: a recruiting class breakdown.
This is a bit old but I hadn't mentioned it here: Sims and Udoh dispel the transfer rumors surrounding them, at least for now.
I'm a sucker for old Michigan highlights, and when they feature Keith Jackson I'm doubly so. Anthony Carter versus ND, 1981:
Meanwhile, prolific YouTube clip assembler dynoguy has a set of ND highlights from years past:
And... uh... there's this from the era when Jim McMahon spawned a wave of football teams wearing sunglasses and "rapping":
The tenuous Michigan relevance herein is Husky quarterback Wilbur Odom, who spent two years on the bench at Michigan in the late 80s before transferring to "Angelo State," a school that seems to be desperately lacking a "San".
Coaching stuffs. The search continues apace; with everyone mentioned as a possible candidate currently done with their season except John Beilein, who has West Virginia in the NIT Final Four -- cue jokes from State fans about how he's a perfect fit. Michigan Sports Center has a comprehensive recap of recent developments. Villanova's Jay Wright and Memphis' John Calipari are two names getting more play recently. IMO, both are pipe dreams. I don't know what to make of Calipari's name getting mentioned, as I always had him associated with Shady Doings in my mind for what appears to be little cause. There was some trouble with Marcus Camby during Calipari's final season at UMass, but as I understand it the issue was more a Marcus Ray/Curtis Enis thing where Camby had impermissible contact with an agent. Everything else he's charged with is the usual mud flung at any improbably successful recruiter and basketball coach. See: Donovan, Matta, et al.
But it does bring up the question all basketball programs have to ask themselves in the AAU era: just how corrupt to we want to be? Frankly, after six years of being a 1 on the Huggins Scale* I'm a little tired of watching everyone with a dodgy hanger-on get redirected to other programs. The resulting Michigan fanbase is constantly lamenting the unpure state of college basketball mostly because our refusal to dip our toe into anything unpleasant -- not even inpermissible -- is the only thing we can cling to after a decade of futility.
*(an MGoBlog created measuring stick for coaching corruption. Not actually headed by Huggins:
11: Dave Bliss (yes, this one goes to 11)
10: Tarkanian -- full on cheaty cheaty all the time
9: Jim Harrick -- a consistent pattern of malfeasance that includes academic fraud
8: Clem Haskins -- Harrick except not slimy enough to get away with it for quite as long
7: Huggins -- as skeezy as you can be and still have a job
6: Steve Fisher -- classic don't ask, don't tell
5: Billy Donovan -- you just KNOW there's something fishy but can't actually prove it.
4: Kelvin Sampson -- persistent minor flouting of NCAA regulations to harrass recruits for personal aggrandizement
3: Rick Majerus -- persistent minor flouting of NCAA regulations because he thinks they're stupid
2: Izzo -- basically squeaky clean, will occasionally take flyers on dodgy characters
1: Amaker -- ick
0: Whoever the current sacrificial lamb at Northwestern is.)
Jalen! Fascinating article from last month's DIME magazine penned by Jalen Rose his ownself:
It ended up being bigger than we ever thought. You have to remember, this was the early '90s. Not only were five freshmen starting, but all five freshmen were also black. How many college programs in the entire country back then had five starting black kids, let alone five freshmen? We were making a statement on so many levels. Social, cultural, hip-hop - we repped the street, flavor, fashion and the love of the game. We were coming after teams like the UNLV Runnin' Rebels squad of the previous few years and John Thompson's classic G'Town teams that were right in the thick of Prop 48 debates - he had to walk off the court a few times with his teams because the environment was so bad. So it was important to us, maybe above all, for the Fab 5 to be strong black men.
We were extremely aware of what was going on. Yes, we were brash and talking trash and we created a distinct style and played with flair, but we also went to class. We never got credit for that. We should have.
I am totally onboard with the idea of bringing in Jalen as an assistant coach whenever he retires from the NBA, especially if we hire someone like Beilein.
Tea leaves. The media got their annual peek inside a Michigan spring practice; the Ann Arbor News reports back:
Given those considerations, here's what the first-team University of Michigan offense looked like across the front: Mark Ortmann at left tackle, Jeremy Ciulla at left guard, Justin Boren at center, Alex Mitchell at right guard and Cory Zirbel at right tackle.
Brandon Minor was the tailback, Chad Henne quarterbacked the offense, and Greg Mathews and LaTerryal Savoy were the wide receivers.
With Schilling still out after surgery -- he should be back in a week or two, that's not particularly enlightening. It does seem that Ciulla will be the first interior lineman off the bench in the case of an injury. Adam Kraus will probably slide over to center in that event, allowing Ciulla to play at guard. Should Jake Long miss any time (please, Angry Michigan Everything Hating God, let's not get any ideas), Ortmann is likely to be his replacement. The defense:
In its package with five defensive backs, the first team featured Tim Jamison and Shawn Crable at end, Brandon Graham and Will Johnson at tackle, Chris Graham and John Thompson at linebacker and Morgan Trent, Johnny Sears, Charles Stewart, Stevie Brown and Brandon Harrison in the secondary.
Adams and Taylor sat out, nursing injuries. Now, this is interesting. Brandon Graham is playing inside, at least in the nickel package inside. Graham saw a lot of time as a zero-technique* pass rusher in the 3-3-5 last year and may maintain that role into the fall. This look could either be a true 4-2-5 with Crable as a speed-rushing end or it could morph into the 3-3-5 is Crable drops back and Graham slides over. Stevie Brown and Stewart are going to battle for the starting spot opposite Adams; current projections have Brown with the lead but Stewart is reportedly doing well at his new, less speed-intensive position.
*( == lined up directly over the center)
Etc.: Hawkeye State > takes an entertaining, in-depth look at the Iowa coaching search; I find this article on SI.com with blogger Alex Belth interviewing new blogger Curt Schilling extremely interesting; Section Six has an update on the NCAA's actions against diploma-mill high schools.
Thanks to a helpful commenter I got an IE6 test setup up and running and got the ugliness there fixed... mostly. For reasons I can't determine, the end of posts often get cut off in IE6. The text is still there -- if you highlight the area it pops up like any other selected text -- and if you scroll up and down a bit it'll reappear... sometimes. It's really weird and doesn't appear to be a markup issue. If anyone knows what's going on there, please drop me a line. In the absence of help, I don't know if I can fix that. Anyone experiencing it is advised to try the selection workaround.
The other thing: there is Adsense on the right sidebar. Blame Orson, who convinced me the revenue was worth the bother. (Initial returns imply otherwise, perhaps because the ad I saw constantly until yesterday was querying me whether I had a gay-friendly auto that "expressed my pride," which seems to miss this blog's demographic quite badly. I mean, we haven't won anything since when? Try the Florida blogs, buddy. Rival fans are invited to use this nugget in sophomoric attempts to make fun of Michigan.) I'm trying to strike a balance between irritating and invisible. Anyone who is seriously pissed is advised to get Firefox and download the AdBlock Plus and AdBlock Filterset Updater, which work so well that I thought AdSense was broken until I remembered to turn it off.
Anyway: with the gruntwork of moving to the new blogger completed I have a lot more capability at my fingertips. If there's anything you'd like to see let me know and I'll take it under consideration.
And while I'm site-bulletin-ing: Obviously the MGoBlog banner has to change in the near future, as Steve Breaston is off to return kicks in the NFL. Equally obvious: I am not a graphic designer. Would there be interest in a contest to design next year's banner? Free shirt? I'll play Scrabble with you? Interest will be gauged and then perhaps we will proceed.
I've got two good sources on this and wouldn't even classify the following as a rumor. I need some sort of official news font that gets all Cronkite on you.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jason Forcier can read the writing on the wall -- it says "Jesus Christ, that kid can throw eighty yards" -- and is transferring to Stanford effective at the end of the semester. Lloyd is not happy about it.
Editorial Opinion: Not entirely unexpected once Mallett rode into town, but a blow if Henne goes down early in the year. The hypothetical Mallett redshirt I wanted but wasn't going to get is now completely out of the question unless David Cone gets real good real quick. Even more problematic for next year, when Mallett is the presumptive starter and his backups are Cone and a three-star-ish freshman. A scholarship opens up, but will Michigan now feel compelled to use it on another quarterback? At least now Michigan can offer prospective candidates two years of separation between themselves and Mallett.