Where does John Beilein rank among Michigan's all-time basketball coaches? This was a board question I began answering there until I realized I had written half a column and not written my Tuesday column. Part I explains my subjective criteria and covers Mather, Oosterbaan, Strack and Orr.
So without further ado..
Show the candidates chart again.
- Wherever I list a year it means the season that began the fall in the year previous, e.g. 1969 = 1968-'69 seasion
- * Rather than winning % I showed their average record over a 30-game season.
- ** Average number of tournament games his teams would play in. A 1.00 means his team will make the tourney and go out in the 1st round. I took out the play-in rounds.
- † Manny Harris was recruited by Amaker but played his entire career for Beilein. Stauskas, GRIII, LeVert, and McGary at least can be counted as future NBA players. It's too early to say the same for Walton/Irvin but it's not a bad bet either.
Here's Part II. These got longer because now we're into my personal recollection period.
Bill Frieder (1981-'89)
Career at M: 9 seasons, 189 wins (68%), 2 Big Ten titles
All-Americans: Gary Grant (1988), Glen Rice (1989)
Avg NCAA Tourney: 1.13
Pros he recruited (NBA games): Glen Rice (1,000), Loy Vaught (689), Terry Mills (678), Gary Grant (552), Tim McComick (483), Rumeal Robinson (336), Roy Tarpley (280), Sean Higgins (220), Demetrius Calip (7), and Richard Rellford. [EDIT: Eric Riley (186)] That's
10 11 guys and 4,249 4,435 games.
[Continued after the jump]
Story: There are two parts to Frieder's Michigan tenure: five years as a wrong-side-of-the-bubble team, and five as a tourney regular. Orr left when ISU called about his assistant Frieder and said "what about me instead?" He probably had good reason to want out; in Orr's last season Michigan finished 17-13 and 6th in a brutal conference: Indiana was preseason #1, Ohio State #4, and Purdue and Iowa were Final Four teams. Michigan remained middling for the first half-decade, though the '84 team (24-9, 10-8) barely missed the NCAA tourney and won the NIT.
With Tarpley, Grant and Rellford, the Wolverines shot to the top of the conference and returned to the dance in '85 with a 26-4 (16-2 Big Ten) record and #1 seed, but were upset by Villanova in the 2nd round. In '86 the conference was even tougher than recently (six teams earned tourney bids with 19-14 Ohio State left out) but Frieder's team crushed Indiana in the final regular season game to take the undisputed crown; again they were upset in the 2nd round, this time by Orr's Cyclones. The '87 team was a 9-seed that lost in round 2 to 1-seed UNC. In '88 they earned a 3 seed and made it to the Sweet 16, but there lost to North Carolina again. And then there was '89: Michigan swept their nonconference schedule and took a #2 national ranking into the Big Ten season where they lost seven games to enter the tourney as a 3-seed. Then the thing.
Thing: Frieder took the Arizona State job but offered to coach Michigan through the tournament; athletic director Bo Schembechler was having none of it and immediately installed assistant Steve Fisher as head coach.
Non-Thing Things: Frieder had two degrees from the University of Michigan.
Better than a Beilein: Without the '89 tourney and NIT championship counting for him, Frieder's postseason record and the mediocre first half to his career put him closer to Amaker than Beilein in numbers. I'm inclined to give Frieder the benefit of the doubt on both. More credit where due: his teams were regularly ranked in the Top 25, he discovered and developed more NBA talent than any other Michigan coach, he played in a really hard conference, and his last team won the national championship without him.
|Fisher's tenure is overshadowed by Fabs. [Ed Reinke]
Steve Fisher (1989 NCAA Tourney-'97)
Career at M: 9 seasons plus a tourney run, 185 wins (70%), no Big Ten titles, 1 national championship
All-Americans: Rumeal Robinson (1990), Chris Webber (1993), Jalen Rose (1994).
Avg NCAA Tourney: 3.00
Pros he recruited (NBA games): Juwan Howard (1,208), Jalen Rose (923), Chris Webber (831), Maurice Taylor (534),
Eric Riley (186), Maceo Baston (105), and Jimmy King (64). That's seven dudes and 3,851 3,665 games.
[EDIT: Riley was a Frieder recruit; I left the original counts if you care to give Fisher credit for developing him]
Story: Fisher spent 9 years as a high school coach and three as a WMU assistant before Frieder hired him to Michigan in 1982. You know the story of '89; Fisher wasn't expected to last but the run to the NCAA championship solidified his position. The conference didn't geat any easier; Michigan (23-8, 12-6) was 3rd in a 1990 Big Ten that sent seven teams to the dance and finished with five ranked, but the 3-seeded Wolverines got trashed in the 2nd round by Loyola Marymount. in '91 they took a step back, ending the season in the first round of the NIT. That spring he signed the Fab Five.
Indiana (a Final Four team), and Ohio State (whom Michigan dispatched in the Elite 8) were better in the regular season but the Fab Five secured their national sensation status in the tournament, losing to Duke in the championship game. In the aftermath Fisher decided to take the team to Europe, an experience that was lost on his wards. The next year they were 31-5, 15-3, finishing behind 1st overall seed Indiana in the Big Ten then romped back to famous timeout game.
Without Webber in '94 they finished 2nd to Purdue in another 7-tourney-team Big Ten, and made it to the Elite 8. The '95 team fell back to a 9 seed and went out in the first round. By '96 all the fabs were gone and the Taylor-Bullock team finished another eh season with a 1st round loss. The next year they went on a soul-crushing 5-game losing streak late in the conference season to drop back to the NIT, which they won.
That summer the Ed Martin scandal began to unfold, and early in the fall new Michigan AD Tom Goss fired Fisher for allowing that to happen under his watch (the NCAA didn't end up finding any wrongdoing with Fisher).
Thing: 1989. Recruited the Fab Five. Also recruited Taylor, Bullock and Traylor.
Better than a Beilein: It's become apparent since those turbulent times that Fisher can indeed coach some basketball. It's impossible to extract his success from that of the Fabs', as it is to judge his career without acknowledging that players he recruited ultimately drove Michigan basketball to commit program seppuku. But the numbers are tough to argue with: three trips to the national championship game with one Sports Illustrated special edition, 70% (program-best) winning percentage, and the most legendary recruiting class ever.
|Since 2010-'11 Beilein is 6-3 vs Izzo. [Fuller]
John Beilein (2008-current)
Career at M: 7 seasons, 150 wins (61%), 2 Big Ten titles (1 outright)
Avg NCAA Tourney: 2.14
All-Americans: Trey Burke (2013), Nik Stauskas (2014)
Pros recruited (NBA games): Darius Morris (94-active), Trey Burke (63-active), Tim Hardaway Jr. (74-active). Also Manny Harris (89).
Story: Offensive wizard from a basketball family who developed a niche-style, hired out of West Virginia with the expectation of getting Michigan back to a likeable regular 8- or 9-seed outfit that surprises in the tournament after a decade of mediocrity/bad luck under Ellerbe and Amaker.
His transition year was awful, but Beilein got Michigan back in the tournament in Year 2, progressing to Round 2. In 2010 they barely missed the tournament, but in 2011 the collection of 0-3 stars he'd collected scrapped their way to the 2nd round, this time almost knocking off Duke. His 2012 team put freshman Trey Burke with sophomore Hardaway and Morgan, and senior Novak and Stu, and won a surprise share of the Big Ten title, but they lost in the 1st round to OHIO!. In 2013 Burke got help from a ridiculous recruiting class of rising shooters—Glenn Robinson, Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Caris LeVert, and Spike Albrecht—and the team advanced to the national championship game. In 2014, absent Burke and Hardaway and having lost McGary to injury they won a 1980s-level brutal Big Ten conference outright by three games, and progressed to the Elite 8.
Thing: Band of Brothers connection.
Other Thing: Considers subs with the grandchildren a real humdinger.
Other other thing: Gets lost in Milwaukee when taking a post-game constitutional because neither he nor his security guard can work a map app.
Better than a Beilein: More than we ever could have hoped.
One man's ranking of best Michigan basketball coaches
This is tough. Frieder and Fisher I have tied at the hip, and Beilein I have just under wherever I put Strack, with the understanding that he's going to pass Strack unless next year takes a huge dive. So…
- Bill Frieder—built that national championship team and fared well despite an incredibly strong Big Ten during his era. Second half of his Michigan tenure was perhaps its best sustained run. Regularly disappointed in the tournament. How much credit is due him for 1989 (built team and built Fisher) determines whether he's above…
- Steve Fisher—I don't know how much of Ed Martin I can blame on him or how much of the title team I can credit to him, so I gave him full credit for the Fab Five then knocked him down a peg for the doldrums afterwards.
- Dave Strack—Built the program back from an abyss it didn't know it was in, but once his wave of talent went through his program was dropping off. About to be passed by…
- John Beilein—Still dragged down by his early seasons while he was cleaning up others' messes, but to acknowledge how great Novak was also means acknowledging by Year 3 at Michigan Novak was Beilein's best option at the 4. Upward momentum should carry him into discussion with Frieder/Fisher soon.
- Johnny Orr—Fewer accomplishments than Beilein over a longer period.
- E.J. Mather—Beilein prototype.
- Bennie Oosterbaan—Is naturally 7th all-time on every list of human accomplishments.
Frieder I decided over Beilein because his troubled building period was Top-15, NBA prospect-laden outfits that had bad luck; Fisher came along with him and the Strack-Beilein toss-up is right after. Given my explicit criteria that's my list of "greatest" Michigan coaches. Given a choice I'd take Beilein over the field. It's really close at the top.