ACTUALLY, 90-91 was the aberration. We won the Big Ten Title in 85, played the undefeated Indiana team for the National Championship in 76 (?), and had gone to the Final Four in the 60's, making 4 consecutive decades of Final Four appearances. If not top ten, we were at least among the top 15 of all basketball programs by the time the Fab Five era ended. And the Championship team was a 3 seed. (The Fab 5 in year 1 was a 6 seed).
The Man Who Wasn't There
I don't actually have many memories of the Fab Five on the court. I remember being utterly heartsick when Webber called that timeout. That moment is undoubtedly the genesis of my obsession with rules that suck and should be changed*. I remember hating that technical when the ref could have just ignored it and left Webber to figure it out himself.
I also remember a black t-shirt I had commemorating the '92 Final Four, but incompletely. I know Cincinnati was on the shirt. I had to look up the other two teams, look up that Michigan beat the Bearcats in the semi before losing to Duke, look up the fact that Michigan was just a six seed. I remember the shirt being embroidered, because that's what happened in 1992 when you wanted something fancy. It was scratchy. I loved it.
I've got the heartsick and the shirt; everything else has melted away. When Wolverine Historian posted one of their games against Illinois I watched it and was stunned by… well, everything. A stone-cold packed Crisler full of people losing their minds. The helter-skelter nature of the game on both ends. Michigan—Michigan!—having a bunch of defiant, ruckus-raising black guys Jim Nantz remains terrified of to this day.
That is not the equilibrium state of Michigan basketball. That does not come from Earth. It comes from a planet with a green sun and marshmallow donkeys.
Later I remember loathing Chris Webber. Years and years had passed and Webber was on a very good Sacramento Kings team playing the Lakers in the conference finals. Sacramento had just gotten legendarily boned in game six. I remember watching game seven smugly, thinking Webber was born to fail in the moment of truth as he clanged threes and the Kings evaporated.
Anyone with a soul roots against the Lakers for the same reason they root against the Yankees. Sacramento had just suffered through a game that Tim Donaughy could point to years later as an example of a fix only to have obsessives like Bill Simmons say "tell me something I don't know." My loathing for Webber overcame all.
Some years later Webber was a trade-deadline acquisition for the Pistons during the period when the Billups/Prince/Hamilton/McDyess core still had my full attention. I was unhappy with it but dealt. I watched Chris Webber play basketball again. By that point he had suffered a variety of injuries that left him barely able to jump. He was useless defensively, an old man devoid of the thunderous athleticism that I assumed must have been part and parcel of why he was so good in college, the #1 pick in the draft, etc. By all rights he should have been out of the league already. Like Shawn Kemp, basically.
The reason he wasn't was his passing. Someone who paid more attention to the NBA than I did or wasn't 14 the last time he saw Webber play much already knew this. I didn't. I knew Chris Webber, though. I knew he was a liar and a choker and not very smart and just a general all-around jerk who wouldn't even apologize. I knew the Fab Five was just a bunch of guys who played schoolyard basketball because they were so outrageously better than everyone they could get away with it.
I knew Chris Webber until I watched him play. He dropped passes in spaces that didn't exist until he saw them. He hit cutters that didn't know they were open until the ball was in their hands. He was brilliant despite having the athleticism of Artie Lang. He was incredible fun. Despite myself I really liked watching Chris Webber play basketball, and now I don't think I know one thing about him.
To say Michigan has done a 180 in re: the cultural alignment of their basketball team understates things despite that being axiomatically impossible. The old ringleader just called black guys at Duke "Uncle Toms"; the new one is from Chesterton, Indiana, and once knew 62 digits of pi. After Michigan completed its season sweep of MSU the most desperate, laughable assertion I came across from some guy on an MSU message board was that Michigan had "thugs" on its team, an accusation that would have been uncomfortable during the Fab Five era and literally true when Ellerbe was running things into the ground.
Webber's been banned and feels repudiated and people feel free to demand an apology from him before he even thinks about setting foot in Crisler again, so I get why he doesn't feel like he owes anyone anything. If he wouldn't talk to Jalen Rose for his documentary, it's hard to believe he'll actually "tell his side soon" as he hoped on twitter.
This is immensely disappointing to me. I don't hate him any more and don't care about apologies, don't care about the crater he is often blamed for no matter how little input he had on hiring Ellerbe**. I'd just like to know every last detail of what happened.
Because I don't understand Jalen Rose, don't understand Webber, don't understand the lady in the gas station on the South Side of Chicago I asked directions of who responded "I don't know about any damn directions." I do understand the visceral thrill of those bald heads and black socks, but only vicariously, like a kid from Troy buying an NWA cassette. I can't say why I thought Jim Nantz's obviously racist distaste for the Fab Five was obviously racist, but I had a Nantz-like reaction to that lady in Chicago. I understand why my fiancée continually mishears Duke's mascot as the "white devils" and simultaneously have less than zero sympathy for Robert Traylor and would want to punch him in the face if I ever met him and he was tied to a rock and he had no idea who I was and I could definitely run away before he got loose.
Webber's redemption never happened with him or Taylor or Bullock, and while Bullock was from some suburb in Maryland and cannot be redeemed—seriously, he can die in a fire for all I care—maybe if Chris Webber said something brutally honest it would help me be less confused and sad about Michigan basketball in the 90s, and maybe a bunch of other things of greater significance.
It bothers me that Michigan's response to the NCAA scandal was to go from culturally black enough to have Ice Cube in your documentary to Duke Lite, but goddammit I also wanted some directions. I want Chris Webber to gently untie this Gordian knot in an hour-long interview on national television. When he's done the pieces will assemble themselves into a butterfly with big ears and a huge assist rate. This is the least he can do for 13-year-old me and my embroidered Final Four t-shirt. Thanks in advance.
- Timeouts in basketball. There should be one, period, like in hockey.
- The NHL rule where flipping the puck into the stands from your own zone is a penalty. It should be handled like icing, which is what the NCAA does.
- Hockey offsides is brutal. Widen the line to reduce whistles.
**[Tom Goss, not Ed Martin, is the man who killed Michigan basketball.]
Crap, I got lost looking back through historical records, meaning I spent like 15 minutes on my post. So.... what you said!
I'm not here to debate your points about Chris Webber, but I think you need to take a better look at what the "historical norm" is. The '89 championship was a bit unexpected, but they were a solid 3 seed (not a 6). There were mulbitple Big Ten titles in the 60's, 70's and 80's. There were multiple trips to the final four. Where we are now is not the historical norm, and to take the one year prior to the fab five's arrival and say, well, "that's where we were, aren't we better off now," is just supid.
Not only was the '89 team a #3 seed, they were actually considered underachievers to finish there. They were the preseason #1 IIRC.
Preseason #1 didn't sound right to me, so I had to look it up. Sports-reference.com has Michigan #3 preseason in the AP poll; Duke was ranked #1 (see this page). You're right about the underachieving, though.
I'm sorry, you just can't use regular tournament appearances and say "we're back where we were! Making the tournament today is much easier than it was in the 60's and 70's, and frankly, so is having a winning record. From the time Cazzie Russell stepped on the court, we were a top 10/15 basketball program (Even akcnowledging a few down years in that time). Now, it can be argued, and quite compellingly, that the Fab Five was the high point of the program. I'm not one of those that says the Fab Five wasn't worth it, or that they're at fault for the state of the program, but, we're not back to where we were before they stepped on campus, and that's a fact.
You act like teams make the Final Four every year. Michigan has made it the 6th amount of times with 6 appearances. 9 schools have gone more often. And of those one did it after the Fab Five, the era you point up to. And at least two others would have been only 1 up at that time. Top Ten, 1 off from the 6th most appearances. Were we elite among the NC, Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, Kansas programs? No, of course not. But we were as good as any of the second tier of teams. Your standard of FF appearances is ridiculous.
You cherry pick your Tourney appearance years nicely, ignoring all appearances around it- 1948, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989. But even more egregiously you ignore that the Tournament let in far less teams back during those years.
1953–1974: varied between 22 and 25 teams
1975–1978: 32 teams
1979: 40 teams
1980–1982: 48 teams
1983: 52 teams (four play-in games before the tournament)
1984: 53 teams (five play-in games before the tournament)
1985–2000: 64 teams
Then in '85, when they let the full 64 in, we made it regularly. There were few long Tourney streaks back in the day because half the teams got in. Think of all the teams that wouldn't have made it this year if they only took 32.
And the Frieder comment is off base. He left for money, not for a better basketball school. The fact that he never had close to the success there that he had at Michigan showed that. No one was saying '91 wasn't bad, just that it wasn't indicative of the program like you claimed, but the aberration of having everyone left from a National Championship team 2 years before graduate.
So don't stand by your point; just admit you're wrong or weren't even born at that point and let it go.
You should have stopped after your first sentence.
Just like today, the tournament doesn't offer the top 68 teams in the country, the tournament then didn't take the top 20-30 programs. Up until 1975 ONLY conference champions got in. Up until 1979, there were onlly 7 at large teams. And finally, after 1979/1980, the field got expanded to include all the really good teams that didn't win their conference.
So, just judging the state of the program based on tournament appearances now, when if you have a pulse, you get in, to any years before about 1985 is idiotic.
So what was the historical norm? In the 21 seasons before the fab five, there were 12 years where at some point in the season Michigan was ranked in the top 10, 4 Big Ten Championships, 4 Big Ten runner ups, one national championship and only three losing seasons, despite playing in potentially the deepest conference in the country. You can't think we're anywhere close to that performance right now.
Since we're checking facts, you might want to note that Bielien's conference winning percentage is .388 for four seasons. You can't take Bielien's best two conference finishes, both at .500 and compare it to career marks. It's just not a fair comparison. Saying one year at .600-.625, which would be the pinacle of the Bielien era, and stating that it's the same as when Johnny Orr AVERAGED that over 12 seasons is lunacy. A similar comparison is comparing next season to Strack's, Orr's or Frieder's best season (.929, .889, and .889 respectively).
Bielien, in my opinion, has us moving in the right direction, but until we're actually competing for Big Ten championships again, we're not where we were before the Fab Five's arrival. And anyone that says that competing for Big Ten chapmionships regularly is a guarantee, is crazy. We have a young team that should lead us close to that territory next year, but will we maintain the momentum? Who knows.
This argument has skewed off the rails. Your original point was that we're at historical norms, right now. You're now selectively choosing stats to make Michigan Basketball, since the time of Cazzie Russell seem worse than it is. We weren't a top 10-15 team every year, but there were enough high points in those decades to make it a top 10-15 program over that time. There were final four runs, a championship, multiple Big Ten titles, etc. You can't honestly say we're back there yet. You can hope that next year we might be in contention for a Big Ten title. You can hope that we can continue to be competitive going forward. But we're not there yet.
I'm not pointing out the peak of Michigan Basketball. I don't expect to be in the top 2 or 3 of the Big Ten every season. I don't think that's a reasonable goal for any program. But averaging a top 3 finish every two seasons, with the occasional truly elite team, is a realistic goal and a mark of a very good program. And it just so happens, that that is exactly what Michigan accomplished in the 21 seasons before the the Fab Five's arrival (10 times). That is the historical norm. That's where we hope to be. It's not where we are now.
And for the record, I don't blame the Fab Five. I don't think we necessarily maintain our pace with a poor 91-92 season and a coaching change. My point has just been, this whole time, that we were a very good program before the Fab Five. We were an elite program with the Fab Five. We're an average program now. Hopefully our momentum continues and carries us back to where we were.
How can you get so many facts wrong and still be convinced you are right?
So where was Michigan ranked in wins after the Fab Five had finished playing? That table takes into account all the wins by other teams while we were losing for the last 20 years. It's never been argued that we still a great program; only that you're wrong when you say that Michigan basketball was a mediocre program till the Fab Five came. Check the numbers before things tanked, and you'll find us in the group right after the elite programs. That makes you not a superstar, but a star program, which we were.
We haven't been disasterous post-Five. Pushing for the Tournament, NIT appearances under Amaker and Beilein. THAT'S been some mediocre years, but not rebuilding from horrible years. I get the sense you have no understanding what is truly mediocre, and what is actually good.
For the ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia, published in 2009, Sagarin put together an all-time rankings list of college programs. The list was based on 72 seasons of data, dating back to 1937-38. Michigan was ranked 13th. See this page.
Also, the sports-reference.com site has a school index that can be sorted by a Simple Rating System (SRS) index, which takes into account strength of schedule. This covers only the seasons since 1979-80. Michigan ranks 21st despite the mediocrity of the last decade.
These rankings would seem to be better indicators than the raw winning percentage.
My guess is that the Michigan basketball program for the two decades before the Fab Five would be ranked in the 15 to 20 range among the top programs. Beilein hasn't gotten the program back to that level yet, although I believe he has it headed in that direction.
You can't compare any one season to a career. I mean, why not compare last Year's record to the career records? Because it wouldn't work for your cherry picked stats. And yes, while it looks good and we hope it'll grow, we thought that after year 2 also. (And it might be beyond his control...injury, academics, trouble, going pro). That's why the full cater matters, not just any given year, up or down.
And while perception-wise you can excuse first seasons, you can't statistically. Next Year's team isn't a Big Ten champ....it'll be after year 5 in year 6 that he may have his first truly "powerhouse" team. Just like the time frame you point out for the other coaches.
It's not football. Over .600 winning percentages over the long haul are good. Better then than now because of more cupcake games, currently. You win over 76% of you games you're not doing well, you're top ten all time. That level against good competition is high achievement.
Your math is way off too; you're not considering the long haul. We could go 30-0 next year and Beilein's Michigan win percentage is going anywhere near 60% from .500. How does he do that? Win a lot, over a long career, that uses some amazing high win percentage seasons to offset the down one's. Going .500 isn't really that hard. Doing better than that over a long period of time is, when you have to offset every down season with a great one.
IS excellent. You add the two more only to show that we were a "powerhouse" at the brink of elite level. Your argument was that the program was really nothing before the Fab Five; that has been shown numerous times to be wrong.
Are we up to that level again? Maybe close, for this one season. Certainly not for the last four, or last 14. Programs have ups and downs. We just haven't had any ups for a long time.
Michigan was a powerhouse from the 60's during a period where you could make the argument that from top to bottom, the Big Ten was the toughest basketball conference in the land.
Played in finals games in both the 60s and the 70s, won conference championships around and playing against the nucleus of Indiana's 32-0 national championship team, losing to them in the 1976 national championship game.
Chris Webber, Ed Martin and Steve Fisher are absolutely to blame for the joke our basketball program has been this century.
If Chris Webber stays honest, no Brian Ellerbe.
He is dead to me.
Good stuff. I don't have quite the same level of hatred toward either the Fab 5 or the Bullock/Traylor/Taylor kids as some (ncluding Brian) has because I see the hypocrisy that the NCAA/UM/"fans" display toward these kids and understand why they shouldn't care about anyone else. As Jalen pointed out, the Fab 5 made millions for the University and the NCAA, yet everyone buried them as soon as the Ed Martin scandal hit. Of course UM really didn't have an option, and the NCAA is as feeble today as it was years ago, but to see Jim Nantz rant against the "thug kids" while being paid with money from that team's perforance to provide color analysis on a game they are playing is the baldest example of disingenuous behavior I've seen.
I agree that Webber needs to man up for taking money and lying to a grand jury, but he doesn't owe UM or the fans anything else. He won and we all cheered, then we lost it all and we blamed him as a proxy for all the ills we see in college sports. I will never forget what he did at UM, and that won't change whether or not he ever steps foot in A2 again.
Im probably a few years younger than Brian, but I remember loving C-Webb to death, my dad being an alum I grew up a huge Michigan fan and I also grew up in Northern California so I was a default Warriors fan once we got webber. But a few years later we get sanctioned and Webber goes to the weak-ass Kings and I hated him, still do for the most part. I just hope we get back to the swagger we had in the 90's and earn our place at the top. Also, how epic was young Jalen's acne, and Juwan was always my favorite but to hear he essentially recruited the fab five and story about his grandma proved me right.
Juwan is my new favorite purely because of his belief that he was going to be on the Cosby Show.
Ice Cube ...
Clearly you aren't a Law & Order SVU fan, Brian.
The enigma that is Chris Webber cuts even deeper. I graduated from undergrad right before they got here, and I always felt a connection with them. They were beautiful to watch. They played with fire and an intensity that kept you on the edge of your seat. Imagine a team full of Mike Harts or of Denard Robinsons. The Duke game their freshman year that they almost won is probably the best game I've ever seen at Crisler. The Final four runs were full of games that were at times awesome and at times terrifying. They never did things the easy way. The final time out might have been as low a moment as we've ever witnessed in M basketball. There wasn't a single M fan whose heart didn't break watching Chris Webber bend over in pain after that play.
Yet when the whole Ed Martin thing broke a few years later, C Webb burned a lot of bridges by going on Detroit radio and calling out all the Michigan fans who were questioning him. "You're making yourself look very asisnine" He declared that he was no longer a Michigan Wolverine, and the school was dead to him. That hurt more than what he did to put us on probation.
He is our greatest basketball player, without a doubt. No one else is even close. He's also our biggest disappointment. Therein lies the rub.
i wouldn't call him our greatest player...most talented, yes. greatest no.
that honor would fall to cazzie, and it's really not all that close.
It's close. Webber as a sophomore led the Big Ten in rebounds, blocks, steals (!) and field goal percentage, and was in the top five in scoring. He was also probably the best passing big man we've ever had.
You also might want to at least include Glen Rice in that conversation.
Definitely. He's clearly in the top 5. Rudy T as well - his rebounding numbers were unbelievable.
Webber was only a sophomore when he left. Give him two more years, and he would have been top 5 in a number of different categories.
given that a) Webber didn't stay two more years and b) left of his own volition anyway, as opposed to missing a season due to injury or whatnot. Webber's peak value and career value are both less than Russell's.
Also, c) Russell wasn't allowed to play as a freshman. If you're going to pull out hypotheticals, think about Cazzie's career if he'd had a full year of NCAA play under his belt ... surrounded by what would have to be considered lesser talent than Webber's surrounding cast, he still managed to take Michigan to consecutive Final Fours and to a third regional final appearance (albeit at a time when conferences got a single team in the tournament).
We're getting into apples/oranges territory here. Cazzie had to stay four years; the NBA didn't allow early-entries back then. We have no way of knowing if he'd stayed if given the option to leave. And I don't think it's fair to downgrade Webber because he went pro when he was the #1 overall pick.
Also, it's hard to compare surrounding talent given that both players' teams enjoyed similar success. Each went to two Final Fours.
He'd have crazy numbers on any team. Think about our team as it is right now, plus 1992 Chris Webber. We'd be disgusting. Top 3 seed for sure.
I wouldn't say they were always beautiful to watch. They were very inconsistent, as you would expect, their freshman year.
I went to their game in Crisler against Purdue that year. They got beat by a mediocre Purdue team in a terribly boring game. Crisler was half empty and felt like a morgue. I was shocked at the lack of interest at the time.
With Glenn Robinson...?
i think you might be right. Yet the team was 8-10 in Big Ten play.
Robinson was academically ineligible that year; the next year, his first, Michigan swept Purdue.
That's right. No wonder they sucked.
I'm from the same timeframe and I have similar memories. To this day, watching the Fab 5 play was one of the most thrilling things I've ever seen as a Michigan fan. Seeing five true freshman start by the end of the season and then go all the way to the NCAA championship game was unbelievably thrilling. I suppose it's kind of hypocritcal to resent them for knowingly breaking the rules and still take pleasure if watching them do what they did, but there it is.
With Webber, what rubs me most the wrong way is all the hypocrisy. Interviews with Albom about how he "couldn't afford to eat yet the U is making all this money off my jersey". Lies to grand juries. To this day, he's never admitted taking any money. Yet he lectures us about the "injustices" of the system. If it's so unjust, just say "yeah, I took the money and I would do it again and here's why". Instead he just keeps lying when anyone with a pulse knows he took serious cash. And regardless of what you think of the system, he agreed to abide by its rules and then blatantly broke them. This is not honorable, no matter how you look at it, anymore than what Jim Tressel or Terrel Pryor did. He did this for himself alone, without any thought about the consequences to Michigan or his teammates.
I do want an apology from Webber. Admit you lied, admit you broke the rules, and show actual contrition for what you did to Michigan's reputation. To this day, he still can't be bothered to admit he was wrong and he holds this bitterness in his heart. Reminds me of the Micchael Jordan Hall of Fame speech.
I remember bedlam on campus after beating OSU. The combination of youth and brashness during that run hyped those games out of proportion. They will always be my guys, didn't always make me proud, but they are my guys. I have never been through a more insane multiple-week stretch. The next year was just work and did not have that same genuine emotion with that run.
Anyone else remember how Jim Spadafore (the old beat writer for the Detroit News) vowed to shave his head if Michigan won it all in '92? I remember the News running some primitive photoshops of Spad bald-headed. So close...
"They were beautiful to watch. They played with fire and an intensity that kept you on the edge of your seat. "
I have always been more of a fan of the sport, of figuring out the best way to win. So the '89 team that won was superior to the Fab Five teams that never won the Big Ten and lost in the NCAA title games. I'd rather have a Bobby Knight-style team that wins to a team that has social impact but doesn't quite get it done. (That's not to say they were losers, obviously not, just that in comparison to a boring, workmanlike team that grinds its opponents into defeat, I'll take the more successful version.)
During the last football season it seems that there were some people who were so thrilled with the early season and Illinois-game offense that they almost were willing to accept the horrible defense. I'd rather have a team that wins, with or without panache.
The Fab Five were great, but I disagree with Jalen's contention at the end of the documentary that fame is what matters, that people can't name all of the starting five of NC or Duke, and that means the Fab Five were more important.
Bullshit. First of all, lots of serious hoops fans old enough to have seen the Fab Five probably only remember three of its members. (Sorry Jimmy and Ray.) But even if Jalen is right about how many people remember their names, so what? Fame may be bankable, but it is not as lasting as winning TITLES. The banners they keep whining about don't say "champions."
though my degree and greatest basketball passion is from/for Indiana University. I really, really enjoyed the Hoosiers' 3-1 record against the Fab 5. There was no team I liked beating better than the Wolverines. Yes, even more than Kentucky or Purdue. I and many other, though by no means all, Indiana fans respected what the Fab 5 could do on the court. At the same time, they were portrayed as the antithesis of what Indiana basketball was all about. Beating the Fab 5 was like blowing up the Death Star.
Over the years I've grown to appreciate that the '92 Hoosiers and '92 Wolverines were not polar opposites. Both teams had phenominal talent. Both teams were better than the sum of their parts. Both teams had legitimate dreams of winning a title. While the Fab 5 symbolizes a lot that I find loathesome about college basketball - the quotes around 'student' in student athlete, money under the table, early NBA entry, the weird impact of fashion on sports - they didn't create all that, and they certainly aren't responsible for all that. Most blame lies with the big money - television contracts, boosters, and shoe companies - for the ongoing corruption, and most of the rest with us fans. Finally, I have long been uncomfortable about the racism that underlies a lot of the negativity towards the Fab 5. Brian hits that nicely in his piece, too.
Darth Vader was your coach at the time.
And if you take all four years Fab Fivers played against Indiana, they were 4-4. Though in 93 Michigan lost twice by 1, and tge wins usually weren't close.
In 92 OSU scared us, because we hadn't beat them, or even been close, and we may have said we wanted Duke, for revenge, but really we wanted Indiana, because we need we could beat them.
funny how perceptions differ. Obviously I thought the world of Bob Knight in 1992. I thought people who couldn't stand him didn't understand him. I still think he's misread by most people who hate the guy, though by the late 90's his faults seemed to outweigh his better points.
I loved Bo pretty much for the same reasons I loved Bob Knight, though. This probably isn't the place for a Knight or IU discussion, but on the broader point, there were some pretty incredible B10 basketball teams from that era - maybe not quite the depth in 1989, but still impressive.
Chris Weber in high school try, and succeed, dunking over a 6-7 helpless white kid from Charlotte, by planting the bottom of his Nike's in the kids forehead. The basket was waved off and charging called, but damn if wasn't a play I still vividly remember to this day.
He was a phenomenol basketball player, and it was really to bad he spent so much of NBA career withering away to injuries. At the same time it felt like basketball karma.
Foul, loss of possession.
Basketball is a sport, a game -- not a fight.
I was there. Charlotte is the capital of slow, white, farm boys.
His name is Lange with an E.
Baba booey to you all.
People look back on the hiring of Ellerbe as a stupid decision, but Goss had no choice. Fisher was fired in September. It would be impossible to hire a guy from the outside. Then Ellerbe won the conference basketball tournament. The biggest mistake regarding Ellerbe was giving him a fourth year when he clearly wasn't a good coach after year 3.
Of course he had a choice. First, the NCAA report came out in August. He could have fired Fisher then. He chose instead to sit on his butt until October, when he suddenly decided to fire Fisher. Then, he decided to pass over both the #1 (Dutcher) and #2 (Trost) assistants in favor of the #3 guy, Ellerbe. Both decisions were indefensible.
Again. It's totally defensible. I know you think Dutcher should have gotten the job, but why wasn't Goss justified in clearing house aside from the one guy on the staff who wasn't connected to the scandal? Ellerbe was a disaster, of course, but if your goal is to attempt to cut off your program from everybody who was around when your players were on the take, you pass over Dutcher every single time.
First, there is no rational defense of Goss's timetable. The report came out in August. Why did it take him two months to figure out whether or not to fire the coach? The school year started and everyone assumed it was business as usual, and then suddenly, in October, Goss decided to make a move. He created the "bind" that made it impossible to hire an external guy.
Second, if he thought Dutcher and Trost were guilty by association, he should have fired them along with Fisher. It makes no sense to leave them on the staff if you think they're poor leaders of the team.
Third, asking the #3 assistant to take over, and for the #1 and #2 assistants to serve under him, is a slap in the face to both of them, not to mention the players who knew nothing of the new coach. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the players, and recruits, tuned Ellerbe out. SOP in these cases is to promote the lead assistant and go from there. It's an interim gig. You can fire him after the season.