this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Special Amaker Voracity
Ah, the Post. They title Larry Lage's dry AP article thusly:
MICHIGAN HAYMAKER KOS AMAKER
Martin interview. Interesting that the guys with the clutch Martin interview are the AANews guys instead of the Freep/News guys. Maybe it's because they weren't advancing ridiculous theories about the program in the last couple weeks. Sections of note:
Q: What are you going to look for in the next coach?
Martin: We need to win. Part of Michigan's culture is we have had sports programs that have performed at the highest level. We have sustained competitive excellence. We win routinely Big Ten championships and we knock on the national door occasionally.
Q: What if a candidate questions your outdated arena and lack of practice facility?
Martin: I will say we have hired a consultant who is at this moment working on the infrastructure components of Crisler Arena. We will be able to involve that new coach in this process going forward. I will not give a timetable. We do not have a project. But it's a wonderful opportunity to be a part of it. Furthermore, I will say that it's my believe Crisler Arena is not the end all and be all to having a successful program.
Q: What do you want to pay a new coach?
Martin: I haven't even thought about that. I think coaching salaries are driven by the market, and you've got to take a look at the market.
Q: Can you afford top dollar if you decide that's appropriate for a candidate?
Martin: Sure, we're capable. That doesn't mean we will. What do you mean by top dollar? Some current salaries are above what I'd consider responsible in terms of total salary and deferred compensation.
That's some gooooood diggin'. The Free Press managed to unearth the two Michigan fans who didn't want to see a new coach:
Nate Garafi disagreed, saying Amaker was unfairly singled out even though the team finished the season with about the same record as Michigan State.
"We say keep him," the 23-year-old Howell resident said, as another friend nodded agreement. "... They did play good this year."
About as good as your grammar (ZING!). Title of article? "Michigan fans conflicted about Amaker firing."
There is only one possible response to this assertion.
"They (Michigan) better take a look at what they're going to do from the top down because when you fire somebody who's won 20 games, I still say you've got to look at the whole deal," Izzo said. "It's easy to blame one guy."
Lloyd Carr, November 2002:
"I think it's very important that Bobby Williams be given the opportunity to fulfill his requirement at Michigan State University," Carr said. "This game is about the players, trying to get an education and compete in an arena that is very competitive."
Wonk has an issue. This is it:
During the Ohio State-Xavier game I learned that Tommy Amaker had been fired as head coach at Michigan. I reserve the right to say more on this in the coming days but for now let me just remark on one distressing aspect of the first cycle of coverage on this: I'm already hearing references to the "recruiting hotbed" of Detroit and how important it will be for a new coach at Michigan to corner that market.
As we embark on a couple weeks of what promises to be rollicking good coach-hire chat, let us note at the outset that proximity to a recruiting hotbed doesn't correlate real well with success. If it did, the best programs in the country would be St. John's, DePaul, and USC. They're not.
I must dissent mildly. While he's got a good point that proximity to "recruiting hotbeds" does not necessarily correlate with success, the assertion that Michigan needs Detroit to be a power, to borrow a style of emphasis, is absolutely true. The vast majority of Michigan's recent success has been built on the backs of Detroit recruits, and a major reason for their Edvard Munch-level horrific performance (tm) in recent years has been an inability to keep Joe Crawford and Malik Hairston and etc etc around. Detroit has always been Michigan basketball's primary stomping grounds when it has not sucked, and without a strong presence in Detroit -- which still sends kids like Dion Harris, Deshawn Sims, and Manny Harris to Michigan simply because they love the place -- any new coach will be behind the eight ball from day one. Unless the new guy is Mike Montgomery or someone else who could hypothetically recruit nationally, success in Detroit is a prerequisite to success on the court, though it does not guarantee it.
I am tired of Terry Foster's crap. Both he and Drew Sharp stated in no uncertain terms that Amaker was going nowhere before he was fired, citing Mary Sue Coleman's reluctance to fire Amaker because he was very nice and his wife was very good at his job. Despite being proven completely and utterly wrong, Foster refuses to back off this line of reasoning:
President Mary Sue Coleman did not want to fire Tommy Amaker as basketball coach. Athletic Director Bill Martin did. But Martin gave Coleman an ultimatum. Martin told Coleman that if she would not allow him to fire Amaker that he wanted to walk. Coleman felt pressure from Martin, but in the past week she began feeling pressure from the public too and it caused her to buckle and go against her initial instinct.
(Also, for God's sake, Detroit News: "click here to read the rest of this blog" is the equivalent of "Turn to A11 to read the rest of this newspaper.") Bill Martin directly contradicted this in an interview with the Ann Arbor News:
Q: What this your call?
Martin: It was entirely my call.
Q: Did other people at the university offer input?
Martin: Only if I sought input and I sought very little.
Foster has absolutely nothing to back up his assertions that there was a power struggle between Martin and Coleman, not even the questionable-at-best retention of Amaker, something he incorr
ectly forecast last week with authority. But yet he throws it out there without any repercussions. Remember this the next time someone decries blogs as unreliable spreaders of rumor. At least when I'm talking out of my ass I let you know, unlike Drew Sharp:
But it's unlikely Amaker is going anywhere.
This was his biggest week at Michigan, and although there's genuine disappointment at what likely will be another NCAA tournament shutout, the program wasn't humiliated against Michigan State or the Buckeyes.
Choking is one thing. But quitting is another, and the Wolverines fought hard.
But fueling the coach's job security most is that he's the second-most-popular Amaker on campus. His wife, Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, is an associate dean of students who co-chaired a large university fund-raising initiative. She's a rising star in the academic community, something that's not lost on university president Mary Sue Coleman, who remains an advocate of diversity despite recent legal challenges.
Do you think she'll risk losing a highly qualified African-American female educator because her basketball-coaching husband hasn't fulfilled expectations?
Yes. Yes, I do.
So it's with a mine of salt that you should take Foster's ludicrous assertion today that "the buzz around the University of Michigan is that Marquette's Tom Crean is a guy they would love to have coaching the Wolverines." Crean won't even schedule Michigan State -- a team he just got blown out by, by the way -- because it would be too painful to go up against Tom Izzo. (Evidently all MSU-affiliated coaches have a special relationship with the God Emperor of East Lansing.) And he's supposed to come coach MSU's biggest rival? And would Michigan even be interested in a vastly overcompensated coach -- he makes more than all but four coaches according to a recent USA Today article -- who has found distinctly mediocre success when not blessed with Dwyane Wade? Crean makes no sense for Michigan in any way, but Foster spins his disproportionate compensation as a reason Michigan will have to shell out way more money than they're willing to if they want to find a capable coach.
This is an egregious misrepresentation of the situtaion: Foster throws Crean's 1.5 million out as the only benchmark for a successful coach and underestimates Amaker's salary by 200k in pursuit of his erroneous thesis.* This '01 Daily article says Amaker was making at least 600k even if he didn't get a bump on later contracts, and Rosenberg's column cites his salary as 700k. The bulk of the coaches on the USA today list are within 200-300k of that. If Amaker had been successful, he would now be making the same amount of money as Bruce Weber at Illinois: 900k. Michigan will pay its next head coach a competitive salary, it won't be Tom Crean, and Terry Foster knows nothing.
*(For an even more dishonest take, check out this "blog" from earlier:
Here is the issue. If you fire Amaker who can Michigan get who is better? Now there are a number of high profile coaches who are better. But here is the problem. Michigan does not want to pay much more than the $165,000 base salary Amaker is making. So tell me who the Wolverines can lure for that kind of money?
Sure, that less than a quarter of what he's actually making but let's just throw it out there. Foster lies for his own aggrandizement and no one calls him on it.)
Better stuff: Wojo and Rosenberg's takes are similar: Amaker had to go, new coach not a panacea, facilities, etc. I find slight irritation at Wojo referencing Amaker's salary being one of the lowest in the Big Ten, since... um... Amaker's salary should have been one of the lowest in the Big Ten: he was one of the worst coaches in it. His contract was competitive when he signed his but he never got to renegotiate terms because he never got to the tournament. By the end six years of rapid salary growth -- as noted earlier in this space, over a six-year span from 1997 to 2003 average coaching compensation shot up 89 percent -- of course Amaker's contract is going to look paltry in comparison to those with actual accomplishments. This isn't parsimony, it's common sense.
Other than that, both columns are worth a look.
Grady "devastated" according to the AANews, who seems to be ahead of the game in this whole business. (They got the Martin interview, too, though it was Eric Lacy at the News who got in touch with Legion first .) The Gradys say they'll wait to see who the new coach is before deciding anything. Interesting possibility:
Kevin Grady Sr. said that it's possible his son could play football in college, perhaps even at Michigan. Kelvin Grady's brother, Kevin, is a backup tailback for the Wolverines.
Kelvin had a hell of a playoff run, IIRC.
National reaction. The Amaker firing is big news, getting prominent placement on ESPN.com on an enormously busy sports day yesterday for a large part of the day and spurring notes from various analysts during a full day of March Madness action. Andy Katz called Michigan the premiere job of the offseason on ESPN Radio. The New York Times:
Publicly, Big Ten coaches will say that the firing of Amaker is unfortunate, but privately they are concerned about the reawakening of a power that won a national championship in 1989 and made the title game in 1992 and 1993 behind the famed Fab Five.
Robert Parrish at CBS Sportsline:
Now you know why people weren't jumping all over the Minnesota job. It's because few wanted to get too involved with that gig until they were certain Michigan wouldn't open considering everybody assumed Michigan would open eventually.
On Saturday, eventually arrived. And if Michigan is willing to throw around big money and invest in facilities then it will lure a high-profile coach from somewhere and again become a basketball power now that the uninspired Tommy Amaker era is complete.
Don't let the Amaker party line about facilities and Izzo and the like dissuade you. Michigan is a top 20 program historically and has the one thing you can't buy with money: sex appeal. Like Oklahoma or USC in football, once a historical power comes back to life it usually does so with a roar.