Back Row: asst. coach Bill Frieder, coach John Orr, Mark Lozier, David Baxter, Rickey Green, David Stavale, Thomas Staton, William Lelich, asst. coach Jim Boyce, asst. coach Dan Fife
Front Row: mngr. Mitchell Kaufman, Len Lillard, Alan Hardy, co-captain Steve Grote, co-captain John Robinson, Joel Thompson, Robert Jones. mngr. John Anderson
A lot has been made recently about this being the first Michigan basketball team to reach #1 in the standings since the 92/93 Fab Five squad Interestingly enough the National Championship winning 1989 team never reached #1 until the last game of the season so it hasn't been done that often. There was another Michigan team however, a few years further back, that started the season as #1, stayed at #1 through the first six weeks of the season, and ultimately ended the regular season ranked #1. Having lost in the National Final in 1976, this team entered the tournament as the overall #1 seed as Big Ten Champs with an overall record of 26-3. Sadly they were knocked out of the tournament in the third round (back then that game was the Regional Final) by the Cornbread Maxwell led Charlotte 49ers, this is the Michigan team I think our present squad most resembles.
In 1977 Michigan was led by All-American point guard Rickey Green. Nicknamed "Quicksilver", Green was easily the fastest player with the ball I have ever seen. A fantastic on the ball defender, Green was able to get to the rim against most teams and had a decent (but not great) outside shot. Remember, this was 1977 so the three point line as well as the shot clock were still several years away. Rumors abound that Green suffered an undisclosed injury before the Charlotte game that limited his effectiveness but that has never been made public officially. If you ever saw Green play you could easily compare his game to Burke's although I think Burke is a better shooter, Rickey was a better defender IMO.
Anchoring the inside of that team was the immortal Phil Hubbard. Hubbard was also an All-American in 1977 and was a Kevin Love "double-double" machine before the term was made popular. While the current team doesn't have a player on the inside close to Phil's ability his style of play would remind many of our Morgan. Phil was athletic (this was the year before his catastrophic knee injury) and moved without the ball a lot. He was likewise a terrific defender and tenacious rebounder averaging over 13 boards and 20 points per game.
Filling out the starters were Tom Staton, Steve Grote and Team Captain John Robinson. Grote was Zack Novak before Zack Novak and could be considered the Godfather of Grit. Yes I know Novak has moved on but his presence still looms large on this year's team. Staton was your defensive specialist (think of him like the defensive version of Stauskus) and Robinson did whatever was needed on both ends of the floor. Coming off the bench was my personal all-time favorite Wolverine Alan Hardy (when I was Freshmen in 1978 rumor had it he was able to jump and touch the top of the backboard) and Dave "instant offensive" Baxter. Most people remember Baxter not for his shot but for his hair which was long and definitely interesting to watch. Note: I think the team picture I got was taken at the beginning of the year and Baxter probably didn't cut it the rest of the season cause I can tell you by March his hair was a LOT longer than Green's was.
Coached by Johnny Orr who kinda looks like coach Beilein that team had their own Bacari Alexander in Assistant Coach Bill Frieder. Many at the time thought Frieder was the "real" Head Coach on the time and Orr was simply a figurehead. Frieder would go on to take over duties officially from Orr upon his retirement just a few years later. And at the very far right of the first row picture is a Fraternity Brother of mine who was the team manager!
The ranking, the depth, the style of play of the 2013 Michigan Basketball team all remind me a lot of this group from 36 years ago. So the next time the announcers reference the 1992-93 team as the "last Michigan team to reach #1" remember that they weren't the ONLY group to reach #1 during the regular season - just the most recent.
EDIT: I do not mean to imply that Coach Beilein is a figurehead and that Alexander is doing the "real" coaching. The point I was trying to make was both teams had colorful and well-known assistants. Each in their own way. I probably should've said both assistants used props. Alexander's vary game to game while Frieder favored a towel.