The State of Michigan Basketball

Submitted by ClearEyesFullHart on January 11th, 2012 at 10:07 AM

     Hearing Daniel Horton speak on "Inside Michigan Basketball" brought back some memories, good and bad.  It made me think about how far the program has come, and the obstacles that they have overcome. 

     Inexplicably, my Michigan basketball fandom originated from watching this guy

Jack up contested 3 pointers that would make Tim Hardaway Jr. blush.  Dom Ingerson was like the NFL Braylon Edwards of college basketball.  He couldn't hit a 3 pointer for his life unless he was falling out of bounds with three guys draped over him.  My fandom grew out of free tickets and a love for the University of Michigan.   I suppose thats why Brian's wording, "Right now we're going through the last vestiges of having no expectations because we have no program" made me just a little bit angry.  Because I can remember when we had no program.  I remember when beating Bowling Green was a big deal.  I was there, and it was actually quite a while ago.

     There were starts and stops along the way.  When Daniel Horton came on the scene and ripped off 13 wins in a row including Michigan's only contest against baby brother

finishing third in the big ten conference, I thought the program had arrived.  Several thousand key injuries, a costly suspension, and several broken promises from Bill Martin later, and hindsight tells a different story. 

     That beautiful sparkling player development center standing next to Crisler.  That tells me that the program has arrived.  You see, that practice facility was promised to Tommy Amaker in 2001.  And when Daniel Horton came back to Crisler and remarked, "This was promised to us as freshmen.  We were going to be using this facility as juniors" it brought back all the old anger.  I cannot blame Tommy Amaker for telling him that, as it was the same line of garbage Bill Martin was selling him.  Years later in a rivals article about the big house renovation, Martin would comment on the (then)dilapidated state of Crisler Arena, stating "I know what side my bread is buttered on.  If basketball recruits care about facilities, they wont come to Michigan." 


Oh how far we have come.  Can you imagine David Brandon saying that?  Just look around that arena.  Look at that gorgeous scoreboard, every inch of it flat panel display.  At the brand new block "M" adorned seating.  Look at that shining glass-encased practice facility.  Go ahead tell me that Martin layed the groundwork for it.  Then I'll remind you that he promised it a DECADE ago.  Think for a second where the program would be if he had kept his promise.  I know, I know, he had the Ed Martin scandal to think about.  But look at USC.  Look at OSU.  If I'm not mistaken, OSU's basketball program actually got STRONGER in the wake of their scandal.  USC's football team seems to be doing just fine.  You are blaming the wrong Martin. 

     But enough of the old anger.  Four years ago this young man stepped onto the Crisler floor for the first time

I'm going to say that the moment Novak walked out onto the floor, that was the moment Michigan had a program again.  That team went on to beat #4 UCLA, #4 Duke, beat Clemson in the NCAA tournament, until finally conceding a tight game to the #2 Blake Griffins and their ridiculous officiating crew.

     Just look at where Michigan Basketball is today, and what they have overcome.  I dont think they have played a home game this year in front of less than 10,000 fans.  Thats a testament to both the marketing department and the team on the floor.  Just standing there in that mostly-dead crowd at the Wisconsin game.  Having witnessed Michigan totally embarrass a ranked Wisconsin team.  And it didn't even seem like a big deal.  Like it was expected.  How far we have come.  And what fun we have to look forward to in the coming years.  I guess what I am trying to say is...

  How much fun is this? 


Coastal Elite

January 11th, 2012 at 10:24 AM ^

The vision thing is part of why I love Dave Brandon. I know he occasionally puts his foot in his mouth, and some of his ideas trend toward b-school marketing voodoo. But if you look at his actual record - what he's done to improve our facilities, how he executed Under the Lights, bringing Brady Hoke here, etc. - the good far, far outweighs the bad. In fact, I would argue that (aside from Pop Evil, which actually many of the players and some recruits seem to thoroughly enjoy) the criticims of Dave Brandon are largely things that have NOT come to fruition: the idea that he's less-than-stalwart in preserving The Game at the end of the season, the mascot imbroglio, etc. Dave Brandon is head and shoulders above Bill Martin, and I think that for the first time in a very long time, we have a guy in the AD's office who understands both the business and the athletics side of the department.

oriental andrew

January 11th, 2012 at 4:45 PM ^

Bill Martin, though, was still a good AD.  I agree that he didn't understand very well the COLLEGIATE athletics side of things nearly as well as Brandon seems to, but he was what the department needed at the time.  In a lot of ways, I believe Martin laid much of the foundation for what Brandon has been able to do.  Maybe not in terms of vision, but certainly in terms of financial capability. 

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January 11th, 2012 at 10:34 AM ^

Coastal Elite, I couldn't agree more.  I am a traditionalist who generally doesn't like messing with a good thing.  The problem is the application of that thinking.  If there's one constant, it's change.  I believe Brandon, more than anybody, understands this and knows he has to make changes to keep up with the changing views of those he tries to attract - both athletes AND fans.  I may not agree with everything he does, but I certainly agree with the thinking that motivates his actions.

Kilgore Trout

January 11th, 2012 at 10:34 AM ^

Agree, it's been a long road.  I remember that Bowling Green game and thinking how ridiculous it was that it was a big deal to finally win a game. 

The fact that we're staring down a 7pm ESPN match up of 16-2 (5-0) MSU vs 15-3 (4-1) UM next week is pretty sweet.  That should be quite the atmosphere.


January 11th, 2012 at 10:58 AM ^

that was my freshman year, when I was one of what seemed like 12 season-ticket holders.  The low point to me was the game vs Central Mich that made us 0-5.  Chris Kaman had 30 pts and 21 rbs and their PF had 28 and 9.  

That freshman class (Horton, Brown, Abram, Hunter) may never have quite met expectations but I think really moved the program along from a super low point...


January 11th, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

What else did Horton say (for those of us not near a PC)?
<br>It wasn't too long ago Horton was spewing hatred of Beilein on Twitter dating things like "no one can win in this system". UofM proceeded to make their first tourney appearance in about a decade and I thought Horton had been silenced forever.


January 11th, 2012 at 11:16 AM ^

It was almost exactly a year ago that Horton posted a bunch of idiotic things about Beilein on his Facebook page (saved for posterity in this thread). For that reason, I was surprised to see that Horton was among those coming back for the PDC dedication. But Beilein is evidently such a class act that even former players who say dumb things about him are welcomed back with open arms.


January 12th, 2012 at 12:55 AM ^

     I was a big fan of Horton, even after his destructive relationship went public.  For the record I agree with him on Bill Martin, and I can understand his loyalty to coach Amaker, but his comments on Beilein have been proven to be totally offbase.  Just another athlete succeeding in tarnishing my memory of them.  I wish these guys would learn to just keep their mouths shut so that some of my illusions could remain intact.  Oh well. 


January 11th, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

I honestly can't think of any ways in which the basketball program could make me more proud.  Beilein and the players on the team have accomplished so much, and in all the right ways.  They're so easy to root for.  

My only concern is how we let Lloyd Brady transfer to Northwestern's basketball team, and how we could possibly guard him tonight!


January 11th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

I remember taking a road trip to the Bres only to watch from the top row, an alley oop with 10 seconds left to put them up 50 (or was it 60). I remember watching chris young get thoroughly dominated by pretty much everyone in the big 10. I remember our "hopefully Crawford can hit a 3 from half court or else we won't score" gameplan (although that gameplan didn't even last the entire year because of the suspension). This program has come so far....the 2000's were a tough decade for me as a Michigan basketball fan


January 11th, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

Just because he got better after his freshman year doesn't mean he was good. I remember watching him get pushed around in pickup games. He absolutely got a lot better and his senior season wasn't a train wreck, but he just didn't have the talent. This thread is about how far we have come....and going from chris young to Graham brown to Simms to udoh to peedi to mcgary is coming a long way


January 11th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

Saying he wasn't as good as the rest of the B10 big men isn't a knock on him, it is just telling you I think he wasn't that good. In a thread about where our program is compared to the past, saying chris young isn't as good as our big men in following years, leading up to the best center in the nation this recruiting class, isn't that earth shattering. Chris young is in his 30s now, I don't think he cares if he wasn't as good as the players before the scandal broke or the NBA talent that came after him.


January 11th, 2012 at 11:23 AM ^

For ten years, all Tom Izzo had to do was say "Fab Five Scandal" to the parents of recruits, and he could walk out the door with a commitment.  Bill Martin did screw up terribly, but the Ed Martin Fiasco ripped ten years out of the heart of the Michigan basketball program.

As for teams like USC not suffering at all, it's because they are still cheating.  Teams like USC and Ohio stonewall, lie, deny, and cheat with perceived impunity.  They continue cheating like nothing ever happened, and get back to the top quickly.

Michigan's "mistake" was to run a clean program. You can always identify teams that clean up their programs after NCAA investigations; they are the ones that take the longest to make it "back."  The ones that keep cheating rebuild with minimal consequences.  Michigan suffered for ten years because they made sure that there would be no illegal benefits for players anymore.

It was a "perfect storm:" Izzo's negative recruiting, a commitment to run a clean program, crappy facilities, and MHSAA's move to EL, thus giving Izzo a "game day" experience for his recruits.

Thankfully, it is over now.


January 11th, 2012 at 11:47 AM ^

Ed Martin did not cause us to spend a decade in the wilderness.  We did that to ourselves. 

The Amaker years were frustrating.  There was so much promise early on, but after his second year we spun our wheels, always on the outside of the bubble.  We seemed to be stuck in a vicious cycle; we didn't have the facilities to draw recruits, but we couldn't win enough to generate the revenue for the facilities.  (Northwestern seems to be struggling with this right now.)  Having said that, Amaker didn't wow me as a coach.  He was obviously better than Ellerbe, but his teams, while solid defensively, never seemed to run a coherent offense, and they also had a knack for falling apart in pressure situations.

Besides being a great coach, Beilein deserves a lot of credit for finally opening Martin's eyes to the importance of investing in the program.  I don't know what he said or did, but he finally got Martin to open the purse strings.


January 11th, 2012 at 11:53 AM ^

I've been onboard the M basketball train since before the fab five. I haven't missed some form of following a game since the internet made that possible. Finally, after a long time, the direction of the


January 11th, 2012 at 12:02 PM ^

myself. This year's players say: Hellz with next year, we're going to do some damage now! Twelfth/13th in the country and in the thick of the B1G title race is not "no program," nor would the many players who had fun being student-athletes and toiling for their school during the last decade feel that way, either. Gotta keep this sh*t in perspective--it ain't ALL about winning.


January 11th, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

Basketball at Michigan meant nothing to me until about three years ago; I had always considered them as an NIT team playing in the shadow of the Big House.  Now they are the highlight of my sports world when football is out of season. Beilein is building an incredible program, one of the best things we've ever taken out of west virginia not named yost


January 11th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

I am grateful for anything and everything that has contributed to returning our basketball program to respectability.  We can't change what happened 15 years ago, but it seems we've paid our debt and have moved on.  Go Blue!


January 11th, 2012 at 2:16 PM ^

Martin did not do everything right, but our long hiatus from the basketball world was not on him.  The reason he didn't build the basketball facilities was not because he didn't think they were important.  It was because he didn't have the money to do it.   He was not allowed to go into debt to build it (like OSU did) so he needed donors, BIG donors.  There were none in the wake of Martin, Ellerbe, a roster half filled with bad apples, and a record more than half full of losses.   I have no doubt that he told TA that he would have his facility because he believed the $$ would flow in as soon as he was hired. It didn't.  Still wait and see, and we continued to flounder.   Martin was charged with cleaning up the mess that Goss created, and bringing the AD back into the black.  In that he did an excellent job.  The fact that he &^%$ the bed on the Football Coach hiring is not a good reason to fire bomb his whole tenure and everything he did.  Basketball and the rest of the Sports would be no where near where they are without him. 




January 12th, 2012 at 1:12 AM ^

     The athletics department has operated at a multi-million dollar profit from 2002 on.  Basketball itself averaged around a 2 million dollar/year profit during the Amaker years.  (Now I believe it  hovers around 3.5-4 million).  But basketball facilities didn't see a penny of that money.  BM saw to it that non-revenue sports got gold-plated urinals before he would buy    Tommy Amaker a freaking VCR.


January 12th, 2012 at 9:18 AM ^

You have an Axe to grind, I get it, but at least be honest.  Not a penny? Crisler got its share of attention:

"The arena underwent several renovations in 2001. The court itself was redesigned and refinished. Several rows of bleacher seats were installed on the east side of the arena behind the team benches to accommodate the Maize Rage student section. Along the opposite side, courtside seating was added to help benefit Michigan's endowed athletic scholarship program in addition to a refurbished court with a traditional look.

The most comprehensive renovation involved the men's locker room. The hallway leading up to the locker room now features maple paneling with photos of Michigan's All-Americans lining the way. Just outside the locker room door is a tribute to the famous free throw made by Rumeal Robinson that clinched the 1989 NCAA national championship. The locker room itself features new maple lockers, a dry white board wall, and individual shower and bathroom stalls.

In 2002, the women's locker room underwent major renovations, more than doubling its size and getting a complete facelift. The locker room, featuring maple walls, is highlighted by a dome detailing the team values -- passion, trust, unity, discipline and dedication. Each locker has its own bench seat, as well as a leather desk chair. Individual shower stalls were installed, as well as a kitchenette. The team area has a smart board, which doubles as a dry-erase board and a projector screen. A computer for video editing is also new in 2002. The coaches also have their own locker area with their own bathroom.

The weight room went through a renovation prior to the 2004-05 season, a year after the athletic medicine training room sported a new look. Enlarged and completed renovated, it now includes a physician's office.

All this happened while Amaker was here..  it also happened while we were paying out the nose to law firms to oversee our NCAA investigation and subsequent sanctions...  Donations to basketball were rock bottom.   Softball and Baseball got new stadiums (much later than this) paid for by large private donations.  Soccer just got a new field, is the golf complex even done?   and Lacrosse is finally a varsity sport...soon.   You act like Martin was making it rain in 2001-2007 on all the other sports..  thats just not true.  And a lot of that revenue that you speak of went to pay old debts and set up new funds that the current renovations can be paid out of, because as I said UM does not like to go into debt over Athletics expenditures.  OSU..   They were set back like 400MM+ over the course of a couple years.  Of course their football coach can fire the University president..  so there's that.

Me? I am just happy they're back, and i am happy that Martin helped bring the entire AD out of the dark ages. 



January 12th, 2012 at 12:01 PM ^

     "Not a penny" was an attempt at hyperbole, which as many have pointed out I'm not very good at.  I'm going to use a pretty extreme example to make my point here, and I've got to preface it with an explanation.  What happened at Penn State was about the worst thing that I can imagine.  I'm reluctant to even compare that mess with what happened at Michigan in the early nineties, because obviously at that time filthy basketball was common as dirt, and to a lesser extent remains so today.  I believe this actually increases the validity of what I am about to say.

     I think its safe to say that donations to PSU football are at rock bottom.  I think its safe to say that they're sinking a good bit of money into lawyers, and I dont know the specifics, but I'm going to assume they're going to have to overpay pretty much every person involved with that program. 

     Do you think they're just going to abandon that program for a decade and hope everyone forgets it exists?  Do you think they're going to follow in Martin's footsteps and ignore it, hoping it goes away?

     I dont think so.  They're going to fight like hell to build a new tradition.  They're going to scratch and claw and gouge eyes to build something out of nothing.  Because you dont just abandon a program when it doesn't fit your image.

     I tell you what, when Tim Curley comes out and tells recruits, "If you care about tradition, you wont come to Penn State" I will go ahead and concede that Bill Martin wasn't the worst sports executive this side of Matt Millen.


January 12th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

When did Martin tell a recruit if you care about tradition don't come to michigan?  

This is a strawman argument I am not going to have.  Hate the dude, let it continue to haunt you for all I care, but placing the blame for where UM hoops was at his feet is just plain wrong and to say that he built gold urinals for other sports (and a new Big House) and then call him the (2nd) worst sports exec of all time is wrong.  There is a small, uninformed minority that will agree with you, and I am fine with that..  moving on.


January 12th, 2012 at 1:47 PM ^

     I was trying to find a fitting PSU parallel to Martin's "If basketball recruits care about facilities, they wont come to Michigan."  that thacomm

     I suppose I could have been more specific, but considering the subject matter I dont think that would be in good taste.

     But whatever.  What is past is past.  Beilein and his guys have clawed themselves out of the hole that the Martins dug together, and I suppose that in itself was the point of my post.  It's just nice to see the guys chanting "Its great to be a Michigan Wolverine" and to know that its true, and that they mean every word.




January 14th, 2012 at 11:28 AM ^

     Yeah, your comparison might have some merit if Beilein hadn't beaten Ohio in his first year.  Or you know, beaten Duke and UCLA and taken Michigan to the tournament for the first time since 1998 in his second year.  And won a game there.

     But back to your question, the period of total abandonment started in 1997, and ended in 2007 with Beilein's hire.  Built in 1967, by most accounts Crisler Arena was already showing its age by the time the Fab 5 came on the scene in the early 90's.  I suppose that basketball facilities really started to affect recruiting after the Breslin Center was built in 1989. 

     At any rate, it wasn't until 1997 that the basketball program officially became the red-headed stepchild of the athletic department.  It started with the Brian Ellerbe hire, which many have suggested occured because A. It required the least amount of effort from the athletic department and B. Because they'd only have to pay him $450k per.

     When that didn't work out, Bill Martin dug deep into his pocket book and pulled out $550K for Tommy Amaker.  It is rumored that his assistant coaches were paid exclusively in leftovers from South Quad's dining hall. 

     At last in 2007 there was a public outcry for Martin to do something, anything to get Michigan back to the NCAA tournament.  He agreed to 1.4 million per to bring John Beilein to Michigan.  Many have suggested that this occured because Beilein had a reputation of doing the most with the least, and Martin didn't plan on giving him much.

     Perhaps that is a little harsh, as Martin did indeed get minimal Crisler updates as well as practice facility funds approved by the regents in 2009.  And only 20 years late.



January 11th, 2012 at 4:30 PM ^

Novak was really the start of something big. Between last year, McGary, and our strong start this season has led me to believe that we can make our basketball program both nationally prominent and a title contender every now/then.