Nice Column by Albom on Michigan poised to surpass Fab 5

Submitted by StephenRKass on April 2nd, 2013 at 12:23 PM

There is a nice column by Mitch Albom on how the current Michigan team can be more remarkable than the Fab 5. (LINK:

I know many of you don't like Albom at all. Many of you also love the Fab 5. But without being disrespectful to the past, I think Albom has written a nice piece comparing the new team to the old, and also giving honor to John Beilein and his success. Albom writes,

You can make a case that this 2013 group is poised to weave an even more remarkable story. That's not hyperbole. It's fact. Remember, the 1993 Fab Five team was five sophomore starters who had been together for two seasons, three of whom had been starters from their very first game. Today's U-M group starts three freshmen -- one of whom only got his starting role a few weeks ago -- plus one sophomore superstar and one junior. Collectively, that's a lot less experience than the Chris Webber-Jalen Rose ensemble.

Albom goes on to say,

This group is more impressive (than the Fab Five.) The Fab Five, a No. 1 seed, beat a 16 seed, a 9 seed, a 12 seed and a 7 seed to make the Final Four. Their real test came in the national semifinals against top-seeded Kentucky, which they edged by a few points in overtime. Beilein's group, seeded fourth, already has beaten a No. 1, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 13 seed -- all but one by fat margins. If Michigan gets past Syracuse, another fourth seed, on Saturday night, it will have gone as far as the Fab Five ever did. And will be poised to do something that legendary group could never do. Win it all.

On Beilein, he writes

The fact that Beilein has done it with intelligence, humility, discipline, hard work, good recruiting and a sense of history makes it all the better. Remember, this is a guy who, like the kids, had never been to a Final Four, despite nearly four decades in coaching. . . the fact that he rebuilt this program smartly and patiently, with year-by-year improvement and steady, heady leadership, is even more impressive.

While you may not care for Mitch Albom, today's column doesn't descend into treacly nonsense. But it does a nice job of praising Beilein and the current team, and also does well in comparing the team to our last high point.



April 2nd, 2013 at 12:33 PM ^

Mitch's logic assumes that this season's seeded teams are comparable to the 1990s era, pre-Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant college basketball, which it is not. 

I love both teams, and take nothing away from this team and what they've accomplished.  But you really can't compare these eras. To say that one is "more remarkable" is kind of doing the ESPN "embrace debate" thing. They're both equally remarkable considering the respective climates of college basketball at their time.  


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:31 PM ^

Maybe it's just me, but didn't the Fab 5 play in the 1992 Final Four? You know, when they were freshman that also didn't start together the whole season.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:37 PM ^

I was wondering that too . . . but was too lazy to fact check. If Albom got this wrong, one of his major premises is completely false, and he is an idiot. (And so I am, for referencing a column by Albom.)


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:54 PM ^

Mitch WROTE THE BOOK "The Fab Five."  He knows full well that the comparison would be to 5 freshmen vs. 3 freshmen and a sophomore and a junior.  

And as said above, the eras are different. That team would win this year's tournament easily. They lost as freshmen to an all time Duke team that would be destroying teams in this tournament. The really great team the next year beat a Kentucky team that is like this Louisville team, except with NBA All Stars.

They can certainly accomplish more by winning two more games, but the comparsion is not only lazy writing, it's completely unncessary writing. Sure there will be some of it just because it's the last time we were in the Final Four. But that's pretty much where any similarities end.  Let's end the comparisons, and let each team (89, 92-93, 13...and 76 and anyone else) stand on their own.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:35 PM ^

they were 6 seed, but they beat 11 seed Temple, 14 seed East Tennessee State, 2 seed Oklahoma State, 1 seed OSU and 4 seed Cincinnati before losing to a 1 seed Duke.

The era back then have more quality teams and players.  It was much tougher for the Fab 5 to succeed and there is a reason why there aren't many freshmen playing in that time.  What makes it so impressive is the Fab 5 have made it to the National Championship 2 consecutive times thus making them the first and only quintent to make the NC in their 1st two years as a starters.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

That's a fascinating question. Obviously, Webber and Jalen were incredible, and Howard wasn't far behind. If the current team would win, it would be because of Burke staying in control, and because of Robinson, Stauskas, and Hardaway collectively being better than Jackson, King, and Howard. So you would pick the Fab 5 to win over the current team?


April 2nd, 2013 at 2:55 PM ^

For comparison's sake, this year we have (I'd assume) 5 future NBA players, whereas the Fab-5 had 6 (I believe Riley also played NBA). 

I don't think we've got any future HOF players, whereas C-Webb might be HOF-worthy. 

Finally, their low-post game man. Mitch Guards C-Webb, but "guard" is a loose term because...C-Webb, man. But then who guards Howard? GRIII? We'd get destroyed down low.

. . . 

Although. . . BURKE. 


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:45 PM ^

I don't think that was Mitch's point, but you're right. The Fab Five would be a matchup monster for this team. They'd have a hard time guarding both Webber and Howard, let alone finding someone to matchup with Rose defensively. He'd have at least six inches of height and reach on Burke.


April 2nd, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

Around midseason.  The only way this year's team would have a shot is if GRII was just on fire from 3 point range.  And that hasn't happened in a long time.  McGary in the Tournament (though not for the season) might be playing at a Juwan level now....but certainly not a Webber level.  And in either case Robinson is going to have to defend one of them. And Webber could probably run with him so the only advantage he'd have offensively would be taking him outside...if he could. Ray Jackson was the defensive stopper and would quiet Nik, and King was Hardaway, only way more athletic.  And on defense they'd flip and King would guard Burke and still tower over him, and Rose would take Tim.  Burke would stll get his, because he's that good, but everyone else would struggle. 

Now in a one game situation this year's team could certainly win. They'd have better coaching, and probably attack the Fab Five better. But if you're talking a 7 game series, it'd be lucky to go to 6 games. Which again, removes nothing from the fact that it might not be as tough an era, but a Championship banner is always bigger than a runner up banner, and this team still has a chance to do more.  But, of course, they still have to win two more games.  And one more just to match what the Fab Five did in one year.  Here's hoping they do all that and more.

EQ RC Blue

April 2nd, 2013 at 2:31 PM ^

GRIII did shoot 3-3 from 3 against SDSU, for what it's worth.

This year's team would have some advantages you haven't mentioned.  It's a much better shooting team - 39% from 3 compared with 33% (note: I'm using the 91-92 stats, which seems fair).  I think the line was actually shorter back then, too, but I might be wrong about that.  This year's team also shoots the three a lot more.  I think Ray made one three all year.  He averaged less than 5 points a game.  The 1992 team also turned the ball over a lot more than this year's team.  And as for Jimmy "quieting" Nik, it's not a one-on-one game.  And Beilein has been known to beat some more athletic teams in his day.

To me, this comes down to an era thing.  Do we think every team back then was better than every team now because people stayed at least two years, often more.  Do we think players now have better workout techniques, trainers, coaching, etc.?  Because in this era, this year's team is pretty much as good, if not better, than the 91-92 team was for its era. 


April 2nd, 2013 at 5:04 PM ^

You're talking about, or the team Mitch was talking about.

The 92-93 vs. 12-13 is a beating of huge proportions, every effort just not to get swept away.

The 91-92 vs. 12-13 is probably a pretty good battle, and could go either way after a number of games.  Of course it might come down to whether the two teams were playing in "December mode" or "March mode" where they played their best ball., too. 

But the latter would undercut Mitch's point at least, in that the 12-13 would be the MORE experienced team...and if you count starters, by far.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:52 PM ^

I think Beilein would out-coach Fisher and keep the current team competitive with the Fab 5 but the athleticism, size and talent gap would ultimately be too much for this year's team to overcome.  The Fab Five also has four guys who can get you 20.  As another poster astutely notes, Mitch McGary could check either Webber or Howard but he can't guard both and if you bring in Morgan to check the other then 2013 doesn't have enough weapons to keep up.

(Also, because I can't resist a dig at the Free Press and by extension Mitch Albom - due to certain sanctions we won't talk about, does Albom's column about the 1993 Fab Five make this yet *another* case of him writing about fictional events? :) )


April 2nd, 2013 at 1:34 PM ^


I think Beilein would out-coach Fisher

Without question.

Going further, transport today's Beilein back in time and have him guide the Fab 5 and I assure you they'd have won a championship.

Under a good hand the Fab 5 would have been unbelievable.


April 2nd, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

Everyone thinks Fisher is a bad coach. Remember who he faced, and his circumstances: Duke's crazy-good team, which had the only college player on the dream team (think about that), playing with all freshmen, and in a one-off tournament. 

In 5 years he won our only championship ('89), had the greatest freshmen class ever, and took us to two championship games which we lost due to 1.) playing that crazy Duke team, and 2.) a C-Webb timout screwup. 

If he was such a terrible coach, why did he take us farther than any other coach UM-tourney history? I mean, you can yell "recruiting" all you want, but at the end of the day, he's the best tourney coach we've ever had.

What am I missing?


April 2nd, 2013 at 3:47 PM ^

My categorization of Fisher as sub-optimal is based on two things:

  • What I saw as a rather loosely handled 89-90 team (post championship), with Rumeal Robinson playing what I saw as more and more schoolyard ball.
  • My belief that the Fab 5 had the talent to beat any team in the country, crazy-good Duke included, if the team would have been a bit more disciplined.

Note the careful characterization of that as opinions.  I speak for myself when I say I am not a fan of Fisher's coaching style.  Nothing against the man personally, I just don't think he's in the same class of coaching as others who stress discipline and execution over showmanship.

(I don't think Fisher stressed showmanship, I think he allowed it.)

snarling wolverine

April 2nd, 2013 at 4:16 PM ^

I think Fisher was (and is) a good coach.  Not quite at Beilein's level, but still very good.  Yes, he definitely was foolish to try to run with Loyola Marymount in the '90 tournament, and a couple of his later teams underachieved a tad, but still . . . three Final Fours and a national title in his tenure here is remarkable.  He's also done very well at SDSU.  They've gone to the tournament four straight years, went to the Sweet 16 in 2011, and won a few league titles.  

I don't think it's fair to criticize him for not beating '92 Duke, one of the greatest college teams of all time, and far more experienced that us.  I don't think our problem in that game was discipline.  I think it was inexperience - we finally got caught up in the pressure of the moment in the final 10 minutes of the game (it was actually close for 30 minutes) and then Duke went for the jugular.  IIRC, they scored on like 10 straight possessions to end the game.

Fisher deserved to be fired for his negligence relating to Ed Martin, but I think he's a good basketball coach.


April 2nd, 2013 at 4:37 PM ^

I mentioned Duke, but I'll grant that the Duke team Michigan lost to in April of 1992 was a very good team.

Can the same be said of the North Carolina team Michigan lost to in 1993 when the Fab Five were sophomores? 

I'm not saying Fisher was a bad coach.  My essential point was that he wasn't as good a coach as those whose names are held high because their teams play with precision and discipline.  One of those coaches would have taken the Fab Five to the podium.  And it wouldn't have been close.

snarling wolverine

April 2nd, 2013 at 4:56 PM ^

'93 UNC wasn't quite as good as '92 Duke but still, they went 34-4, won the ACC and of course the national title.  I think we were better than them (we had beaten them earlier in the year), but Donald Williams had the game of his life and we may have been a bit leg-weary from the OT game against Kentucky two nights earlier.  Single-game elimination can be cruel.




April 2nd, 2013 at 5:10 PM ^

That team had Montross who had a nice NBA career, George Lynch who was in the league a lonnng time, and Derrick Phelps who was a really good college point guard. I think that squad had 6 McDonald's All American's on it. 

Were they as talented as us? No. As good as the all time best Duke squad? No. But that was a pretty damn good team and they didn't exactly kill us. The only team that stood out as undertalented in that Final Four was Kansas. The other three were monsters. We just got stuck with Kentucky (who was actually the favorite during the Tournament) rather than a Kansas team we had already waxed in Hawaii. (And even then we just barely beat that NC team. They were good).

French West Indian

April 2nd, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

I don't care much for Albom's schlock either.  But it is nice that he points out that the Fab Five didn't actually win the title and that with a win over Syracuse this group will have matched them.


April 2nd, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

But if they JUST win Saturday, they'd have to all come back and go back to the championship game AGAIN next year. And that's not happening (the coming back...who knows on the appearing?).

But this team shouldn't be penalized for the era they play in. A championship is a championship. Banners and rings are what count, no matter how hard it is. (If Florida had won Sunday no one would say "oh, but their path was soooo easy, they don't really get to hang a Final Four banner"....or Ohio State for that matter).

His Dudeness

April 2nd, 2013 at 12:55 PM ^

The thing about Mitch is he wrote many glowing pieces about the Fab Five as well. Then he tore them down. Now he is building up this team...

I don't like Mitch because he is a phony. If a scandal were to happen with this team (obviously not probable), he would be the first to destroy them.


Section 1

April 2nd, 2013 at 1:23 PM ^

His book, The Fab Five, was premised on the idea that Mitch was an insider with the team.  Embedded so thoroughly, that he was like the sixth man.  And yet Albom had no idea about any of the Martin/Webber wrongdoing.  He was probably phoning it in just like Mateen Cleaves' green sweater at the Final Four.  Either that, or else the Martin/Webber scheming was well-enough concealed, that the Michigan Athletic department had no way of knowing about it just like Albom. 

I suspect that there is actually a lot more tolerance for Mitch Albom and his paper locally, than there is nationally.  I think the national sportswriters hate the guy for his phoniness.  And then there is that thing with what the Freep did to Michigan's football program.  Albom wasn't repsonsible for that.  But it's his paper, and that is enough.

Sorry Mrs. Kass.  -1 for Stephen today.

Bando Calrissian

April 2nd, 2013 at 1:38 PM ^

He didn't completely obscure it. Ed Martin appears in the book. Even though Albom claims now that he didn't see any evidence of wrongdoing, I tend to believe there's no way he was around those guys as much as he was and stayed completely in the dark, especially if he knew who Martin was, what his reputation was (there were reports of wrongdoings between Martin and high school players, the first being Terry Mills, in the Detroit dailies as early as 1985), and the connection he had to Fisher and Watson. This scandal just didn't magically appear out of nowhere in the late 90s.

Long story short, Mitch tells one story, but it seems far more likely he knew and couldn't properly corroborate it, or didn't feel comfortable enough making that accusation when he published the book in 1993, when four of the guys were still on campus.

Yes, he literally wrote the book on the Fab Five, but when looks at the big picture of what the news media was writing at that time (and even before these guys hit campus), and the professionalism Mitch Albom has shown not to have in the past few years, it's hard to keep considering the book completely authoritative.

Section 1

April 2nd, 2013 at 2:59 PM ^

You are as knowledgable about the Fab Five era as any outside observer.  And of course, nobody would have wanted to have been an "inside observer."

And I don't think we've ever disagreed on that subject.

What aggravates me about the meta-story of the Fab Five: Michigan was held to be vicariously liable (loosely applied) for Ed Martin.  Because Ed Martin was a "booster" under NCAA rules (due in part to the highly technical nature of those rules, and in part because Frieder and then Fisher were so willing to let Martin get booster-like access to the program and the players), Michigan was hammered for his personal wrongdoing.  Michigan was punished, top to bottom, for what Ed Martin and "his" players did; almost all of them "recruited" to Ed Martin's little program long before any of them had ever set foot in Ann Arbor.  Michigan was punished heavily, for not knowing what Ed Martin was up to.  And yet all along there is investigative reporter Mitch Albom, following the Fab Five, living with the Fab Five, talking with the families and friends of the Fab Five, authoring the authoritative story of the Fab Five.  And yet Albom didn't know, either.

You say -- credibly, I think -- that the Albom book can't possibly be "authoritative" since there was a lot going on that Albom didn't see or know about.  That's a valid point.  My point is different; that it is just galling to think of how hard Michigan got whacked for not knowing, and how Mitch Albom got handsomely rewarded while not knowing.



April 2nd, 2013 at 3:34 PM ^

Michigan was "vicariously liable" because Fisher started giving Martin tickets to things like the 1993 Final Four and courtside seats at home games so that he could sit next to big recruits. Fisher did that. He ran the program. We weren't victims.

You can try to blame Webber or Bullock or Traylor all you want. They certainly get a share of it. But I choose to put the bullseye on the adult in charge, who was paid to know better.



Section 1

April 2nd, 2013 at 5:20 PM ^

There may well have been some relatively minor violations involving Steve Fisher.  He gave a team-designated hotel room to Ed Martin.  Who in turn gave it to Mayce Webber.  That's a violation, but not one that would be a death penalty for the program.

No; the problem with Michigan's having done anything for Ed Martin (ticket lists, plane rides, access, etc.) was that doing so made Martin a "booster."  And being a booster under the bylaws, that made all of the incredibly abusive shit that Martin did accountable by Michigan.  It's a solid practical, if not terribly technical, definition of vicarious liability.  Being a "booster" made Ed Martin Michigan's figurative agent.  Ed Martin's "booster" status was the key ingredient of Michigan's NCAA problems.



April 2nd, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

Albom is nuts simply because college teams were far deeper in those days when kids stayed to play longer than they do now.  I.e., in 92, Laettner – senior.  Jim Jackson – junior for example.  Nowdays both of them would’ve been gone at least one year earlier to the pros.  For this reason alone, the Fab Five’s accomplishments – back to back finals – will always be more impressive, unless our current beloved young team manages to win it all, which will be a very difficult task.


April 2nd, 2013 at 1:03 PM ^

still milking that Fab 5 cash cow that got him national recognition and millions of dollars... as well as granting him the freedom to write stories days in advance from his couch.

snarling wolverine

April 2nd, 2013 at 1:32 PM ^

Of course, I don't think anyone was predicting that in 1993, either.  Chris Webber was widely considered the most likeable member of the team - a guy from a stable family, pretty articulate, went to Country Day, and I think he was in LS&A . . . at the time, he was viewed in a similar light to Denard Robinson now.  It was Rose who was considered the bad boy.

Who'd have guessed then that Webber would be the only guy on the team to get in trouble with the NCAA?




April 2nd, 2013 at 1:25 PM ^

You lost me at Mitch. There are only two reporters (it's a generous application o the term I know): Mitch Albom & Drew Sharp.


April 2nd, 2013 at 1:36 PM ^

From OP: treacly nonsense

+1 for use of "treacly" -- "contrived or unrestrained sentimentality"

Perfect use of the language, sir ... well played!