OT: Tommy Amaker gets to the tournament

Submitted by FrankMurphy on March 6th, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Princeton just beat U-Penn, leaving Harvard alone atop the Ivy League standings at 12-2 (26-4 overall). Since the Ivy League doesn't have a conference tournament, Harvard gets their NCAA automatic bid, marking their first berth in the NCAA tournament since 1946 and Amaker's first since 2000 (Seton Hall). Harvard would have had a very strong case as an at-large with wins over Boston College and FSU, but now they're in regardless.

Congratulations to Amaker for doing at Harvard what he couldn't do at Michigan. He seems to have evolved and improved as a coach after leaving Ann Arbor.



March 6th, 2012 at 10:01 PM ^

if I would call him a "good coach." As far as x's and o's and teaching the game, having his players develop, he wasn't very good. He had some very very talented teams. He is more along the lines of a great person and great recruiter. Him and his wife seem like great ambassadors for any university.


March 6th, 2012 at 11:22 PM ^

probably the best coach to kind of bridge that gap for us. He ran a clean program, at least created a little buzz with some good recruiting classes, and at least kept us competitive. He never complained and was always a class act. A lesser "man" could have really set the program back farther.


March 7th, 2012 at 1:04 AM ^

The guys he had played about as well as could have been expected as individuals.  Even Courtney Sims saw his points and rebounds go up every year.  The problem came when he never added to that nucleus of Horton, Abram, Sims, Brown, Harris.  They seemed like the same team because we were in essence playing the same group of guys for 4+ years.  We lost Blanchard and then Robinson, but in 2004 added only Ron Coleman and in 2005 brought in Kendric Price, Jevohn Shepherd, and Jerret Smith.  The next year was a good class, but by that time the core group was gone and he was on his way out the door. 

We think of him as a great recruiter because he made such a great early splash, but the failure to add another blue-chip talent (or even a great glue-guy or perimeter shooter) is probably what prevented that team from ever getting over the hump in his last two seasons.


March 7th, 2012 at 2:44 AM ^

Agreed. Two very good classes and nada after that. If he wasn't canned when he was, it would have happened the next year as it was going to be brutal no matter who was coaching. But it just makes it even more amazing that JB somehow got the team to the NCAA Tourney his second year with what Tommy left - Sims, Manny, and a bunch of role players. Ekpe ended up being a steal, but who knows how he would have developed in JB's system.


March 7th, 2012 at 11:55 AM ^

The guys he had played about as well as could have been expected as individuals.

I don't know what kind of expectations you had, but I found it disappointing that even as upperclassmen, our players were very turnover-prone (Horton typically had barely a positive assist:turnover ratio), were woefully inefficient shooters, particularly in the backcourt, and frequently had glaring fundamental deficiencies, even as seniors.  Lester Abram was here five years and never learned to handle the ball  despite playing the 2 most of his career.  Courtney Sims was here four years and never learned to how to react to a double-team.  Brent Petway was here four years and left as raw as he arrived.

Recruiting was a problem in the sense that Amaker apparently needed players to come in with well-developed fundamental skills to overcome his inability to develop them.  It could be that the problem was more at the feet of the assistants (who typically focus on player development while the head coach focuses on strategy).   At Harvard he must either have a better set of assistants or he's getting better at identifying fundamentally-sound players.


March 7th, 2012 at 11:34 PM ^

I'm guessing a lot of those problems were amplified by the fact that Horton just wasn't a true point guard (always more of a scorer).  If we had brought in a guy like Burke/Morris (or even half as good) while those guys were on campus, things probably would have flowed more smoothly and those flaws would have seemed less dramatic coming from Horton at the 2 or Abrams at the 3.

I'm sure there are plenty of guys on the current team who would look a lot worse if the guys running the show the last 2 years hadn't been so good at creating for themselves and others.


March 7th, 2012 at 11:22 AM ^

This is a Michigan blog.  Amaker is a Harvard coach.  Why don't you go find a Harvard blog?!?
Grumble, grumble... Rich Rod... grumble, grumble...  Arizona... grumble, grumble...
Sorry, couldn't resist.  Could never undersand how, with OT and Rich Rod clearly on the title of other posts, they still drew these flame types of comments.  Easy enough to ignore if one is not interested.

Anyway, Glad to see Amaker having some success (though sorry that it was at the expense of the mighty Fighting Quakers.)  I would have liked to see the one-game playoff.  Without an Ivy League conference tournament, that is a pretty exciting way to determine who wil be dancing, when needed.


March 6th, 2012 at 9:53 PM ^

that Harvard would have the best team in the Ivy League for his entire tenure there because of who he is. Played at Duke, coached under Coach K, and coached at Michigan. I can't name another coach of any of the Ivy League schools, but I doubt they have his credentials. Also, being that a very limited amount of basetball players that even want to go to an Ivy League school and qualify to do so, I would think Amaker would have the advantage in getting those players for reasons mentioned above.

Didn't he also get a couple or at least top 150 guys last year?


March 6th, 2012 at 9:59 PM ^

Harvard has the resume of a legit at-large team but I'm not sure the committee would ever have given it one.  It's certainly not bad for bubble teams.  I actually can't think of a single conference tourney result that has been bad for bubble teams.  They've faded every upset.  


March 6th, 2012 at 10:11 PM ^

Amaker is a great person, and a very good coach. Harvard is a perfect fit for him. He was arguably the right/wrong coach at the wrong time for UM. I wish him a sweet 16 Cinderella.


March 6th, 2012 at 10:47 PM ^

Tommy is a great person, graceful and with high integrity, and he is a very good basketball coach, just didn't work out at Michigan, but look at Tubby and Bruce, it is a tough league to win, and win consistently. 


March 6th, 2012 at 11:55 PM ^

This thread is about Amaker, and we're all thrilled with Beilein. But don't forget that a third former Michigan coach, Steve Fisher, will also be in the NCAA tourney.

I don't know how they do bracketology, but both SDSU & Harvard appear to be in different regions, making it unlikely that we would face either.

It also is worthy of note that nine and possibly ten Michigan opponents (5 from the Big 10, plus Memphis, Duke, UVa, & Iowa State, plus Northwestern on the bubble) will be in the tourney.


March 6th, 2012 at 11:59 PM ^

I am very happy for Amaker.  He came into a really difficult situation here.  Our facilities were some of the worst in the B1G if not the country.  We were on sanctions.  Our team had talent around this year's Penn State and Nebraska teams, but played with the heart of this years Illinois team.  He created a minor buzz for the program, but could never get it over the hump and onto the next level.  I am very happy things have worked out for him at Harvard. 


March 7th, 2012 at 12:00 AM ^

I always liked Amaker on a personal level...when he first came the thinking was he would only ever leave if he got the Duke job.  Could be he just wasn't ready to coach at Michigan.  He'll probably be back at some point with a major conference team.


March 7th, 2012 at 12:41 AM ^

But I would argue that often we are too resolute in determining whether a coach was a good fit or not. If he was successful, he was a good fit; if not, then he was not. That line of reasoning is kind of absurd, and it does not account for the luck factors. Thomas Nagel's moral luck applied to coaching, anyone? 

El Jeffe

March 7th, 2012 at 8:47 AM ^

Agreed. Its seems like there are really two dimensions to "fit"--the Xs and Os, and the "cultural" or "stylistic." Amaker and Rich Rod are instructive here. Amaker was certainly a cultural fit, and whether or not he was initially a Xs and Os fit, he had plenty of time to recruit to his system, whatever that was (I confess I never could discern it).

On the other hand, I recall early in Rich Rod's tenure grumblings about not just his background but also his coaching style (Boren, e.g.). And of course, much e-ink has been spilled on whether his system was a good fit. It obviously wasn't initially, but was getting there when he was fired.

Hence, it's pretty hard to argue that Amaker wasn't a good fit in any sense. Rich Rod clearly wasn't in both senses at least initially, even without the benefit of hindsight.


March 7th, 2012 at 8:45 AM ^

He deserves all the success he can have.  There is a reason guys that young dont get high major coaching gigs.  Michigan is no place to learn the ropes, but there is plenty of evidence that he is putting it together an Harvard, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.


March 7th, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

Congrats to Amaker for what he has been able to do at Harvard.  Would have been in regardless, but good to see him win the Ivy League.  I think he grew as a coach after he left UM, and it clearly shows with how his teams have performed the past couple of years.


March 7th, 2012 at 2:57 PM ^

I want to congratulate and defend Tommy Amaker.  Yes, he wasn't the coach that Beilein is (and may never be), but here are a few of points in his favor:

1.  I believe we would have made the tournament his 2nd year if not for the sanctions (he only had 17 wins but had a 13 straight win streak in the B10 and was a 3 seed in the B10 tournament).  The NIT win says to me that the 2004 was NCAA-worthy.

2. His mid-Michgian career recruiting fell off, but his early classes (Horton, Harris, Abrams, Hunter Sims) and his last couple of classes (Manny Harris, Deshawn Sims, Udoh, Legion) were good.

3.  He may not have been great at developing players but I saw progress in Graham Brown, Chris Hunter, Courtney Sims (to a lesser extent) and Dion Harris.

4. Finally, as was noted above, he was a class act who never embarrassed Michigan during a difficult time.  Even after he was fired he urged his recruits to stay.