I've been thinking about this potential MGoBoard topic since last year but told myself that I wouldn't write this until the current season ended fearing that somehow I would jinx the outcome. My question/topic is -- where does John Beilein rank among Michigan basketball coaches? In my mind he's number one.
I'll admit I'm biased toward JB. While I'd gone to games off and on as a student in the late 80s/early 90s I started getting season tickets in 2000-2001. My initial seasons were during the Ellerbe era (timing is everything), which makes the current success all the more sweet. When you rank Michigan basketball coaches there aren't nationally iconic names like Yost, Schembechler and Crisler to consider, but there are more individually accomplished coaches than you'd expect at a "football" school. Strack, Orr, Frieder and Fisher all have significant achievements -- in some cases continuing after Michigan.
While obviously Fisher has a national championship plus two NCAA finals it's hard to know how to weigh the fact that the championship was one he didn't coach through the season and the Fab Five teams had the Ed Martin cloud over them (with the caveat that only Webber was cited)..
Here's my rankings, which are admittedly not based on advanced stats:
1. Beilein -- He took over a program that had been reeling from sanctions, problems with players (Crawford, Gaines, Ingeson etc.) and hadn't made a tournament in 10 years. Tom Izzo was winning NCAA championships and leading teams to final fours up the road. In his 2nd year we were in the tournament. In his 5th year we tied for the B10 title, 6th year we made the national finals, and in his 7th the elite eight and a B10 title.
2. Fisher -- I can't really say how to evaluate a guy who can obviously coach (see SDSU) but who had at least enough of a cloud over his head to set things back a decade with some help from Fred Girard of the DetNews and Louis Bullock. While he made two finals I feel that making one with last year's team (as opposed to the Five Fab) was more impressive. Also, Fisher didn't face a home state team as strong as Izzo's program.
3. Strack -- He may have a claim on 2nd or 1st on this list. He built Michigan basketball from the gound up with the Cazzie era leading to the NCAA finals. That said, I can't evaluate the strengthen of the Big Ten from that era or of college basketball in general back then. And his last couple of teams struggled. Given that he was before my time I'm open to reevaluate.
4. Orr - his mid-70s teams with Hubbard and Green were incredible. He's here because, like Strack, his time was short and was bracketed by so so teams in the early and late 70s. I was in New York this weekend, and the Iowa State fans I met loved him for what that's worth
5. Frieder -- This is a tough one. Frieder brought in the level of player (Grant, Rice, Tarpley etc.) that I think made Michigan the kind of schools that the Fab Five would want to come to. That said, his tournament record involved one sweet sixteen finish and otherwise early exits.