The spotlight has been on Tommy Amaker since his arrival to Ann Arbor, but he”s not the only new face on the bench at Michigan. Amaker brought with him an entirely new coaching staff to aid him in his quest to rebuild the Wolverines.
Though the coaching world stretches from coast to coast, it is very close and intimate. Amaker and his coaches knew each other long before they worked together.
“You always run across each other,” assistant coach Charles Ramsey said. “We have common friends. It”s a very tight-knit group.”
At the same time, their separate experiences have also given them different perspectives and strengths.
“I think they all bring different things to the table, but they are all enthusiastic about the way they bring it,” junior LaVell Blanchard said. “They all have that smile and fire inside that pushes you. It”s very important.”
Amaker brought just one coach from his staff at Seton Hall. Billy Schmidt is back in the Big Ten after just one year with the Pirates. Schmidt went to work for Amaker last year after a three-year stint with Northwestern.
“It was a charity case. I had no other prospects,” Schmidt said, jokingly.
But a main reason Amaker originally hired Schmidt he said, was for his administrative abilities around the office.
“He was looking for an assistant to fill a specific niche,” Schmidt said. “He had established a great program (at Seton Hall). He was looking for a guy to come in and fulfill some very specific tasks.”
Another experienced Big Ten coach on the staff is Chuck Swenson, who coached under Jerry Dunn at Penn State for the past five years. The Indiana graduate who got a job with Mike Krzyzewski at Army based on a recommendation from Bob Knight recruited Amaker to play for Duke. After serving as one of Amaker”s coaches for four years, he is working under his former player.
“It”s a little different, but philosophically the things that he does are the things I would do,” Swenson said. “Obviously our philosophy is almost identical. But we”ve had different experiences. It gives him more depth for different situations.”
Since both Swenson and Schmidt have seen the Big Ten up close recently, they think they can help Amaker know what to look for in conference play.
“It gives you a great respect for rivalry and competitiveness which has been a staple in the Big Ten,” Schmidt said. “In terms of knowing the gyms, knowing the rivalries, knowing the fans There are some helpful things you are aware of in advance. That becomes our job, to prep Coach in what to anticipate and expect in going on the road.”
But at the same time, both insist that Amaker”s general basketball knowledge is enough to get him through the Big Ten.
“Coach Amaker brings a lot to the table. He”s totally prepared,” Swenson said.
New to the Big Ten and new to Amaker as far as officially working together is Charles Ramsey, who spent the past five years at California as an assistant.
Ramsey was born and raised in Ypsilanti, and assisted at Eastern Michigan. He kept strong ties with the state of Michigan after going to the Pac 10, saying he also knew the coaching staff at Michigan State very well.
“Along with coach Amaker, (coming back to Michigan) was a major appeal,” he said.