After the pep rally in his honor yesterday, the new Michigan basketball coach, Tommy Amaker, agreed to sit down with The Michigan Daily. The following are excerpts from the conversation.
The Michigan Daily: What do you, as a coach, have to do to get fans back in here?
Tommy Amaker: I think as a coach, we need to provide a team that the students can identify with. By that I mean the way in which we”re going to play we”re going to do those five things: We”re going to be passionate, we”re going to be prepared, we”re going to be honest, we”re going to have fun and we”re going to be Michigan.
And I think our students can identify with that because those are the things I”m hoping we all are going to learn from and get better from and I think we can do other things.
We”re going to be able to do things in the community, we”re going to go around to some of the dorms in the fall and try to talk to some of the students and bring some of the players and see if that”s a way we can drum up some support.
TMD: In New Jersey, the newspapers haven”t exactly been kind to you. What hurts you more, seeing people criticize the season you had at Seton Hall and your coaching ability or when they criticize your character and say that you”re a liar?
Amaker: It”s never fun or exciting when people say things about you that are negative. But I think we”ve all come to know what to expect in the world of college athletics or sports in general. Everyone”s not always going to be satisfied in the things that maybe they want and they see. I think the thing that holds me together about any of those things is the fact that you always want to be true to yourself and you always want to try to do what you feel is right. It”s not always going to be right, but you”re always going to try to do what is right.
TMD: Does it bother you at all that before Bill Martin went to you, he actively pursued Rick Pitino?
Amaker: (laughing) If I were an athletic director at a university that was trying to fill a basketball coaching position and Rick Pitino was available, he”d be my first choice. I”m flattered that I had a chance to come here to be a representative of our school.
That”s Rick Pitino. He”s one of the best that”s ever walked the sidelines and I”m sure that if I had a program and I was trying to make a hire, Tommy Amaker would ask Rick Pitino also.
TMD: The last four years have not exactly been a time that a lot of Michigan students would like to identify with the history of the basketball program. How do you feel about the negative air that this program has right now and the negative response to Ellerbe, who still is a member of the coaching fraternity?
Amaker: Brian is part of the coaching fraternity and Brian is a friend of mine and I think given some of the circumstances that Brian had to deal with, or the time that he was named the head coach here, he did the best he could do, and probably the best that anyone could do. Sometimes those things are very unfortunate that they end the way that it ended.
Nonetheless, we”re here to try to make it better and do the best that we can with it and I think it”s a good opportunity for kids that want to come here and be part of a good school and a great program. It”s never easy for a coach to go through some of the things that Brian had to deal with.
TMD: Did you ever have to deal with any of those things?
Amaker: Not to that degree. Not to the way in which Brian lost his job. That”s a pretty steep situation there. As a coach, we”re all in this profession together and you never want to see anyone go through that because we all know that we”re not that far removed from being in those shoes that Brian had to walk in.
TMD: You”ve really been all smiles since you got here. Can we expect that in February?
Amaker: Depending on our record. One of the best compliments that a person ever gave me and I don”t even know her name and I”ve never seen her before but an elderly woman stopped me on campus and said to me, “I never know if you”ve won or if you”ve lost.”
That was the nicest thing anyone”s said to me in terms of me being me since I”ve been a head coach.
TMD: What do you want from the students?
Amaker: I think the students are going to be here for us. That”s what we”re striving for their presence. Anyone can be supportive. You can be supportive by writing a check and sending it in the mail.
But there”s nothing like the support of your presence and so if we”re going to have the presence of the students here and have that felt, then I”m going to be grateful and very happy.