There was an easiness and familiarity in Crisler Arena yesterday one that has not been present there for some time. Gone are the looming questions about firing coaches, off-court mischief and on-court failure. Instead, yesterday”s Michigan basketball media day was a chance for a fresh start for a team with recent difficulties, and a clean slate for the relationship between the local media and the Wolverines” new head coach, Tommy Amaker.
“I”m not privy to all of the things that may or may not have transpired,” Amaker said. “I”ve talked to our kids from day one we start now. It”s a good time to start fresh, to start (with) a clean slate.”
Amaker spent a little less than an hour fielding questions from reporters, ranging from his prognosis of Big Ten powers to the welcome he has received in Ann Arbor. The new coach was calm and confident, but was hesitant to make too many broad predictions on the potential success of his team. He talked instead of his excitement at beginning anew, and the anticipation of the fast-approaching season.
“Certainly we”re very excited about the prospects of our basketball team finally hitting the floor,” Amaker said. “We feel very good about the progress of our program, and we”re looking forward to putting the next phase in, which is to start officially (practicing), which will start for us (tonight).”
Amaker went on to discuss problems facing his team. The lack of depth in the Wolverines” frontcourt was a reccurring question yesterday, and will likely remain so all season. Amaker was not clear as to how that challenge would be resolved.
“We”ve tried to identify some strengths and some weaknesses of our team,” Amaker said. “Right now we are not as deep up front we have a ways to go with our frontline. We need to make sure that Josh Moore and Chris Young are healthy, which right now, they aren”t completely 100 percent. They need to be healthy and we need to keep them out of foul trouble, and I think that”s going to be one of the keys for us how our frontline can stay healthy, and stay on the floor.”
When asked whether sophomore Bernard Robinson might support his teammates by playing up front during the season, Amaker was careful not to say what would necessarily be his offensive plan of attack. He stressed the importance of Robinson”s health (the guard contracted mono this past summer), and said that the offense would start with sound defense.
“I think this ball club will be a team where we”re going to try to start on the other end of the floor with our defense,” Amaker said. “We”re going to try to be a halfcourt, man-to-man defensive team. If we can strive to have that identity, I think our offense will flow.
“I think our margin for error is going to be very small.”
Amaker and his players were happy to talk about not only on-court strategy, but their enjoyment of this “new leaf” in the program. Senior Chris Young, who will experience the change for his final year, was excited for and supportive of the change.
“There is such a renewed enthusiasm for everything that we do,” Young said. “I definitely think there”s a renewed interest among the students.
“The change was definitely needed we weren”t having any type of success (in previous years). And now, with coach Amaker, we”re going to have tremendous success.”