As the dismissal of Michigan basketball coach Brian Ellerbe became public knowledge yesterday following media reports and Athletic Director Bill Martin”s official press conference, players, coaches and people close to the situation reacted.
Throughout the season, nearly all the players rallied to the support of their coach, and yesterday”s responses conveyed the same attitude.
“I think everybody feels the same way,” sophomore Gavin Groninger said. “Mr. Martin feels like this is best for the University, and we support that, but we also support coach Ellerbe.
“He”s going to move on and coach somewhere else. He”s got a lot of time to be a coach.”
Freshman Bernard Robinson did exhibit some displeasure that the decision to fire Ellerbe was made so quickly after Martin met with the coach and some of the players. These meetings were completed on Sunday.
“It wasn”t that much of a surpise,” freshman Bernard Robinson said. “But it was a surprise how fast they evaluated the situation. I thought they would at least consider things longer.”
The players met with Ellerbe at approximately 3 p.m. yesterday to bid farewell. The assistant coaches were also at the meeting. Ellerbe wished the players the best of luck, told them to mind their studies and advised them to stay at Michigan and complete their degrees.
“You can never take something like that with a smile on your face,” Michigan freshman Josh Moore said.
After meeting with Ellerbe, the players stuck around to discuss how they would handle the transition period as a group. With players like Moore and Robinson publicly questioning whether or not they would remain at Michigan after Ellerbe was fired, the team set groundrules for handling such decisions.
“We talked about staying together as a group,” Robinson said. “We said that whatever we decide to do, to let the team know first. No surprises.”
Robinson said that the team did not confer about possible coaching replacements.
The next few weeks may be an awkward time for the players, with no head coach to guide the beginning of their work towards next season.
Besides lifting weights and practicing on their own, Martin will likely call upon a number of players to join a committee that will help decide Michigan”s next head coach.
In addition to the players, many of the coaches from other Big Ten school had come to the support of Ellerbe in recent weeks, including Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Penn State coach Jerry Dunn and Indiana interim coach Mike Davis.
Davis and Dunn were preparing for first round NCAA Tournament contests and couldn”t be reached for comment, but Izzo again expressed sympathy for his former instate rival.
“I feel bad for Brian and his family. I think some of the treatment he received was unfair,” Izzo said. “I also thought he was put in a tough situation.
“He proved early he could coach. He”s been dealt a difficult hand here recently and has tried to make the best of a difficult situation.”