If there’s one man who knows about some of the pain and suffering that Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker is going through, it is the man who sat 10 rows up in the north section of Crisler Arena during Michigan’s 85-78 loss to Central Michigan Tuesday night.

That man is legendary Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson, who was able to attend the game as his Tuesday night radio session was canceled for the week.

Though the game was hard for any Michigan fan to watch, Berenson had seen his program go through the same struggles on the ice when he took over a Michigan team in 1984 that had developed its own “losing culture.” Berenson had to endure three seasons before he saw his team finish higher than .500. Now he has eight Frozen Four berths and two national titles under his belt.

“I think Tommy Amaker will do a good job, I really do,” Berenson said. “I think he’ll bring in the right kind of people, and he’ll teach them how to play the right kind of basketball. But it’s just like when I came to Michigan.

“I thought all that we needed was a coach and it wasn’t just a coach, it was a whole program and a philosophy and an attitude and a work ethic and a commitment. Really there’s a lot of things that have to happen, because (opponents aren’t) standing around just waiting for you to get better.”

Berenson can relate to Amaker as a coach, given that both of their sports are very high-paced – one possession can lead to success or downfall.

“I think they’re going to get better, I mean, they could have won (the Central Michigan) game,” Berenson said. “When the momentum goes for you it can be great, and when it goes against you it can be devastating.

“When you think about it, these are still young kids, just like the kids on my team – these are not 28- to 38-year-old pros. But basketball’s not unlike hockey either. Turnovers or missed opportunities are something you lament when you lose.”

But even now, Berenson and his eighth-ranked Wolverines still face challenges and endure failure. They will be trying to make amends for last year’s 1-3 start in the CCHA – two of the losses coming at the hands of Northern Michigan – when they travel to Marquette to play the Wildcats tonight and tomorrow night.

“So here were are, we’re a pretty successful program and every game still comes down to a fine line – and we expect to win,” Berenson said. “We have the confidence of winning, we have the tradition of winning and it’s still a dog fight.

“But it doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen in one year. I remember walking in our lockerroom when I knew that this team was the team that was going to turn the corner, and that wasn’t until my fourth year.”

And although Berenson never had to endure the fallout from a previous regime’s scandal, he did receive his fair share of criticism for his three straight losing seasons.

“The one thing that (former Athletic Director) Don Canham told me, he said, ‘Don’t worry about what they write, we know you’re going to get the job done,'” Berenson said. “So the media has to be patient too, but when there’s blood on the streets, people like to write about it.”

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