Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe is feeling pressure from every direction pressure from the fans, media and Athletic Director Bill Martin, who all have made public demands for improvement in the basketball program.
But Ellerbe”s style is to remain unflustered and undistracted, even in the face of adversity.
“For me, I don”t think it”s been any different, in a lot of respects, than the day I walked in the door,” Ellerbe said. “It”s interesting to me how many things are blown out of proportion. But that”s part of it the only way to alleviate it is to play well.”
There have been very few days for Ellerbe to relax with the sanctity of a secure job. But many of his players have noticed that the roadslicks in Michigan”s past three seasons haven”t changed the coach”s attitude towards handling wins, losses or people.
“He gets a little high when we win, a little low when we lose, but pretty much he”s on an even keel,” Michigan junior Chris Young said.
Junior Leon Jones added: “I think we”ve experienced some hardships as a team since he”s been here, with some people leaving early and stuff like that, but I think he”s pretty much been stable.”
This year, Michigan has fallen to a disappointing 3-6 Big Ten record (9-11 overall) and suffered numerous embarrassing losses along the way. But throughout the trials, Ellerbe has said that his young players have been unfairly forced into lead roles. Expectations for the team may have been overblown.
“I don”t have any problem with confidence in my team I”m realistic,” Ellerbe said.
He maintains that if former Michigan players Jamal Crawford and Kevin Gaines were still in uniform, freshmen Avery Queen, Maurice Searight and Bernard Robinson would be learning as bench players rather than struggling as starters.
Ellerbe has also said that an NIT berth would be a good experience for the youthful team.
Another issue Ellerbe has faced is that his team has had trouble coming together and at times has even admitted to quitting.
Michigan sophomore Gavin Groninger said that Ellerbe has attempted to bring the team together, but ultimately, the players have to make things cohesive on the court.
“Most of the struggle this year has been getting us to try to come together. (Ellerbe) has tried everything in his power to get us to come together, but it”s on us,” Groninger said. “We”ve had guys over for team dinners at our house, but it”s tough to force people to come together, it just has to happen on our own.”
Ellerbe”s team is not faulting him for any team solidarity problems. But if Ellerbe is to be saved, it”s not likely he will be able to simply harness his callow talent in a build-toward-next-year plan.
“He tries to be positive and tries to say that we”re getting better,” Jones said. “We need to get better this year and make a run. We”re not looking forward to next year.”