March 30, 2001

Paul Wong
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker has a lot of expectations surrounding him. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/ Daily)
Paul Wong
Former Michigan basketball coach Brian Ellerbe was fired March 13, 2001. (FILE PHOTO)

When Athletic Director Bill Martin announced the hiring of Tommy Amaker on Mar. 29, 2001, he committed Michigan to a tradition, a Duke tradition.

For the first time since the hiring of Bo Schembechler in 1969, the Wolverines have gone outside the program to hire a head coach. This was a calculated move by the Athletic Department.

“The decision was that we were going to go out (of the program) from day one,” Martin said. In order to find a new head coach, Michigan went to one of the most successful programs of the past 15 years, the Blue Devils.

Amaker is proud of his label as a “Krzyzewski guy,” and embraces it openly. “I’m very proud to have been a player for him. I’m very proud to have been an assistant for him,” Amaker said. “If anyone said (I was a Krzyzewski protege) it would be the highest compliment I could receive.”


Amaker has spent 13 years under Krzyzewski’s guidance. He played on Duke’s national runner-up team in 1986 and was an assistant on the Blue Devils’ back-to-back national championship teams in 1991 and 1992. But he wants to make a name for himself beyond the Duke label.

Krzyzewski “always told me to be yourself,” Amaker said. “We will do things that will be similar in the way that we run our program. But I think he would be disappointed in me if I didn’t say this now or if I didn’t carry myself in this way that I’m going to be Tommy Amaker.”

Despite having the highest respect for Krzyzewski and the Duke program, Amaker made it clear that he is not using the Michigan job as leverage to be Krzyzewski’s replacement.

“I don’t think you look at Michigan as being a stepping stone to anything,” Amaker said.

When Martin assembled the screening committee for the conference call, its goal was clear. “It’s our dream at Michigan to mirror what Duke has done and I think Tommy Amaker is our best chance to do that,” said Tim McCormick who sat of the search committee and is an ESPN analyst.

Amaker did not see the same success that he saw at Duke in his four-year stint at Seton Hall, but the Pirates had a taste with a Sweet 16 appearance to go with three NIT berths. A strong factor in the decision was the fact that Amaker has seen success at the highest level of basketball and of life.

“His pedigree at Duke is about winning, character, academics, and that’s exactly what we want at Michigan,” McCormick said.

Speculation continues to swirl that Amaker will bring in other former Duke players as assistants, but Amaker said he has not made a decision on the fate of the current coaching staff. While coach at Seton Hall, former Duke players often would come and play the Pirates. Amaker said he would try and form that relationship at Michigan with former Wolverines.

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