Since the Michigan basketball team began its regular season, everything that could have possibly gone wrong, has gone wrong – and then some.

Paul Wong

Not only are these Wolverines off to the worst start in Michigan basketball history, but their players seem to be dropping like flies.

Michigan’s horrendous start has left many people wondering if these first five blunders are a preview for the remaining games on the Wolverines’ schedule. The start, along with the postseason ban, has left many people saying that this basketball season is a wash.

But this is not the case. Letting this season go to waste would be detrimental for coach Tommy Amaker and his future at Michigan. There is still a purpose for this season, and Amaker needs to realize this and act immediately.

There are two reasons why Amaker needs to get this team on track:

1) Michigan’s second-year coach needs to prove that he can coach on the floor. Amaker has done everything well since coming to Michigan except making good decisions on the court and coming up with wins.

Last year, most people, including myself, were willing to cut him some slack. In his first season, he had no recruits of his own to put on the floor, and the players had to get acclimated to his system. So, when the Wolverines finished with just one more win than they had the previous year, everyone focused on the 2002-03 season as the one in which Michigan would start showing some significant improvement.

But this hasn’t happened, and if Amaker wants to silence his critics, he must turn the Wolverines around now. Postseason or no postseason, a lack of motivation is no excuse for losing these nonconference games – especially the past two against Western Michigan and Central Michigan. These are games the Wolverines should be winning no matter what.

2) If Amaker wants to be successful here in the next few seasons, he cannot allow the “losing culture” of the program, which he spoke of after Michigan’s loss to Virginia Tech at the Paradise Jam, to affect his freshmen players.

Amaker said that because of the program’s past few unsuccessful campaigns, and the off-court problems that have plagued it recently, the program has a losing mindset right now. He also said the Wolverines will have to break out of this mindset if they want to start winning.

But while some of Michigan’s older players might be stuck in this unfortunate tornado, the freshmen are just getting exposed to it.

They didn’t come in with a losing culture; in fact, they came in with exactly the opposite. A perfect example is Lester Abram, who came to Michigan with two high school state championships at Pontiac Northern under his belt.

These kids came in with pride and a drive to win. Amaker must find a way to put a stop to this landslide and salvage this season, or his first recruiting class might get sucked into the tornado, and it will be too late to change those players back. Most people would argue that trying to motivate someone to accomplish a goal with no tangible reward is very difficult. This is exactly the dilemma the Michigan basketball team is faced with right now, and it seems lifeless.

But there are other reasons to want to win. Things such as pride and winning for the sake of being the best are also important. If the Wolverines don’t realize this, it is Amaker’s responsibility to impress the notion upon them.

Although the postseason is no longer a reality, this season is an opportunity for Amaker to prove that he can be an effective coach, and that Michigan can be winners.

He must use this season to eradicate the “losing culture” and start laying a proper foundation for this program – a foundation based on a winning tradition.

These should be this season’s purposes. They may not lead to a tournament this year, but Amaker is focused on the future anyway. At least they give this season meaning.

And letting this year go by without accomplishing something would be a huge mistake.

Naweed Sikora can be reached at nsikora@umich.edu.

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