Hard as it is to believe, there was a time when Michigan basketball was a regular in the NCAA Tournament. Nine years without dancing has a way of destroying those memories, though.
But if there’s anybody who knows what it will take for the Wolverines to climb back to national prominence, it’s former Fab Five star Jimmy King.
King, who will be a studio analyst and call games for the Big Ten Network this season, talked to The Michigan Daily at Big Ten Media Day about a variety of issues, including the new coach’s regime and the Fab Five’s legacy.
On his initial impression of John Beilein:
I think, overall, from a Big Ten standpoint, you need your bigger teams like Michigan to be successful in order to broaden the scope of the league. And I think that with the talent base that’s around the Michigan area, you need a guy that can come in there and harness that talent and bring it in. Beilein has won everywhere he’s been. He’s taken teams that you didn’t think could get to a tournament and gotten there. And I don’t think it should be any different at Michigan. I think the philosophy and the mindset of the players has to adjust to what he wants to do. I think, over time, that will happen.
On who will emerge as Michigan’s go-to player this season:
The Princeton system is based around total team play. You want to have your core guys that are going to score for you, but I think what John is going to emphasize is team basketball. They can’t guard five guys, but it’s easier to guard one. They’ve got to go in saying, ‘We’re going to have constant ball movement, player and ball movement, and work together as team, we can be successful.’ And I think, out of that, you’re going to develop one or two guys that can come out of that system as they progress through the season. I don’t even think John has an idea yet because it’s a new program and a new system. But I do think someone will step up out of that.
On how to improve support of the team amongst students:
You have to win. You have to give a product that the campus, the alumni, the university can be proud of and support. It’s not like they don’t want to support the team.
At the beginning of every year, you see the enthusiasm, but it falls off as the losses come. You have to give the fans a sense of hope, even if you go .500 or a little bit above .500; you’re giving them hope. Below .500, it’s like, ‘Oh well, it’s just another season.’ That’s the key to getting the fan base back.
On Jalen Rose’s billboard, commemorating the legacy of the Fab Five:
I didn’t know about the sign, but initially, you would say there’s a lot of pride about what happened. Because even though you took the banners down, took the rings away, the guys still had to play the games. It was a special time for Michigan basketball. It was a special time for Big Ten basketball because of what we brought to the table. And the sad part is that when you have a connotation of wrongdoing, it hurts everybody. And I think probably what Jalen was trying to do more than anything was invigorate and bring back the pride to Michigan basketball from what they brought to the table when they were young.
On if he thinks the entire Fab Five will ever feel welcomed back on campus:
I think time heals a lot of wounds. I think what has to happen is an admonishment of the fact that there was some wrongdoing. Admit to it and move on. I think Chris (Webber) was the last one to admit to it at the end, and it left a sour feeling. Alumni look at it as a black eye, but hopefully one day it will get to the point where that whole team gets together, goes back into Crisler, and people will accept what they tried to do during their time. I don’t think it’s going to happen in the near future, but it’ll happen eventually.