Just a few weeks ago, Seton Hall fired coach Louis Orr, who replaced Tommy Amaker when he left for Michigan.
In the five years since Amaker changed schools, the two coaches produced very similar records.
But another statistic reveals a clear – and important – contrast.
Amaker has yet to take Michigan to an NCAA Tournament, even though he just saw his first recruiting class graduate. Orr’s teams have danced two of the past three years.
It’s nice to know that a 9,700 student, private Catholic university in New Jersey expects more out of its basketball program than a 39,000 student public school like Michigan.
But let’s just say you, like Bill Martin, can look past Amaker’s poor coaching (see the Indiana game), poor teaching (see Courtney Sims) and poor recruiting (see the past two years). You’ll be left with the one thing Amaker (purportedly) does well: presenting a clean face for the program.
But is Amaker really the patron saint of basketball people typically make him out to be?
Take a look at Amaker’s team – or as I like to call it, P.T. Amaker’s circus – before a game.
You might notice a number of different things, including, but not limited to:
His players wearing differently styled warm-ups.
Some of the most disorganized lay-up lines around.
Brent Petway, who will be a captain next year, stretching apart from the rest of the team.
These things may not seem important. But when you think of the troubles Amaker-coached teams have had down the stretch (of a game, of a season, etc.), it makes sense to believe that a little extra discipline could go a long way. I definitely can’t imagine something like this happening on Bobby Knight’s watch.
Let’s move to the big things, starting with academics.
Whereas Orr took a proactive approach – he once suspended a player seven games for academic reasons – Amaker has played the waiting game. Petway missed the first half of the season after being ruled academically ineligible. Amaker needs to make sure things like this don’t happen.
Look at the NIT Championship game in Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines embarrassed themselves at least twice. On national TV, no less. Amaker raved like a lunatic after a goaltending no-call. Petway committed a hard intentional foul, one that many coaches would have justified as a reason to bench the junior for the rest of the game. But Amaker sat Petway for just a few minutes.
Go back to last year. It was absolutely absurd that Amaker, who starred in a SAPAC ad, wavered on whether or not to suspend Daniel Horton, who had just plead guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.
And this begs an even more interesting question:
Why did anyone believe Amaker was really the answer to Michigan’s basketball woes in the first place?
Take the case of Eddie Griffin.
From the start, Amaker sacrificed principle for the chance to land the top recruit in the nation.
It was pretty apparent that if Griffin didn’t go pro right after high school, he wasn’t going to be spending too much time in South Orange (the home of Seton Hall).
Still, Amaker took him.
Just a few weeks before graduation, Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia kicked Griffin out after he fought with a teammate in the cafeteria.
Still, Amaker took him.
Then, after a game midway through his freshman season at Seton Hall, Griffin hit teammate Ty Shine in the face, resulting in three stitches under Shine’s right eye.
Amaker handed down a hefty punishment:
A one-game suspension.
Shine nearly quit. Fans complained. Columnists criticized.
Griffin punches a teammate in the face, and Amaker suspends him for one game?
Doesn’t exactly sound like a guy who wants to build a great face for his program.
So with a clean-cut image out the window, one would assume Amaker lowered his standards in return for a few wins.
But, as is the trademark for an Amaker-coached team, the Pirates’ season fell apart in impressive fashion.
Ranked in the top 10 by every major magazine to start the season, things quickly went downhill. The Pirates finished a 16-14 season with a loss in the NIT.
And there you have it. In the end, Seton Hall had no results, no principles and a team in shambles.
What was the response?
Amaker left for Michigan. Griffin left for the NBA. And Seton Hall players, alumni and fans left their nice-guy perceptions of Amaker behind them.
“We didn’t think that he’d back out on us like this,” Seton Hall’s Marcus Toney-El told the Newark Star-Ledger. “There’s a bit of betrayal.”
And now, once again faced with a lack of results, Michigan’s coach has resorted back to the old Amaker gambit. This time, he’s ready to sign certifiable head-case Alex Legion, who also happens to be ranked as the 15th-best player in the nation.
Some people, Bill Martin included, just never learn.
– Jack Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.