Last season ended on a faint note for the Michigan basketball team, and much like the program it housed, Crisler Arena also looked dim.
But seven months later, the Wolverines’ future is much brighter, and so is their court.
Newly installed $800,000 lights will do that to an arena.
The lights are a very early indication that new Michigan coach John Beilein has made some inroads in the Athletic Department before a single shot has been taken (well, during a game).
And after talking to and watching Beilein during Big Ten Media Day in Chicago Sunday, one word summed up my and my colleagues’ feelings toward Michigan’s new coach: “impressed.”
But during our trip back to Ann Arbor, in the midst of a discussion about how good Beilein will be for the program, one of the writers made a sobering observation.
Six years ago, four Daily writers were coming back from Chicago and probably saying the exact same thing about Tommy Amaker.
Wolverine Nation likes nothing more than a new coach.
A new coach is beloved because he’s unblemished; there’s no image of him walking off the court after a bad loss or of him explaining away another tournament-less season. Almost every time a new coach is hired, he enters with a king’s welcome.
Unfortunately, that crown can weigh too much on the coach and his program. Amaker had a difficult time handling the pressure. Beilein appears better equipped.
But before you get too excited about the season, and tonight’s exhibition versus Ferris State at Crisler Arena, remember: This season will feature a lot of growing pains.
Any postseason action, be it the Big Dance or the National Invitational Tournament, should be considered a bonus, not an expectation.
Things will likely get worse before they get better.
“We are a very young team that will struggle against a tough schedule, and we’ll struggle against anybody right now,” Beilein said after practice Wednesday. “We are who we are right now, so I think what the people have to do is just sit back and watch the process and see it develop.”
Beilein’s right. This probably won’t be the year the Wolverines return to Big Ten prominence. When asked what pleasant surprises he’s had, Beilein smirked and cited two things: The Wolverines may have more outside shooters than people think, and they look like they’ll be a good foul-shooting team.
“That’s about it,” Beilein said.
But watching players like Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims and Ekpe Udoh develop into quality players will make the trek to Crisler Arena more tolerable in the winter.
So while the results may not be pretty, the play, at times, will be.
Regardless of his record this year, Michigan fans have reason to believe in Beilein. He’s left every program he’s been to in better condition than before he arrived. The new lights are a concrete example of the bright future that lays ahead.
Just don’t look for immediate results.