Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said this weekend he plans to make a decision very soon about Brian Ellerbe”s status as basketball coach.

Paul Wong
Michigan”s season-ending loss to Penn State last week may have been Brian Ellerbe”s last with the Wolverines. Athletic Director Bill Martin could fire Ellerbe as early as this week.<br><br>DAVID KATZ/Daily

Martin met with assistant coaches and players on Saturday to help evaluate the state of the program and planned to meet with Ellerbe “as soon as possible” before a final statement is made.

“When that (evaluation) process gets completed, then I”ll make the decision,” Martin told The Michigan Daily. “I don”t know if it”s going to take two days, three days, one day. I want to do it.

“It”s in the best interest of the whole program and for Michigan to get it completed.”

University President Lee Bollinger said although he plans to talk to Martin about the situation, the final decision belongs in the hands of the athletic director.

“I have said from the beginning that the president should not be involved in the hiring or firing of coaches other than to set a general framework and standards (of how the department should be run),” Bollinger said yesterday. “I am kept informed but I do not think it”s appropriate for the president to be involved in athletic decisions about coaching.”

In his fourth year coaching the Wolverines, Ellerbe led Michigan to its worst finish (10-18) since the 1980-81 season. Three of the worst losses in the program”s history have came under Ellerbe”s reign, along with several off-the-court problems.

But Ellerbe reaffirmed after his team ended this season last week with an 82-80 loss in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament that he still has three years remaining on his contract and that he plans on continuing his recruiting trips as usual.

Ellerbe still holds a 62-60 career mark, but Michigan”s minimal improvement on the floor this past few seasons, combined with escalating off-the-court problems, have created much speculation over his removal.

Ellerbe would receive a $450,000 buyout if released.

Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson said in his 17 years at the University, he”s never felt the pressure by any athletic director to win. He feels that it is the “unwritten” rules of coaching at Michigan, which are most important and are the criteria by which programs are judged.

“I think that if you look at every program in the Athletic Department, you”ll see that they all try and do what the unwritten expectations are for Michigan coaches and try to get good kids,” said Berenson. “And obviously kids that are going to represent the University well on and off the ice, floor, on the field as well as off the field.”

Berenson said the “sincere family feeling” surrounding the rest of the coaching fraternity wants to see Ellerbe do well.

“I don”t think anyone in the coaching fraternity is pointing the finger at Brian Ellerbe,” Berenson said. “Not at Michigan.”

Last season, guard Jamal Crawford had several problems dealing with NCAA amateurism rules before sitting out the rest of the season and subsequently entering the NBA draft. Then, fellow freshman Kevin Gaines was dismissed from the team in September following charges of drunken driving.

Critics” feelings that Ellerbe has lost control of his team were supported once again last month when freshmen Bernard Robinson and Avery Queen showed up late for practice prior to a game with Indiana, while Maurice Searight failed to make it at all. Searight was subsequently suspended and didn”t play the rest of the season, while Robinson and Queen didn”t start in Michigan”s next game.

Just six days later, the three freshmen violated team rules once again by skipping curfew from a hotel and didn”t return until early the next morning.

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