After Tommy Amaker was announced yesterday as the next coach of the Michigan men”s basketball team, junior forward Chris Young quipped, “If he wasn”t going to be a coach, he could probably be a politician.”
Amaker certainly had all of the right answers for the media.
When asked if Michigan would be used as a stepping stone toward a job at Duke when legendary coach and Amaker”s mentor Mike Krzyzewski retires, the new coach rebuffed the suggestion.
“I don”t think you ever look at Michigan as a stepping stone to anything,” Amaker said. “I”m here, and I”m hoping I can stay here as long as Bill Martin and the rest of the administration wants me to stay.”
When asked if he minded that he would be playing second fiddle to Lloyd Carr and the football team, Amaker expounded about the example that Michigan football set for college programs everywhere.
“It”s more than just winning, it”s how they win,” the new coach said. “There is no better example for our basketball team than our football team.”
Just as Rick Pitino”s wife”s wishes to return to Kentucky may have been the deciding factor in his signing with Louisville, Amaker”s wife, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, may be the biggest reason he is in Ann Arbor.
“I really don”t make the decisions. (If you want to know) the reason I”m here, you should probably be asking her all of the questions,” Amaker said. “She made the call.”
Amaker left Seton Hall under difficult circumstances. The announcement came suddenly and caught many of his former players off-guard. The Pirates held a team meeting with their former coach yesterday to say goodbye. More than a few tears were shed.
“It”s unfortunate. I think we all recognize it is part of the landscape (of college basketball),” Amaker said. “I tried to get up and get a haircut before I got on the plane this morning, and I was told by my barber, “Well Coach, the fact is that maybe people are upset and disappointed, but it beats the heck out of people throwing a party that you are leaving.”
“So that”s one good way of looking at it.”
During Amaker”s introductory speech yesterday, the team stood behind their new coach, smiling with approval. Amaker met with the team for the first time for about an hour before the press conference, taking the time to get to know one another.
“We are familiar with him,” junior Leon Jones said. “He recruited Shane (Battier) when he was on my team for AAU, so I know him a little from that.
“He”s a good guy, and he was just talking to everybody, getting to know each other, and letting us know what he was going to expect from us and what was going to change around here.”
Besides the throng of media and players in attendance for the press conference, a few Maize Ragers were on hand to, as one put it, “personally thank Tommy Amaker for coming here.”
“You put (the students) on the floor, bring us Tommy Amaker, I”ll get excited,” LSA sophomore Brian Groesser said.
Amaker comes to Michigan after spending four years as Seton Hall”s head coach. In that time, the Pirates were 68-55 with four postseason berths, including a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 a year ago.
Amaker also served as an assistant at his alma mater Duke for eight seasons, during which the Blue Devils reached five Final Fours and won back-to-back national championships.
As a player, Amaker served as Duke”s team captain in 1986-87, earning All-America and National Defensive Player of the Year honors.