Even the Fab Five couldn’t do it.

Nor could any of the other Michigan men’s basketball teams of the past 24 years — it’s that elusive.

The last Michigan squad to win a Big Ten title was the 1985-86 team, which had also won the championship the year before.

“(Winning a conference title) is a hell of an accomplishment,” then-head coach Bill Frieder said on Saturday at a reception for the 1984-85 team held before the Michigan-Wisconsin game.

Frieder was back in town for the reunion, and with him came a handful of players, including one of the most prolific guards in Michigan history, Gary Grant. The 1984-85 team owns the program’s all-time highest winning percentage with a 26-4 final record.

Grant, who was a freshman on the 1984-85 team that had just won an NIT championship the previous year, didn’t remember being too nervous playing as a freshman.

“I knew they had a great team and (needed) a couple more pieces,” Grant said Saturday. “We had an opportunity to go far, possibly win the Big Ten title and go deep in the NCAA tournament.”

Grant recalled one of the main reasons he chose to come to Michigan: a chance to play with Antoine Joubert, nicknamed The Judge.

“My nickname was The General,” Grant said. “The Judge and The General — it made sense to me.”

It worked on the court, too. At Saturday’s reception, Frieder called Grant the “glue” that held the team together, and the way Grant flowed from former teammate to teammate at the reunion lunch, it seemed that he still fits that role these days.

Grant says he watches Michigan games whenever he can, and that he engages in some friendly banter with his friends who went to UCLA. Grant even addressed the current Wolverines after they lost to Wisconsin on Saturday, saving a few key pieces of advice for another freshman point guard, Darius Morris.

He said the biggest thing he notices is that this year’s players need to keep their heads up even if they’re losing. “Once they do that, they’ll be back on track,” Grant said.

Other former Wolverines enjoyed being back in Ann Arbor for Saturday’s game, too.

“These times (at Michigan) were probably the most special times of my career,” said Joubert, who played in Venezuela, Argentina, the Philippines, France, Belgium and Poland after his days in Ann Arbor. “I tell my kids, ‘College, that’s memories and friends that you’ll have for life.’ A lot of good memories here.”

Joubert said the Big Ten championships were his fondest memories, and they keep him connected with his teammates even now, more than two decades later.

“That’s your goal, as a team, to win these championships,” he said.

The man who led them to the back-to-back conference championships and also assembled the 1989 NCAA Championship squad, Frieder, is now retired from coaching. But he was thrilled to catch up with his former players and recount the years before he left Michigan for Arizona State. He now runs an annual skateboarding competition, broadcasts games and runs basketball camps.

But he doesn’t miss coaching.

“No, no,” Frieder said. “I got out 13 years ago and had done it for 32 years. That’s a long grind. When I got out, the first month I had so much fun not doing it. Spent time watching my daughter grow up and spent time with my family, do what I want to do, and I knew I would never go back into coaching.”

Frieder feels the role of a college head coach has changed, and it’s not something that appeals to him much anymore.

“You know, when I started coaching at Michigan as an assistant it was 90 percent coaching and 10 percent everything else. Now it’s 10 percent coaching and 90 percent everything else with the NCAA and the recruiting and all the riff-raff, second, third and fourth parties that you’ve got to deal with in recruiting and all the problems today, it’s so much different.”

The one thing that remains the same, though, is how glamorous a Big Ten Championship is. Frieder’s two helped put the Michigan basketball program back on the map. The players from the 1984-85 team would love to see the Wolverines win another, and get back to the prominence they knew so well.

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