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Little K

With the Michigan game looming this Saturday, David Wharton from the LA Times, the same guy who wrote a loopy article earlier this year calling Dorrell a "Thinker," has written up a profile of embattled Michigan coach Tommy Amaker. I pretty much started snickering after reading this line:

Amaker arrived in March 2001 as an antidote -- smart and articulate, a good-looking man with a broad smile. He also bore the impressive pedigree of having played and coached for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
Oooh, the impressive pedigree of having played for Coach, most of whose prized players have turned out to be majors busts in the NBA. David then goes on to write about how Michigan fans are being hard on Coach K's little baby. Get this, Wolverines fans are demanding Little K to ... wait ... wait ... wait for it ... they are demanding him to make it to the NCAA tourney!
Some fans and local media have gone a step further, claiming Amaker must reach the NCAA tournament.

They praise his demeanor and recruiting, but insist he has not fully developed the talent at hand. As one Detroit columnist wrote: "Make the NCAA tournament or lose your job!"
Oh my gosh!! How dare they? Such horrible unreasonable fans demanding a coach from an institution with the tradition and prestige of Michigan to make the tournament.

No worries, though. Little K is on top of it. Wharton reports:
Players say their coach has pushed them harder than ever this season, threatening longer practices and extra running for defensive lapses on court.

Amaker laughs. "I've got to talk to them about repeating what I say," he says.
Uh, yes. What a disciplinarian!

I won't subject you to the rest of the article when Wharton once again swoons all over yet another underachieving head coach.

If you want to read what knowledgeable die hard Wolverines think about Amaker, you need to read this post from Joey over at Schembechler Hall. He wrote this last November, which is likely applicable today:
I mean, what's not to like? He buys the students tickets; he invites the Maize Rage to practice; he went to Duke(!); he sends nice letters to high school coaches; he gets the crowd moved closer to the floor; he won the NIT; and he went to Duke(!). Notice anything(s) conspicuously absent? Like, oh, I don't know, praise for his teaching? Or praise for his strategic wizardry? How about praise for his dedication to fundamentals? Praise for how well prepared his teams are? Yeah, I didn't see those either. And that's because they don't exist. All I ever read about Tommy Amaker is how nice he is, how he knows how to win because of his pedigree, and how hard he is working to bring back Michigan basketball. Well, guess what? That's all great stuff, and Amaker is the basketball coach I'd most want if I were organizing that one event Steve Martin used to talk about, the one with all the kids around the world holding hands and singing. Bob Knight would not be right for that. But if I had to win a basketball game, I'd call Knight hours before I called Amaker.

Now, before I keep going, I know what you're thinking: Here we go again. Joey hates on a Michigan coach. Well, this is not the same thing. I think that many of Michigan's football problems are Lloyd Carr problems, but I am open to the possibility that I am somewhat unfair in my evaluation of Carr. But not with Amaker. No no. Winning basketball and losing basketball are discernibly different, and Michigan is not taught and does not play winning basketball. And that's c-o-a-c-h-i-n-g.

Look, we all know the Tommy Amaker story: A promising Duke assistant and potential Coach K successor got put on at Seton Hall in 1997. He stayed there until 2001, making the tournament four times. In 2001, the rising star left to rebuild a Michigan program that had fallen into infamy and disarray. He will surely be a success because, well, he went to Duke and he's really nice. What people like to leave out is that Amaker left Seton Hall following a season during which his Seton Hall team--a preseason top-ten outfit featuring the best freshmen group in the country--came within one Rutgers loss of missing the Big East tournament. That team closed the year on a 4-11 tear.

These same people also like to point to Amaker's increasing win totals (11-18; 17-13; 23-11; 13-18*) while ignoring that Michigan is usually an inefficient, disorganized mess on offense that often fails to adequately box out, rotate on defense, move the ball, and penetrate. And let's not even talk about offensive production in crunch time, situations that require excellent preparation and clear understanding of basketball strategy.

There is, of course, a chance that Tommy Amaker knows what he's doing. As mentioned above, he finally has a healthy roster wholly populated by his players. And perhaps his increasing win totals are indicative that his players are learning. However, I remain a resolute skeptic. Show me an Amaker player who has become appreciably better during his time in Ann Arbor; show me an Amaker post player in possession of an actual low-post skill set; show me an Amaker team that plays organized offense; show me an Amaker team that knows what a good shot is and how to get one in crunch time--should I continue?
I feel for them. I know what they are going through. We went through the same thing for seven years before Coach Howland, when we had an assclown posing as a head coach, flushing our program down the toilet. Amaker may not be as horrible as that assclown (it's just not possible for any basketball coach to be as bad as SL), but you can sense it's pretty much the same.

I will have more notes on Michigan in a bit. Despite being led by a questionable head coach, they do have team with a number of athletes and they can be dangerous just like those UCLA teams were every now and then when they played inspired ball despite the no talent assclown. So, the Bruins will have to be ready and focused this Saturday.