Monday, January 29, 2007

Why Tommy Amaker should really be asked (nicely) to find gainful employment elsewhere

June 19, 2008 Note: This is a post that originally appeared on Golden's Football Rankings and is reproduced here for posterity.

To me there are a number of things that a coach at a major university must do to keep their job:
1) They must represent their university with class – This includes two parts, not doing anything that might embarrass the university (the Larry Eustachy / Mike Price clause), and promoting the goals and ideals of their program and the university
2) They must recruit kids that will also represent the university well – Kids that go to class, stay out of trouble, and give their all on the field, court, or ice. Additionally, these kids should be able to compete at the level of competition the university is accustomed to.
3) They must serve as a teacher and a role model for their players in such a way that their players learn and improve as players and people in their time at the university.
4) Finally, they must win. This is, of course, the 500-lb Elephant standing in the corner of the room that no one really likes to talk about. This is after all the bottom line in college sports, but everyone likes to pretend that it’s not. The amount of winning a coach has to do varies from place to place, from sport to sport, and from year to year. But no one will keep their job if they don’t win at some point.

The thing is, from my point of view, Tommy Amaker hasn’t really successfully completed any of these points.
1) Yes, he is a class individual who represents the school well. But he doesn’t promote the program in ways you would expect a coach at a high profile school to do. He has no radio or TV coaches show in the area. His weekly press conferences rarely make the Detroit news. He has little or no presence in the media of the most dominant market in the state. This is especially glaring when you compare him with the coach at his most direct competitor, Tom Izzo, who is on air every 15 minutes.
2) He has had problems recruiting kids who show any fire on the basketball court, or look like they belong in the Big Ten. The last Michigan player who made it to the NBA was Jamal Crawford, who left Michigan a year before Amaker got here. He has finished as the runner-up in recruiting battles for Malik Hairston and Joe Crawford from Detroit Renaissance, who are staring at Oregon and Kentucky respectively, Scottie Reynolds, who is at Villanova, Patrick Beverly, who starts at Arkansas, and countless other players who have ended up at MSU, Notre Dame, Florida, Syracuse, and other places. He has gone through all sorts of drama with de-commitments and re-commitments.
3) Players don’t improve under Amaker. Daniel Horton was a better player as a freshman than he was when he left. Courtney Sims led the league in blocked shots his freshman year, in today’s game against Indiana, some 6 foot nothing guard drove the lane on him and he did nothing. Amaker’s teams don’t have any discernible identity. They look lost on offense, always led the league in turnovers, and can’t defend dribble penetration or the three-point line.
4) Amaker’s record at Michigan is decidedly mediocre. He is 4-32 on the road in the Big Ten against teams that aren’t Penn State or Northwestern. You can count the number of victories they have over tournament teams on one hand. They are consistently whipped by the better teams in the league. He is 2-8 against Illinois, 0-10 against Indiana. His five trips to Wisconsin have resulted in losses of 13, 26, 11, 11, and 31 points. He has a winning record against only three league teams, Purdue, Penn State, and Northwestern.

I’m not the type of person who is comfortable calling for a college coach to be fired, especially one who appears to be a fine citizen who is attempting to build a program the right way, without stooping to the levels of so many in the sport (Hello, Mr. Huggins!). But to be a good coach, you have to be a good recruiter, a good teacher, a good motivator, a good strategist, or some combination of those. Amaker appears to be mediocre at all these aspects, and it doesn’t seem like he, or the team, is going to improve in any of these ways anytime soon. So for the good of the program, I would suggest that he should be shown the door.