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Tommy Amaker

January 27, 2003 Columns No Comments

Good Things Happen to Good People

by Kevin Reilly

Don’t look now, but the Michigan Wolverines have risen from the early season ashes by winning 13 consecutive ballgames. Tommy Amaker’s beleaguered crew lost it’s first six starts and seemed destined for college basketball’s scrap heap.

In one of the game’s most amazing turnarounds in many a season Michigan has overcome player dismissals, defections and self-imposed sanctions for penalty for the scandals dating back to the glory days of this program.

Sunday’s 60-58 victory over intrastate rival Michigan State crystallized this heroic metamorphosis. The Wolverines are getting it done with defense and balanced scoring. They now have their longest winning streak in 15 years and more importantly their first win in over four years against the perennial national power Spartans.

Much of the credit falls in the lap of second year head coach Tommy Amaker. The Duke grad left Seton Hall in 2001 amidst controversy and took over this fabled program that would soon be in trouble with the NCAA.

As far as I am concerned Tommy Amaker is one of the real “good guys” in the game.

I first met Coach Amaker when he was named to his first head coaching position at Seton Hall. During our interview I was amazed at how courteous and respectful he was. I told some colleagues how he treated me as a novice freelance writer like I was Dick Vitale.

Covering the Pirates that year I would hear Amaker talk about his opponent in glowing terms at the start of each post game conference. The son of a high school English teacher and the product of outstanding coaching at both the high school and collegiate level, Amaker has as sense of how he got to be the person he is today.

The summer he left New Jersey for Ann Arbor, he did take some heat and some of it may have been justified. It was a tough decision. He had recruited one of the top classes in the nation featuring the nation’s number one recruit and had pulled up stakes after only coaching them one year.

This has to be one of the “feel-good” stories of this season that a team which cannot compete in the post-season because of past sins of the basketball program is making a mission of the remainder of the regular season. They currently sit atop the Big Ten standings with a record of 6-0. Amaker talks about passion and pride and defense and he see these things in his current team.

This team could have gone in the tank and they didn’t. This has turned into a storybook season in Ann Arbor for Tommy Amaker and his resilient band of Wolverines. Let’s hope it continues.


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