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September 09, 1976 - Image 34

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-09-09

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Page Two,

THE MICHIGAN DAILY Thursday, September 9, 1976


Shooting for the

top spot

Fast Wolverines return four starters

The 1976-77 Michigan basketball team
has its work cut out for it.
Last year's second place finish in the
national tournament is a tough act to
follow. If the team has another success-
ful season, it will come as no surprise.
But if it falters by comparison, it
will be undoubtedly criticized.
Fortunately, four starters and a high-
ly capable bench return. The only loss-
es are starting forward Wayman Britt
and reserve guard Lloyd Schinnerer.
Star guard Rickey Green gave Michi-
gan fans a scare when he considered
foregoing his senior year for a pro
career, but he pulled his name off the
draft list well before the NBA draft.
Johnny Orr, voted Coach of the Year
by his colleagues, knows what he has to
work with for a change. Prior to last
season the Wolverines were an un-
known quantity. First and foremost was
the problem of replacing '75 captains
C. J. Kupec and Joe Johnson. Largely
through the efforts of assistant coaches
Jim Dutcher (now head coach at Minn-
esota) and Bill Frieder, Michigan had
one of the top recruiting years in the
Of the six newcomers, it became
clear that Orr would bank on 6-7 Phil
Hubbard in the pivot. The slender high
school All-American from Canton Mc-
Kinley made the transition from f o r-
ward to center as quickly and as well
as anyone could ask.
Green, an All-American from Vin-
cenes (Ind.) Junior College, became the
heir apparent to Joe Johnson's guard
spot. Amazing quickness made this
crowd-pleaser virtually indispensable
on the Wolverine fast break.
If there was one star on last year's
team, it was Green. He seemed reck-
less on defense in the early going and
sometimes tried to do too much, but
he worked hard to fit into Michigan's
team concept.
Pre-season polls placed the Wolver-

ines somewhere in the top twenty, but
Orr was hesitant to make any bold
claims because of the unproven new-
comers and a tough non-conference
But experienced starters Steve Grote,
John Robinson (a high school t e a m-
mate of Green's) and Britt meshed
with the new recruits better than any-
one had dared hope. At season's start,
a national championship seemed be-
yond their wildest dreams.
Nevertheless, come the end of March,
the Wolverines were playing in the na-
tional finals versus nemesis Indiana.
But not only was Michigan playing in
the national finals, when the buzzer
sounded to end the first half, Michigan
led 35-29.
You know the rest. Indiana maintain-
ed their undefeated record, pulling
away from Michigan with a transcen-
dent second half to win, 86-68.
In the semi-finals, Rutgers, champ-
ion of the East, proved to be a paper
tiger despite its glittering 31-0 record.
The Scarlet Knights' Phil Sellers had
apparently never seen a defensive play-
ed the likes of Wayman Britt. "Phil
the Thrill" fell far short of his billing
and brought Rutgers down with him,
Michigan's 21-6 record, 14-4 in the
Big Ten, good for second place in the
conference behind the Hoosiers, h a d
earned the Wolverines a spot in the
first round of the tourney against Wich-
ita State.
Behind by as much as 13 points in
the second half, Orr took a gamble
and called on freshman Tom Staton.
Staton, who had played fleetingly dur-
ing the regular season, turned the
game around single-handedly, coming
up with two crucial steals and scoring
six points. Green swished a jumper
with six seconds left to win it, 74-73.
An impressive team effort beat Notre
Dame in the regional semi-final, 80-76.
Green scored 20 points, and once again

Staton came through, scoring six, mak-
ing a big steal, and holding Adrian
Dantley without a basket for the last
four minutes.
Another bench hero, Dave Baxter,
scored a career-high 18 points to spark
a come-from-behind 95-88 victory over
Missouri in the Regional final. T h e
Tigers' Willie Smith was phenomenal
with 43 points, but the more team-
oriented Wolverines von the right to
the national semis in Philadelphia.
From the opening 90-63 rout of a
veteran Vanderbilt club, the Wolverines
proved themselves a force to be reck-
oned with. What might have been a re-
building year began to look like a chal-
lenging one. A small team, Michigan
compensated with great quickness and
exceptional shooting.
Michigan opened the Big Ten cam-
paign by breezing by Northwestern,
Minnesota and Wisconsin. When its fast
break was thwarted, the team set up
and ran its offense patiently and well.
The bench offset foul trouble, and Orr
was saying there was more talent on
the team than at any one time in his
tenure at Michigan.
The Wolverines came of age in a
hard-fought 82-81 loss at Tennessee.
They stormed past their next five non-
conference foes before losing at Ne-
vada-Las Vegas in an unevenly offic-
iated game.
Then came the first of the three con-
frontations with top-ranked Indiana.
Michigan showed a lot of poise, bounc-
ing back from a 16-2 deficit before los-
ing, 80-74.
The return match at Bloomington a
month later was perhaps the finest ef-
fort of the season. Before a national
television audience, the Wolverines
droped a thriller that they appeared to
have won and many thought they had
won. A controversial call at the buzzer
ruled Kent Benson's tip-in good, send-
ing the game into overtime. Amazingly,,
the Hoosiers never led in regulation

play, but had the momentum to win in
the extra period, 72-67.
Michigan was clearly a team cap-
able of rising to a challenge. But it was
also a team guilty of mental lapses.
In general, the Wolverines were at their
best when fighting for their lives and
at their worst in games they were ex-
pected to win handily. Besides the In-
diana games, the only Big Ten losses
were a couple of road-game let-downs
against Illinois and Minnesota.
With all eyes looking forward to At-
lanta, the site of the 1977 NCAA finals,
the focus, of pre-season practice, this
fall, will be on replacing Britt, the only
starter gone from last year. Three
players all with considerable experi-
ence, are in the running:
*Joel Thompson (6-8, 190). Now that
dunking has been restored to the col-
lege game, you may see Thompson in
the line up. Easily the best leaper on
the team, and maybe the best shoot-
er. Lacks aggressiveness, and is not as
quick as the other two contenders.
Tom Staton (6-3, 185) Lighting quick
swingman who was great in the tourna-
ment. Similar to Britt - small but
quick and an excellent leaper. Maybe
the best defensive player on the team,
but not much of an outside scoring
- Alan Hardy (6-6, 190) Has tremendous
ability - can jump, rebound and block
shots extremely well. Good quickness
and defensive ability. Tried to go one-
on-one too much last year, but could
settle down with playing time. Fine
All three are capable. Thompson and
Hardy are better offensive players than
Britt, and Staton could become as good
,as Wayman on defense.
The abundance of talent hurt Mich-
igan's recruiting effort, but the coach-
es did sign 6-3 guard Mark Lozier from
Logansport, Indiana, who is a great
all-around athlete and plays a strong,
aggresive game similar to Grote's.

Phil Hubbard

Johnn y




Sexciting race, full arena

Basketball coach Jhnny Orr isathe winningest
coach in Michigan history. Last year, after guiding
his Big Ten second-place team to the NCAA finals,
he was voted Coach of the Year by the National
Association of Basketball Coaches. Now in his ninth
year as head man, Orr is the dean of Big Ten coaches.
This summer, Daily Sports Editor Bill Stieg and
Executive Sports Editor Rich Lerner talked to Ort
about his team and his career.
DAILY: Michigan averaged 22 wins per year the
last three years and finished second in the country
last season, but attendance at home games has
not been great, especially compared to other suc-
cessful schools. What's your explanation for this?
ORR: I don't think our fan support is that poor.
We averaged 10,500, at home for the conference
games, and this year we'll probably fill it. We used
to have very good crowds, but that team of four
years ago played so badly in some of those home
gamesathat I think the fans kind of got down on
us a little.
But now, I've never seen people-not just in Mich-
igan but acros sthe country-as elated or excited
about any athletic team as they were about our
team last year. I've gone back and forth across the
country three times and I've never met anyone
who doesn't have great praise for our xast year's
team. They think we were the most exciting team,
and they were thrilled. Coaches write me letters-
I've got over 2200 letters-complimenting the team
and the way we play and saying how they enjoyed
watching us.
I think this year our fans will really be there
because we have most of our players coming back.
I think Rickey Green is the most exciting basket-
ball player in college today. There's no one who
can touch him as far as excitement goes. All of a

sudden-WHOOM!-he can make four or five
baskets. If he goes out and plays like he did this
year, he has an excellent chance to be selected
Player of the Year, depending on how well we do.
DAILY: After that team of three years ago, you
were, under a lot of pressure for not having won
with players that supposedly were very good and
were highly sought-after. And now, the last three
years, you've turned it around. What happened?
QRR: I THINK OUR players are better than
they were three years ago, though they were
not as sought-after. The players we had before
were overrated because they were so big. They
could not perform the fundamental skills of basket-
ball like the players we have now.
Certainly we're doing a much better job of
coaching. And that has a lot to do with Wayman
Britt and Steve Grote. They come in with tremen-
dous attitudes-super, super attitudes. The way
they practice has become infectious. When we
went to the tournaments this year-Wichita, Louis-
ville and even at the national championship in
Philadelphia-all the coaches who watched us play
couldn't understand how we practiced as hard as
we did. Or how we worked as hard as we worked
and how we motivated the kids the way we did.
Every coach comes to me and asks, "What did
you do? How did you get your guys to do that?" I
think we have that going for us now. It's just a
natural thing-look at Rickey Green. He wasn't
like that at first, but all of a sudden, jeez, he be-
came that way. It's just that the other guys have
come on. Tommy Staton is that type of hard
A lot of it has to do with the type of person you
recruit. A lot of our guys, one-on-one or individual-
ly, are not as good as a lot of other players. But
as a unit, boy, they play very, very well.
DAILY: What is your idea of an ideal player?
ORR: We want a player who really enjoys play-
ing, who comes to practice on time, enjoys prac-
ticing, works hard and plays the same way when
the opportunity comes. The greatest example of
that is Tommy Staton. He sat on the bench almost
all year but his attitude was always super. He
finally got a chance against Wichita State and
you'd have thought he'd been playing all year long.
That's just a super, super thing. -
I don't think we have anyone on our team with a
bad attitude. Everyone has a good attitude. Every-
one wants to play a little more, there's no question
about that. When we called on Tom Bergen, Tom
Staton, Alan Hardy, and Joel Thompson, every one
of them contributed tremendously to our success.

ORR: My philosophy is to get the players to prac-
tice as hard as they can practice, every time
they practice, in hopes that when the game comes,
they'll play as hard as they can possibly play. As
coaches, our staff and I prepare them as best we
can, so when the game comes we don't have any
complaints. If we lost, we lost, and if we won, we
won. If we get good enough players we are going
to win the majority of our games.
In the last three years, my staff and I have done
the greatest coaching job in the country. We have
not had great players. As a rule, we ,have had
some players that have played very well. With
Hubbard and Rickey Green and Campy Russell,
we had outstanding individual players. But the rest
of the players have not been like that.
I think the way we got them to play together and
the way we've blended their talents with our
philosophy has been super. Our coaches certainly
deserve a lot of credit.
DAILY: When a player comes here, does he
come mostly for basketball or for other reasons,
such as academics?
ORR: It depends on the player. Some kids, I
"I think Rickey Green is the

m o s t exciting


player in college today. He
has an excellent chance to
be selected Player of the
* I
don't know what they're thinking. Are they coming
to really be educated, or are they just telling you
that? Is basketball their primary thing? I think
most of the players that we and the big schools
around the country get today certainly have ambi-
tions of playing professionally. In their young lives
they would be more apt to think about that than
they would be to think about graduating college.
As time goes on I think that will change. Par-
ticularly when they get older and get to that time
when they'd like to come back to school. When
they don't finish, later on the majority of them see
the importance of it. When you're talking to them,
they've got big money, publicity and basketball on
their mind.

Rickey Green

ORR: No. Only under the circumstances of a
long-term contract where I was guaranteed a
lot of money. If things go wrong and they fire me,
I still get the money. But by that time I'd be 54 or
55 years old and I'd have that much money I could
retire. Now if I were a general manager, that
would be something else. I don't think I'd want to
coach. I don'tethink I'll coach anywhere else but
When I get out of coaching now, I'll get out for
good. I won't change coaching jobs. I've had many
opportunities in the last two years. I don't have
any desire to be anywhere else as a coach. I like
Michigan, I like Ann Arbor, and I'd like to make
this my home.
DAILY: You and the other Michigan coaches
keep saying that Big Ten basketball is superior to
the rest of the country. How can that be proven?
ORR: I think it was proved last year when Indi-
ana played Michigan for the national champion-
ship. We beat the Missouri Valley champion on
the way there; Notre Dame; the Big Eight cham-
pion; the champion of the East, Rutgers. And then
we lost in the finals to the Big Ten champion, In-

although I thought their fast break was a little
different than ours. They use the long pass more.
But they like to run and UCLA likes to run, and
they're in the West. Indiana, if they had the oppor-
tunity to run, would run too.
The difference is in aggressiveness. The Big Ten
is much more aggressive, particularly than it is
out East. I don't think Phil Sellers had seen de-
fense like Britt played. We were a much more ag-
gressive team than Rutgers was. It was the same
way with UCLA against Indiana. They were almost
dumbfounded the way the game went. Indiana was
much the aggressor. I think that's the biggest
difference I see between Big Ten basketball and
the others. When we go away it seems we run into
foul trouble more than we do in our dwn league.
DAILY: How do you see the Big Ten shaping up
this year?
ORR: We will have an even stronger league than
we had last year. Purdue has all their players
back, plus Bruce Parkinson. Minnesota has their
entire team back plus their new recruits, us
having all our players back except Wayman and
Indiana having a strong recruiting year. Those

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"In the last three years, my

staff and I have done the

greatest coaching job in the country."

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