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October 13, 1997 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-13

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The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - October 13, 1997 - 38

success marked eight-year run

l 3ST6T! F

By Mark Snyder
Daily Sports Writer
The new Michigan men's basketball
coach stood before the press like a shy
child on March 15, 1989.
"for the benefit of those of you who
don't know me," the former assistant
n, "I'm Steve Fisher, and I am the
h4d coach at the University of
Michtgan."
As. difficult as it may be to imagine
novttwo days after his dismissal, Fisher
wasn't always a target of NCAA investi-
getions and law firm probes.
?His tenure as coach began abruptly
that day, and immediately, the pressure of
the postseason was upon him.
Bill Frieder, Fisher's predecessor as
coach, saw his ties to the program
red when he accepted the same posi-
tion at Arizona State days before the
1989 NCAA tournament.
Frieder, a Michigan graduate who
coached the basketball team for nine sea-
sons, was dismissed by Athletic Director
Bo Schembechler under the now-famous
edict, "a Michigan man, will coach
Michigan."
And so Fisher was promoted.
'sher, toting a degree from Illinois
a e, took the reigns of the team and six
victories later, was the coach of the
national champions.
His carefree attitude, as opposed to
Frieder's disciplinarian style, appealed to
the players, who raised their level of play
during the tournament.
"Fisher's undefeated and has a lot of
Mlass, said forward Terry Mills at the
time. "He helped us win the title and
sh4'ld be here to help defend it."
e support from players that Fisher
enjoyed following the championship
drew recruits from around the nation.
In 1991, Fisher's first season without
the class that won the title, Michigan fell
below .500 for the first time since 1982
Fisher's first season at Michigan.
While the 14-15 overall record was
hardly the mark of a winner, the oppor-
tunity to play immediately for a players'
coach drew the "Fab Five" recruiting
r'ans have n

ing its first three seasons, and the divi-
sion of playing time incited minor tur-
moil within the program's personnel.
Following the 1993 championship
game appearance, the floodgates
opened. Since then, six players left
Michigan earlier than anticipated.
Four players (Makhtar Ndaiye, Bobby
Crawford, Willie Mitchell and Olivier St.
John) fled the team in search of larger
minutes and a new environment, while
Brandun Hughes was shown the door
after failing to maintain adequate acade-
mic standards.
Maurice Taylor, a member of the 1994
class, followed in the footsteps of his Fab
Five predecessors, jumping to the NBA
ranks after last season, his junior year.
Despite the glut of talented players at
Michigan, Fisher recorded another coup
in 1995, garnering another top-flight
group, headed by 6-foot-8 center Robert
Traylor.
Talented prospects, based on three
NCAA championship game appearances
in his first five seasons, set the bar
impossibly high.
While his own high standards tailed
Fisher throughout his Michigan career,
his mark compares favorably with any
coach in the nation over a similar span.
His tenure, which ended in a flurry of
scandal and suspicion for off-the-court
incidents, began and finished with simi-
lar successes.
He began with six straight wins and an
NCAA title in 1989 and ended eight sea-
sons later atop the NIT after Michigan
swept its way to the five-game champi-
onship last spring.
When Fisher began that March morn-
ing eight years ago, he promised "a new
program, (one) of which Bo
Schembechler and Michigan president
James Duderstadt can be proud."
Fisher's .692 winning percentage, the
highest among Michigan coaches with
50 games to their credit, places his tenure
as one of the most successful the pro-
gram has experienced.
Unfortunately for him, his dismissal
will most likely overshadow his arrival.

SARA STILLMAN/Daily
Steve Fisher's tenure as coach will always be marred by the controversies that
helped end it, but players like Robert Traylor stood by him until the end.

class to Michigan.
Headed by the nation's top recruit -
Chris Webber - the fivesome sparked
national media attention as Michigan
and Fisher returned to the national cham-
pionship game in 1992 - the group's
first season.
Fisher's troops, spurred by the previ-
ous season's success, returned to the title
game the following season only to lose to
North Carolina, 77-71.
While the game solidified Michigan
as a major player in the national scene, it
also marked the high point of Michigan's
national climb in prominence.
The past four seasons were plagued by
departure as Michigan's on-court suc-

cess began to waver.
Soon after the loss to the Tar Heels,
Webber departed for the NBA. The next
season, the exodus continued as Jalen
Rose and Juwan Howard followed
Webber's lead to the professional ranks.
Just as Michigan appeared headed for
a fall without its backbone, Fisher's
recruiting talents reloaded the squad,
scoring the nation's top-ranked class -
for the second time in three years.
The new class once again featured the
nation's top prep player- Jerod Ward in
this instance - and Fisher was hailed as
a recruiting genius.
But expectations set by the original
Fab Five were not met by this group dur-

JIM
ROSE
Rose Beef
Goss makes nkht dedai on
by taki'zgsw49 action
M ost everyone has heard how Bo Schembechler appointed Steve Fisher
Michigan men's basketball coach. Schembechler wanted "a Michigan
man" in 1989, and Fisher was his choice.
Eight years later, in 1997, Athletic Director Tom Goss stood up on national tele-
vision and fired Fisher, saying he wanted to move his department in a direction tht
complied with the "values of Michigan athletics..
So what happened in between? What dragged the basketball program to a halt?:
Whether he is to blame or not, Fisher is taking the heat. All accounts indicate he
is a genuinely nice guy. Most of those accounts also indicate he would never chea.
intentionally. I don't know whether he cheated or not.
Maybe he had nothing to do with the violations.
Maybe Ed Martin was buying his way into the lives of basketball players way to
early for Steve Fisher to do anything about it.
Perhaps Fisher was simply too naive, and the same players that now cry foul at
his firing (most are safely in the NBA) were taking advantage of his trusting nature-
all along. It doesn't really matter. To pretend to have the answer would be preten-
tious and absurd. Whether Fisher is a gentleman or not, it is clear that too many
things were wrong with the basketball program. And he was the man in charge.
You can give Fisher the benefit of the doubt in every possible instance - which,
by the way, I'm inclined to do - but still, it can't be overlooked that illegal,
immoral things were happening on his watch.
It can be argued that Fisher is "one of the good guys," and that the real culprits
are guys like Martin, who use their money to corrupt impressionable students.
This makes sense. And though you'd like to think the young men lucky enough
to play basketball for this University would have sense enough not to jeopardize the
reputation of their coaches and the entire school by accepting gifts from a booster,
it keeps coming back to one thing: Who was in charge, Martin or Fisher?
The bottom line is that too many things seem to have been going on for all to be
innocent. This is why Fisher's removal was the right thing to do from Goss's point,
of view - and from Michigan's point of view as well.
Unfair as it may seem to some, the firing sends a jolt through the Athletic
Department and to the rest of the country: Goss will not make the same mistake
Fisher made. Goss will not turn his back and ignore problems; he will not allow
them to stew until they boil out of control. Instead, he will step in and snuff them
out immediately.
Some have said that Fisher is being used by Goss. People have said Goss is look-
ing to make a name for himself, and making Fisher a scapegoat goes miles in
establishing Goss's credibility as the new guy on the job.
That may be true. But consider the alternative: Goss could have said that he was
sticking with Fisher for awhile. It would have been easy to do.
It also would have done nothing to dissuade dishonesty within the program.
Those who had acted dishonestly would have no reason to think they couldn't do it
again. Michigan basketball would remain stuck in the same mud it has been spat-
tered with for the past seven months.
Goss made a statement with this decision.
In a program that has been full of"maybes" for the past half-year or more, Goss
wasted no time turning his first maybe into a definite No. And suddenly, the
Michigan basketball program looks a bit less like the program that had its name
dragged through the mud for months, and a bit more like a program headed in the
right direction.
How much of the blame can be attributed to Fisher? It's tough to say. He proba:
bly still believes he did nothing wrong. He may very well have broken no rules.
But Goss's decision was the right one. It lets the Ed Martins of the world know
that someone is in charge of Michigan athletics. And finally, Michigan can start
moving in the direction that everyone - Schembechler, Goss, probably even
Fisher - wants: forward.
- Jim Rose can be reached via email atjwrose@umich.edt

mixed reactions to Fisher's firing

By Heather Kamins
Daily Staff Reporter
For months, rumors that Michigan men's basketball'
coach Steve Fisher would be fired have spread across
campus. But students and staff still appeared shocked
when official word came through Saturday.
Oe news traveled through the University quickly, and
strong opinions grew fast on both sides of the issue.
Operations employee Mustafaa Muhamed said he
was outraged by Athletic Director Tom Goss's decision
to fire Fisher.
"I think it was unjust for him to get fired," Muhamed
said. "He didn't really do anything. It was all the public-
ity. Mdre or less, I think the public wanted something
done, so he was the scapegoat."
While some University staff and students were upset
by thedecision, others said they are ready for a change.
A sophomore Scott Schneider said "it's about
time" for a new coach.
"I'm excited, because while Steve Fisher was an
excellent recruiter, I feel most of this has to do with the
fact that he wasn't a good discipline coach," Schneider
said. "Kids came here because they know they are going
to get it easy. We have the talent, but we don't have the
coaches. In conclusion, hire Dean Smith"
Oi LSA first-year student, who asked to not be iden-
them, it's
ESH ER right deci
Continued from Page 1B bad that o
Bahr, who considers Fisher a actions.
friend, spoke of the times that Fisher "We ca
-would ask about the results of his can't livet
team's wrestling meets. Los Ang
The accusations against Fisher Vaught,v
investigated by a Kansas City law NCAA c
firm"tended to be what the coach conveyed
didn't do to stop his players, rather made thes
n..what he had done. But Bahr Vaught,
said that coaches can't be baby-sit- fully shov
ters all the time. coach.
"As much as we try to influence "My fe

tified, said she has be close to the Fisher family for many
years and is sad to see him go.
"I feel bad about it because I know him and his son,"
the student said."I've known their family for a long time.
I feel sorry for him, but I think he might have done
things he wasn't supposed to."
She described Fisher as a "very, very nice man and a
great father."
"Things always get blamed on the coach," she said.
"It's just because Michigan has such fair-weathered
fans."
LSA senior Ian Lucas said that it is important to
remember that Fisher showed strength and heart.
"I was disappointed," Lucas said. "I think that he came
in when the University of Michigan needed him and he
brought them the only national championship. I know
the team has not been up to everybody's standards, but
you can't expect to win the championship every year."
Fisher has been continuously criticized for a lack of
institutional control. Seven months of investigation by a
private law firm uncovered no major NCAA violation,
but three minor violations were detected and University
officials have said that they are concerned with the way
the program has been run.
Lucas said that all of the problems the team has had
have not be Fisher's fault.

"I think Fisher maybe needed to have tighter reigns on
the kids," Lucas said. "But that was just the way Fisher
was. He's a good guy and expects other people to be
good guys. Maybe he was a little naive."
Many students and staff complemented Fisher's
recruitment abilities and wondered if Fisher could have
stayed at the University, in some capacity.
Operations employee Jason Kayfesh said the
University should keep Fisher employeed as a full-time
recruiter.
"I think they should have fired him. Well, maybe they
should have moved him to a different position," Kayfesh
said. "They should have kept him as a recruiter. He's
recruited some of the best teams in college history. He
just wasn't a good coach."
Other students said in the end all that matters is win-
ning games, and Fisher's stats just are mot up to par.
"I think it was time for a change," said LSA junior Bill
Briggs. "Fisher was a great recruiter, but he wasn't a
great coach in that he couldn't win games, big games.
People just have a shady image of him with all the
recruiting. Hopefully, now, the program will get back on
track.
Briggs said that he expects that the next coach will be
one of the current assistant coaches.
"I think the whole thing is bad timing," Briggs said.

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up to them to make the
sions," Bahr said. "It's too
iur careers depend on their
an only guide thekh, and
with them 24 hours a day."
geles Clippers forward Loy
who played for Fisher's
hampionship team, also
that Fisher was being
scapegoat.
a Grand Rapids native,
wed support for his ex-
eling is that he might be

taking some heat for things that
were kind of out of his control,"
Vaught said in an Associated Press
report. "It's very unfortunate,
because I know Steve Fisher and I
can say that he doesn't cheat."
The father of a former Fab-Fiver
also spoke only high praise for
Fisher.
Jimmy King, Sr., who is the father
of Jimmy King - now on the
Minnesota Timberwolves - was
shocked at hearing the news of
Fisher's firing.
He didn't know anything about it

until he turned the TV on yesterday
morning.
King, Sr., who spoke from his
Texas home of meeting Martin early
in his son's freshman year, thought
that the real loss lies with the
recruits whom Fisher sought.
"The guy you have looked up to
and put in all your respect isn't
there," King said."You come there
and expect to stay four years under
the coach that recruited you.
"I bet that some (recruits) may not
want to come depending on who
they are going to hire now"'

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