The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 14
The ghost of Michigan
past: Jalen Rose
wants to see
Michigan hire "a
for a big-time
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How we got here
Afternoon of February 17, 1996
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- - BRANDON SEDLOFF/Daily
Athletic Director Bill
Martin is confident
and Michigan will
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thletic Director Bill Martin pledged to make
Michigan one of the premier basketball pro-
grams again when he fired coach Brian
Ellerbe yesterday. Losing has never been tolerated
at Michigan, and it's not going to start under Mar-
"I expect every team to finish in the top third of
the Big Ten," Martin said several weeks ago. "If it's
not, then it's my job to make sure it does."
Ellerbe's successor will help shape Martin's lega-
cy. Bo Schembechler's tenure as athletic director is
remembered as a success, in part because of Steve
Fisher's national title and three Final Four appear-
ances. Tom Goss's tenure is remembered as a fail-
ure, in part, because of Brian Ellerbe's 37-51 record
over the past three seasons.
But before next season's first game, Martin and the
new coach must decide how to flip the after-effects of the
Ford Explorer rollover and regain the Michigan swagger.
"The pride's been lost," former Fab Five star and
Indiana Pacer Jalen Rose said. "You've got to make
sure the tradition dosn't get lost. Thv pride's not
there any more.
"At the University of Michigan, we don't get T-
shirts for going to the Sweet 16. When we got to
the Elite Eight, in my last year, it's like it never
happened. That's the way it is at big programs.
You've got to address Michigan like you would
(North) Carolina or Duke. The last time I checked,
they've only won two championships, and one was
Rose, who tapes every Michigan game and
watches them when he gets the chance, said that his
current teammates laugh at the present status of the
They're not the only ones.
During Michigan's 104-61 loss at Duke - a
game Martin called the low point of the season -
the Cameron Crazies taunted the Wolverines with
chants of: "Worst team ever," "Not the Fab Five,"
and "Need six touchdowns."
Michigan has received this treatment at many
opposing teams' gyms recently.
"It's like starving a hungry child," said Super-
fan Reza Breakstone who attends most Michigan
athletic events. "The fans want it that bad. The
students want Crisler to be a great place. With an
injection of spirit and performance on the court,
Crisler will start to fill up. As a junior, I've wait-
ed my whole career here to watch good basket-
THE COACH AND FANS
Martin realizes the need to regain the fans'
support for the program, especially after
three years of embarrassment. For this
reason, he will likely hire a cbach who will provide
instant credibility to a university that's desperately
asking for the same results that its other revenue
programs --hockey and football - produce.
The hockey team is consistently a contender for
the national championship, but this wasn't the case
17 years ago, when Red Berenson became coach.
"We were setting a standard that would be high
for them," Berenson said. "I didn't accept losing
any more than I do now and we weren't (even) a
.500 team for the first two years. But I had cgnfi-
dence that we were going in the right direction and
that we would build the right kind of kids and team
and build what we have right now."
Eleven seasons after Berenson arrived, Michigan
made the 1996 Frozen Four. Since then, his Wolver-
ines have been perennial contenders for the nation-
With this success, the campus developed a love
for the program, and attending games became the
norm for Michigan fans. Soon, Yost Ice Arena was
the nation's toughest arena to play in.
This season, nearly three times as many students
bought season tickets for the hockey team as did
for the basketball team.
"They need to do things so that Joe Average fan
has an incentive to go to the game," Superfan said.
"F--k throwing me a T-shirt! Give me (better)
bussing. It's cold. It's not like football games. Have
student tailgating. Give me more than just tumblers
at the half. (Director of Marketing) Tom Brooks is
getting paid money to do something, so do some-
olina wanted a new coach, same thing when Ken-
tucky needed a new coach. We deserve to have a
big-time coach who could rejuvenate the past and
solidify the future.
"What's disappointing is over the last few sea-
sons the program alienated itself from its alumni
and former players. When you do that, it hurts the
"The young guys don't get to rub elbows with the
program. Other big-time programs keep the alumni
and players together," Rose added.
Many former stars don't return to Ann Arbor
because they are "disappointed," as Juwan Howard
put it, with how the University fired Fisher, and
they don't see anything exciting to return for. But
Rose said that he'd gladly do his part in linking the
the present and past if "they'd ask me to."
Martin responded to this by asking for Rose's
Rose wants his No. 5 to hang from Crisler's
rafters with Cazzie Russell's No. 33 and Martin
said that it will - if Rose finishes his degree,
something he "plans on doing."
Martin thinks retiring more numbers would be a
good way to rejuvenate the past and solidify the
future, but graduating is what's most important to
him, not winning. After all, he thinks, the fans will
come back "once we start winning again," but
Michigan's low graduation rate is what upsets him
According to Superfan, Michigan will start win-
ning again with a better homecourt advantage.
"One of the first steps the athletic department can
do is put us on the floor," Breakstone said. "To
thank the fans. And we'll thank them by making
this a student-friendly, crazy environment, and soon
Crisler will become an intimidating place to be,
just like Yost."
To ensure Crisler becomes a daunting venue for
opposing teams, Martin hired a team of architects
to improve Crisler. Putting the fans on the floor is
one proposal under consideration.
he Michigan name still has a lot of
magic to it," Hoop Scoop recruiting ana-
lyst Clark Francis said.
Although years of losing and off-the-court prob-
lems have tarnished this once proud program,
Ellerbe and his staff brought in highly regarded
recruiting classes the past two years. Part of this is
because "players want to go where they can turn a
program around," as assistant coach Terrence
Greene put it.
One problem with these classes is that six of the
nine recruits have been disciplined; three of the six
no longer play for Michigan.
Moreover, it appears that many of these players
did not learn from their mistakes. "I think it would
be bad if I said I didn't learn. So yeah, I learned,"
freshman guard Bernard Robinson said about get-
ting benched for missing curfew and showing up
late for practices. Robinson said one of the biggest
adjustments to being at Michigan was "being
"What's really disappointing are all of the off-
the-court shenanigans," Martin said.
Other shenanigans under Ellerbe included: at
least four players falling short of the University's
academic criteria, a player getting arrested for
drunk driving, and two players stealing another stu-
dent's Palm Pilot. The problems have taken a toll
on the program.
"It's the toughest thing I've ever experienced,"
sophomore guard Gavin Groninger said about try-
ing to play through the problems after the Wolver-
ines' loss to Northwestern on Senior Night. Right
now "is the lowest point of my basketball experi-
ence because things haven't gotten better."
Shenanigans aside, Ellerbe isn't sure that this
year's team ever had a chance to compete, citing a
lack of talent and a difficult schedule. "I wish we
could have played this year's schedule with last
year's team," Ellerbe said last month. "I think we
could have handled it better."
Last year's team included freshmen stars Jamal
Crawford and Kevin Gaines.
Crawford was suspended by the NCAA for 14
games and left for the NBA, while Gaines was
kicked off the team before the first day of class.
"Who knows how good we could've been if they
were here;' Greene said. "They definitely could've
"Recruiting's the core, a big part, of your pro-
gram. You have to get guys who will give you 150-
percent instead of 100-percent."
During the program's prime, most of the Wolver-
ines' best players were from instate: Rose, Chris
Webber, Travis Conlan, Dugan Fife, Robert Traylor
and Maurice Taylor. "That's the key," Fife said.
"You have to get the best players in the state. If you
win the state, players start recruiting for you. But
first you have to own the state. Guys like Jalen and
Traylor grew up in Michigan and they hated los-
Michigan natives LaVell Blanchard and Chris
Young took losing harder than the rest of their
teammates this season, both displaying tears and
obvious signs of disappointment at various times.
After the Wolverines' 27-point home loss to Michi-
gan State this year, a game they once trailed by 42,
Young said the team "quit."
"We need people whose eyes light up at the idea
of playing for Michigan," Breakstone said. "Fans
want to see players who want to be here at Michi-
gan. You have to have players who understand what
it means to play against Michigan State. Being the
leaders and the best. We need people who want to
win, not go to the NBA."
"Four Big Ten titles and a national title - that
says a lot about the state of Michigan," former
Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves said of his
alma mater's recent dominance. "If you win Michi-
gan, you'll win."
The Wolverines landed 12 top-25 players under
Fisher, during which time only eight top 25 recruits
from the state didn't sign with the Wolverines.
While Michigan dominated its backyard, highly
regarded players from Texas, Mississippi and
Maryland also signed with Michigan.
"Michigan's always been a program where you're
going to get 'X' amount of All-Americans automat-
ically," Rose said. "Michigan is a team that attracts
All-Americans from all over. We could attract
Jimmy King from Texas. That's not happening right
Recruiting in Michigan isn't happening, either.
The state of Michigan has produced seven Top-
25 prospects since Ellerbe's been at Michigan - of
this group, only Blanchard, an Ann Arbor native,
signed with Michigan. Michigan State signed three
of the other six players.
"Michigan State lives in (Michigan)," Francis
said. "They've had players stay for four years. The
best teams, are the ones where the players are
around for a while and can build some continuity."
T he past three years have "been tough,"
junior guard Leon Jones said. "But it'll get
"Of course it will," Martin says. At the begin-
ning of the season, Blanchard said it was his
"dream to win the national title at Michigan." After
two long, disappointing seasons, his dream was just
that. But if yesterday's pledge means anything, it
means that Martin is serious about seeing Blan-
chard's dream come to fruition.
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