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April 02, 2001 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-04-02

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - Monday, April 2, 2001 -78

Knight kicks off three
Athletes excused for 'violation of team rules'

, 1

ey, there you go, Swiss-
r!" Uh-oh, Coach Mel is
the war-path. The
Rhigan hockey team's other red-
headed coaching guru has just gotten
done putting the Wolverines through a
series of punishing, end-to-end sprints.
While the players, none older than 24
years, look geriatric as they exit the ice,
Mel Pearson bounds down the tunnel
like a kid looking for some mischief.
In this instance, sophomore winger J.J.
Swistak turns from talking to a reporter in
mild annoyance -- too late, Coach Mel
itlready on to his next victim.
Pearson delivers a playful two-han-
der to the back of Bill Trainor's shin-
pad The senior, also in
mid-conversation with a writer, doesn't
even blink.
He must be used to it by now.
It's a mercurial relationship with his
players, combined with a keen intelii-.
ce of hockey, that has defined asso-
e head coach Mel Pearson. Coach
Red Berenson's light-hand man fkr the
last 13 seasons, Pearson is one of the
architects behind Michigan's founda-
tion for a try at a third national champi-
onship in the past six years. to be
decided this weekend in Albany, NY,.
The 42-year-old is a nice.guy on a
team full of nice guys --- a family man
who i never at a loss for a "Hello, how
you?" for the most infrequent of
tors to the rink.
Pearson is also a motivator and,
along with assistant coach Billy Pow-
ers, "the best recruiter of talent i cl-
lege hockey," according to
once-heavily-ecruited sophomore for
ward Mike Cammalleri.
Well into his second decade at
Michigan, Pearson remains the guy
hind the guy - the rumored-unoffi-
i sucessor of Michigan's greatest
hockey legend, if and when he decides
to hang up the whistle for good.
"Somedays it feels like I've been here
longer" than 13 years, Pearson said as
he relaxed on a couch in the Michigan
coachig lounge a couple of weeks ago.
"We've had a lot of good people here
and that's what's been so rewarding.
"Without a doubt, the reason why I've
been here for so long is because of coach
eanon and the Michigan family."
If far some reason you found your-
self atthe 1979 Great Lakes Invitation-
al, you probably wouldn't have
predicted such a long-lasting iove affair
between Pearson and Michigan hockey.
As a junior forward at Michigan Tech,
Pearson scored the triple-overtime goal
to beat the Wolverines for the GLI title.
OI think I only scored three goals for
the entire season," Pearson said with a
chuckle. "The lie gets bigger every
year, I went around all five guys and
scored a beautiful goal."
Pearson started his college hockey
coaching career in 1982 as an assistant
at Michigan Tech, ironically at the
same time that Michigan, plagued by
scandal and bad recruiting, began to
sink into the depths of college hockey
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Michigan hired Berenson a couple of
seasons later, 23 years removed from
college hockey and unable to tell future
NCAA all-time winningest head coach
Ron Mason of Michigan State "from a,
hole in the wall."
It took four full seasons before
Berenson brought the program back
from the dead, finishing the 1987-88
season with a 22-19-0 record.
Berenson had all the attributes of a
coaching great - a big name, a lifetime
spent in the game and an uncanny busi-
ness sense. What he lacked was an exu-
berant young coach who could recruit
players like the Dickens, then stay on
the same coaching page.
Berenson found the answer in the
next-door-neighbor-friendly Pearson,
who joined Michigan before the 1988
"Mel paid his dues up in Michigan
Tech," Berenson said. "When I ran into
him at rinks he was always very friend-
ly andhad a smile on his face. I knew
he was a good family person.
"When I interviewed him, I asked
him a couple of tough questions about
breaking rules to recruit a kid - he said
he couldn't do that and it convinced me
that he was everything he appeared to
be. I thought it was one of the best
things to happen to our program since
l'. e been here."
Seven Frozen Four appearances later,
it's hard to argue with that logic. As
Berenson points out, "we haven't had
anything close to a losing season since
Mel Pearson got here."
Perhaps that's the reason why college
hockey programs with head coaching
vacancies fall all over themselves, like
Pavel Bure when a stick touches his
legs, in their pursuit of Pearson.
In 1999, Miami wooed Pearson for
its vacant head coaching position. The
pieces were all there in hockey-hungry
Oxford to build a winner - the Red-
Hawks enjoyed success in the early
'90s in the CCHA and needed the right
coach to rocket the program back to
contention. It was a legitimate offer to
establish his own legacy of greatness
and for the father of three, a potential
life-changing decision if he had decided
to uproot his family from Ann Arbor.
Moments like these define the lives
of coaches in any sport. Contrary to his

style, Pearson did not take the decision
"Number one was obviously coach
Berenson," Pearson said. "We talked
about it a lot and I really turned to him
for advice in the situation. The biggest
thing I wanted to know was am I still
growing as a coach and is it all right if I
stay? Sometimes you get to the point
where it's time for a person to leave."
Pearson sat down with Lloyd Carr,
the football team's long time defensive
coordinator before taking over as head
coach in 1994. True to the camaraderie
that always seems to exist among
Michigan coaches, Carr spoke honestly
about the lure of leaving.
Carr asked Pearson why he would
leave when the opportunity to coach
Michigan would someday present itself.
"I found that sort of interesting,"
Pearson said.
Pearson thought of his wife's con-
tentment with the Ann Arbor area. He
thought of his two daughters and the
friends they had made in school. He
thought of his son who, much like his
childhood self, loved to rink-rat around
the arena during games with the team-
mates of his youth hockey team.
The loyal assistant had found success
in both his personal and professional
life inside the tradition-laden confines
of Yost Arena. A closet-full of Michi-
gan gear only proved metaphorically
what he knew in his gut.
Why throw away clothes that still fit?
"I've bounced around a lot in my life,
there's more to being a coach than a
head coach," Pearson said. "That's not
the ultimate objective. If I never
become the head coach, so be it. I've
done a lot of things and touched a lot of
people and I feel good about what I've
accomplished here.
"There are more important things in
life than being a head coach, and my
family is one of the most important
Enrico Blasi ended up taking over the
Miami job and earned CCHA coach of
the year honors. Pearson was made asso-
ciate head coach at Michigan.
This is not to say that Pearson's
coaching schedule got any easier. On
this day, Pearson's racoon-eyes reflect
months of nights spent number-crunch-
ing and driving back late from recruit-

ing trips. Add to that the administrative
responsibilities of the associate head
coach's positiion, and it's hard to under-
estimate the demands of the job, though
it is a subordinate position.
But that's all part of Pearson's con-
.tinuing growth in the program. On the
ice, Pearson's. persona bobs and weaves
-- he is part Ned Flanders, part Bo
Schembechlez. Though shared smiles
are not an oddity between Pearson and
the Wolverino6, he is not opposed to
resorting to the spunk of a red head
when the team does not perform.
During one practice powerplay drill
earlier in the season, Pearson became so
frustrated with the unit's complacency,
he chucked his stick into the empty
bleachers of Yst, then kicked the puck
into the corner. At the very least, it
brought the tear to quick attention.
"He's a very intense person, and he
carries that oxkr in his coaching,"
defenseman Mike Komisarek said. "He
cares about yo*, but when it comes
down to the business, he is all business."
It's a fine line.. Pearson admits to the
difficulty of relating on a personal level
with players, whife trying, as an authori-
ty figure, to coax the most out of their
abilities. It's anotier challenge of coach-
ing, another privilege of staying put.
"One of the biggest jobs of an assis-
tant is to act as a go-between with
coach and the pryers," Pearson said.
"They need to feel comfortable telling
you about their prablems.
"At the same time, you have to get
on them and push them --- they don't
always like it, but. sometimes they are
asking for it. Just like your own chil-
dren, they don't necessarily like the dis-
cipline, but they ask for it."
And the players ionderstand it. Though
Pearson can fire light-hearted barbs at
them during practice and interviews, the
dual persona is a necessity, another
dynamic of what armounts to one of the
'90s most successful$ coaching staffs.
"This program is all about being good
people," Cammallri said. "And any-
time you have a gkality person (as a
coach) you are going to feed off of that."
There is no more fitting of a tribute
for Pearson, a family man who took the
road virtually nobody traveled.
"Coming to Michigan is the best
move I ever made," Pearson said. "I
look forward to anotber 13 years."

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Bob
Knight needed just seven days to show
he's in charge.
Three players were kicked off the
Texas Tech basketball team Friday for
"some violation of team rules," school
president David Schmidly said. A
fourth player requested and was granted
his release.
Tech administrators on Saturday
would not discuss the moves, and Knight
could not be reached for comment.
'"We're not going to say anything but
what's been said," athletic director Ger-
ald Myers said. "They're not on the
Freshman reserve Brannon Hayes
said he and two other players were dis-
missed from the team because of a mis-
understanding during a meeting with
Knight earlier this week.
The others were identified as Jamal
Brown, the Red Raiders' starting guard
who averaged 10.6 points per game, and
Rodney Bass, another freshman reserve.
Schmidly said he does not receive
reports on problems with basketball
players and was unaware of which rules
or what kind of violations occurred.
Bass told the Lubbock Avalanche-
Journal the three had been late to practice.
"It was just a misunderstanding in the
meeting between the three of us," Hayes
told the Associated Press. "All I know is
I was just not wanted here next year.
Personally, I think the decision was
made before I even knew it."
Brown, Bass and Hayes will keep
their scholarships through next year.
The school granted a fourth player,
Ronald Hobbs, his release Friday.
Hobbs, a backup guard who averaged
5.5 points per game, said his departure
was planned weeks before former coach
James Dickey was fired March 9 fol-
lowing the Red Raiders' 9-19 season.
The news caught other players off
"I was surprised to hear that," Hobbs
said. "I thought I was by myself,"
Junior center Andy Ellis, who is
Brown's roommate, said he didn't
know about the dismissals. A number
of players said they were having a hard
time contacting the point guard Friday
"Evidently something happened that
coach Knight didn't like or didn't want
on the team," freshman guard Andre
Emmett said, "so coach Knight did what
he had to do."

Bobby Knight has made his prescence
known early on as coach of Texas Tech.
If all four players' scholarships are
released, Tech's roster shrinks to four
scholarship players entering next sea-
son. The school can then sign five
scholarship players, which leaves the
school down four players from the
NCAA-allowed 13.
"It's a business," Hayes said. "O'm
pretty sure I will find my way. I have a
desire to play basketball and that's l I
Hayes said he is leaving the program
more mature because of the lessonshe
learned from Dickey.
"I'm not talking down on Coach
Knight," Hayes said. "I think Coach
Knight is a good coach and l'r4 a
coachable player."
It was former Dickey who recruited
the freshman from Port Arthur. And
Hayes, 18, who said he will now go el se-
where to live out his basketball dreams,
would like to play for Dickey again.
"He is a man of class. He is a martof
honor and he always came straight with
me," Hayes said. "I came to Tech a little
boy and I'm leaving a man. I learned so
much from James Dickey. I feel like I
should pay him."
"Jamal might be taking it pretty
hard," Hayes said. "Me and Rodney are
disappointed in things, but we are
young, very talented and have a desire
to play basketball. I'm sure once this is
out, some other schools will start call-
ing. I guess I will just have to look (or-
ward to playing somewhere else."

Students eligible for the Rhodes, Marshall, and George Mitchell
Scholarships are invited to 2 informational meetings, sponsored by the
Provost's Council on Student Honors. Successful candidates usually
have a GPA of 3.7 or better and a distinguished record of participation
in activities that demonstrate leadership and commitment. These
informational meetings have been scheduled for
April 2, from 6 PM to 7:00 PM, Room 1210 Lurie Engineering,
North Campus
April 4, from 6 PM to 7 PM, Kuenzel Room, Michigan Union.
Light refreshments will be served at each meeting. Please refer
questions to Isabelle Turquat-Mertha, Office of the Provost, phone:
615-1634, fax: 764-4546, email: <iturquat@(umich.edu>.


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