12 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, December 8, 2001
Tommy Amaker, the
disciple, squares off
tomorrow at 2 p.m.
against his former
By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Editor
When Tommy Amaker was point guard for
Duke in the mid-'80s, he already had a special
appreciation for andrelationship with a coach on
"How do you spell Coach K's name?" people
would ask each of the Duke players on camera.
The young and astute Amaker would never dis-
appoint, as he proudly admits that he was "one of
the few to spell his name without stumbling."
Such attention to detail is not the only thing
that Amaker takes away from his former coach.
Michigan's new head man embraces, rather than
backs away from, the inevitable shadow of suc-
cess that his mentor has provided.
Amaker is starting to use the same principles
and intangibles that he learned from Krzyzewski
in four years as a player and nine years as his
assistant to build a once-proud Michigan program
up from the ashes.
"I hope I do a lot of things like him," Amaker
said. "I hope I can do a heck of a lot of things like
him. The loyalty that he's shown to all of his guys,
the way that he's conducted not only his program
but himself - sometimes I just marvel at him."
Few understand the intimate nature of the Duke
coaching fraternity as well as Duke assistant
Chris Collins. He played for the Blue Devils when
Amaker was an assistant for Krzyzewski and fol-
lowed Amaker to Seton Hall where he spent three
year's as Amaker's right-hand man before return-
ing to Duke as an assistant to Krzyzewski.
Collins said it's easy to see a similar "sincerity,
ultra-competitiveness and burning desire to win"
among the two men that he considers his mentors.
The family atmosphere and supportive Duke
network is "what Tommy felt was so special about
Duke," Collins said. "He helped create what Duke
is today and he is in the early stages of it today
with Michigan -
and experiences he had with Duke and Coach K
and putting them into his own program."
Collins recognizes the coaching differences
between the two: Krzyzewski is more apt to "wear
his emotions on his sleeve," while Amaker exudes
a more "collective and calm" presence on the
sidelines that is sometimes mistaken for being
Another misconception came after Amaker
abruptly left Seton Hall this past summer to
accept the Michigan job. Amaker was struck with
harsh criticism for abandoning his team in its time
of need. But Collins shared another perspective.
"It wasn't him wanting to abandon players and
promises," Collins said. "He has to look out for
his future and his family. The Michigan opportu-
nity was a kind of job he always dreamed of going
into - great university, tradition and conference
- and was too special to pass up. I hope that
people would understand that it was something
that all young coaches dream of and he just fol-
lowed his heart."
No matter what he's remembered for at Seton
Hall, the legacy Amaker left at Duke still res-
onates today and rings in a similar tone - though
a smaller scale - as the legacy Krzyzewski
"When I saw him as player and coach - he did
things the right way," Collins said of Amaker.
"He's a hard worker, and more importantly, he did
it with class. He's a great example of a tremen-
dous role model for me and following his exam-
ple of how hard he works, how prepared he is. He
very well left an incredible mark on this program
as both a player and coach."
Collins said that the Duke community feels so
strongly about Amaker that it considers Michigan
a "brother school" because of how Amaker
touched the Blue Devils.
The same passion and preparation helped
Krzyzewski rise to an unprecedented status at
Duke, where he has led the Blue Devils to nine
Final Fours and three national titles in his 22 sea-
sons on the bench. Krzyzewski, who was recently
named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame,
signed a lifetime contract with Duke, which he
likes to call "his consummation of marriage to the
university." -Now as a "special assistant to the
President of the University," Krzyzewski's far-
branching influence as ambassador of Duke is
"Coach K is more than a coach - he's a
teacher," Collins said. "He's a mentor and he's
been a great role model for the entire school as a
whole. The notoriety of the basketball team
helped grab the attention of a lot of people. But
when they see Duke, they see Coach K and the
example he's set in how to handle things with
class and integrity and represent what this school
is supposed to be all about."
It's a legacy that is nearly impossible to follow,
and one that can often become a burden on some-
one who - no matter what he accomplishes -
will always remain in Krzyzewski's shadow.
But Amaker doesn't mind that role one bit, and
says it's going to be "scary, but an honor" to
coach against his mentor tomorrow afternoon.
"I've spent a lot of time there and I'm very
proud of my tenure there," said Amaker. "I know
there will be some mixed emotions for me, being
on the other bench and competing against a place
I have a lot of special feelings for."
While the spotlight of the once-rich rivalry
between the teams will be focused on the two
generals on the bench, Amaker uses an example
of one Bobby Knight disciple to illustrate his very
humbled relationship with Krzyzewski.
"I saw where (Bowling Green coach) Dan
Dakich had a statement that said he's still always
referred to as one of coach Knight's players and
former assistants," Amaker said. "He said that
would be just fine with him if he's always consid-
ered in that way. And I identify with that state-
ment. I wouldn't mind if anything that you say or
write, in any shape or form, implies that I'm one
of Coach K's guys."
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