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March 24, 2011 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-03-24

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8A - Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Bacari lexander: The man teaching

posts to be artists in the paint

The writi
much or
Michiga
ball coach John
in Bacari Alexa
tant.
Alexander w
formidably diff
verting Beilein
tingent into a
compete with t
of big men -
and Marcus M
Jared Sullingr
JaJuan Johnsor
To face off a
aths, Alexande
two redshirt
handful of true
Few thought
be able to do it.
wrapped up in
73-71 loss at th
Alexander seen
verted some oft
Freshman Jo
and redshirt
Morgan scored
Kyle Singler an
Devils. Freshm:
who only star
midway throug
with some of t
the country.
And still, A
himself as fo
stood on the sl
through every
ing career. Bu
again this seaso
ers on his sho
"labor of love,"
it. He turned t
that don't just s
in Division-I b
compete with a
Alexander st
ketball in midd
didn't get seriou
freshman year
western High S
Between mi

ng was pretty passes. My strength was probably
n the wall when defense and rebounding. I figured
an men's basket- you didn't have to have a talent
Beilein brought to do those things. Just 'effort.
nder as his assis- So that was my calling card as a
youngster."
'ould be given the Alexander graduated from
ficult task of con- Southwestern in 1995 and went on
's young post con- to play for Robert Morris College
group that could (now Robert Morris University).
:his year's resume "It was the No. 1 team in the
Kansas' Markieff country if you read your newspa-
orris, Ohio State's per upside-down," he joked. "We
er and Purdue's were awful, but the thingthatwas
n. really beneficial from that experi-
gainst these Goli- ence was that it was an environ-
r would be given ment where I could really shine."
freshmen and a But in 1997, after his coach
freshmen. at Robert Morris had left for
Alexander would another opportunity, Alexan-
But, as the seasrn der returned to his hometown to
the Wolverines' play for the University of Detroit-
ie hands of Duke, Mercy. At UDM, he was under the
ned to have con- tutelage of Perry Watson, who
the unbelievers. had coached him during his first
n Horford dunked two years of high school.
freshman Jordan And like his first few years in
d 10 points over high school, he made leaps and
nd the other Blue bounds under Watson once again.
an Evan Smotrycz, He helped his team to two con-
ted playing post ference championships and two
h the season, stuck NCAA Tournament berths. And
he top recruits in in his senior year, he was named
to the conference's all-defensive
Alexander counts team. But more important, Alex-
rtunate to have ander was named UDM's most
houlders of giants outstanding senior student-ath-
step of his coach- lete.
t time and time The student part was, and con-
n, he put his play- tinues to be, critically important
ulders through a to Alexander when it comes to
" as he describes student-athletes.
hem into big men It would become a cornerstone
tand their ground in his coaching philosophy.
asketball but can "It had agreat influence on who
nybody. I've become as a coach,"iAlexan-
der said. "I think a lot of times
*** when you approach things with a
lesson plan, with progressions, it
arted playing bas- gives your students an opportuni-
Ile school, but he ty to grow at a pace that's normal
s about it until his and thatthey're accustomed to. So
at Detroit's South- that kind of fuels my enthusiasm
chool. as it relates to coaching because
ddle school and trulythe court is a classroom."

AssistantcoachBacari Alexander (left) made an easy transition ram Kalama-
zoo to Ann Arbor, bringint his experience to help Michigan's youthful post game.

shows, traveling to 13 countries.
But an aching body told him it was
time to transition into something
new.
That 'something new' led him
back to his roots at the UDM,
where, after two months as the
director of basketball operations,
he was promoted to an assistant
coaching position.
He spent six seasons there
before moving to Ohio Univer-
sity and becoming an assistant
coach on a team that took part in
the inaugural CBI Tournament in
2008.
In 2008, Alexander transi-
tioned to the MAC conference
and became an assistant coach at
Western Michigan University.
In his first year in Kalamazoo,
the Broncos featured a roster of
16 players, eight of whom were
freshmen. There was only one
returning post player with sig-
nificant playing time the previous
season.
"Through a labor of work and
love, we were able to develop
those guys to become contribu-
tors in the first year and then
forces in the second year," Alex-
ander said. "So as you're devel-
oping (Michigan's post players)

and using the methodology that,
quite frankly, we used at Western
Michigan, it's really boded well
for our young bigs."
It was with the Broncos that
Alexander began to solidify his
post coaching philosophy. He
decided that the most important
aspect in coaching was establish-
ing a superior work ethic within
each player.
"A lot of times athletes want
to be really good players but it's
always a tremendous challenge
to learn the level of intensity that
it takes to achieve those goals,"
Alexander said. "I tell our play-
ers all the time, 'Don't mistake
intensity for anger. Just because
I have a scowl on my face and I
have a volume on the delivery of
my words doesn't mean that I'm
upset at you fellas.
"It just means that we're trying
to establish a mentality in terms
of the approach that you have to
take each and every day on the
practice court.'"
He would transition from
Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor easily
by bringing with him his experi-
ence to a very similar situation.

Alexander didn't personally
know Beilein when his phone
number appeared on Alexan-
der's cell phone that afternoon.
Beilein had called to talk about
a job opening at the University
of Michigan. That phone call led
to an in-person interview where
Alexander ran a full workout for
Beilein's son, Patrick.
"I was looking for, first of all,
a big-man coach," coach Beilein
said. "When you're small and ...
you're effective as a big man, you
know a lot of the trade secrets. I
could sense that right away. Then
I ended up talking with his former
head coaches, Tim O'Shea and
Steve Hawkins, they both said the
same thing. And then I just loved
his energy, his personality when
he came to his interview.
"I could tell right away he was a
very good teacher."
Alexander was offered the job
and knew he would be coming
into nearly the same situation as
when he was an assistant at West-
ern Michigan.
The Wolverines had two red-
shirt freshmen forwards, Morgan
and Blake McLimans, but beyond
that, it was a slew of freshmen.
The heavy task of taking these
players and turning them into Big
Ten contenders was placed on the
broad shoulders of Alexander.
He immediately took to the
players and brought an intensity
that few had ever seen in a coach
before.
"He always says he'd never
make us do anything that he
hasn't done himself, so he's basi-
cally just trying to make us in his
image," Horford said. "Having
strong post play is crucial to any
team that wants to have great suc-
cess like the success we're looking
for."
Morgan added: "He tries to
have a different approach about
everything. He finds a way to
make doing good things fun. You
do a lot of good things to be a
great player. And he finds a way to
break everything down and make
it real simple for you."
With the true freshmen, Alex-
ander taught them the what's,
how's and why's of being a Divi-
sion-I basketball player. But with
McLimans and Morgan, Alex-
ander focused more on teaching
them the when's and the where's,
since they were expected to see

By Chantel Jennings
Daily Sports Editor
the most game time.
With each player, he brought
game-like intensity to every prac-
tice and every game.
"My personal belief is that you
win games in practices," Alexan-
der said. "Practice is the process
that takes care of the outcome. So
for me to stand onthe sideline and
not give a 'yes face' to our play-
ers is really a recipe for disaster
on some levels when you have a
young developing talent of guys
that are trying to establish confi-
dence consistently forthemselves.
"So I'm always sitting over
there with a 'yes face,' apat on the
back, a smile, awink, you know, or
even some laughter, just to break
up the mood and keep it light."
When Alexander was at UDM
he wore the jersey No. 34. He said
he wanted to pick a number that
great, tough players like Charles
Barkley once wore.
It was a big deal to him because
he also believed that the number
was lucky - the two numbers
added up to seven.
And while he doesn't wear the
uniform number anymore on the
sidelines, the coach is still con-
cerned with his attire.
It may have started as a joke,
but now Alexander is a four-time
winner of CollegeInsider.com's
Runway to the Fashionable Four
- the only coach in the country
to do so.
He said that his game-day
decorum is more aboutbeing pos-
itive than about what he wears,
but he admits that his wife does
pick out his suits for the game
because it's important to always
look put together.
"(You must) not only dress
for where you're at, but dress for
where you're trying to go," Alex-
ander said.
At this point, none of the Wol-
verines wear No. 34 and Alexan-
der jokes that "they still have to
earn their stripes and the jury is
still out" on whether any deserve
to wear his historic number.
But perhaps after a season that
saw the Wolverines' post group@
make leaps and bounds, every
player this summer will be wear-
ing No. 34 jerseys.
It is, after all, where they're all
trying to go.

high school, Alexander grew from
5-foot-8 to 6-foot-1. While the
growth spurt made him a more
legitimate post player, his talents
hadn't caught up to his height.
"I arguably was the worst play-
er in the Detroit Public School
league at that time," Alexander
said of his first year at South-
western. "Ain't no doubt about it,
airballing layups and dropping

Following graduation in 1999,
Alexander stayed in Detroit,
working a short stint as the play-
ers programs coordinator for the
Detroit Pistons before joining
the Harlem Globetrotters. In his
two years with the Globetrotters,
he performed in more than 400

Not only does On John Beilein: On LaVall Jordan:
exanderhave an "He's like the 2011 version
"He's got a workman-look
award-winning type. Rolled up sleeves ofBilly D. Williams. He's
fashion taste, but and the coordinating ties. so smooth. His clothes
are made not by what he
he can out clothing I thnk that has wears, but by the man
swag to it." ,, wears theman
compliments, too:wg that wears them."

On Jeff Meyer:
"He has the best hair in
our conference. Not to
mention oufits, but I think
that hair really brings
creedence to whatever
he wears. He can literally
wear anything."

Best dressed player:
"In his mind, Jon Horford.
He has a very eclectic,
European style... He's into
the straight-legged jeans
and rainbow-style colors.
He tends to gravitate
toward purple."

Trip to St. Louis takes Berenson down memory lane

By STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily SportsEditor
Seventeen days ago, Michigan
coach Red Berenson stepped onto
the ice at Scottrade Center to drop
the puck for the opening faceoff
between the St. Louis Blues and
the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It was the curtain closing on
Berenson's illustrious career with
the Blues -'Salute to No. 7.'
Alongside the 17-year NHL vet-
eran stood three other legendary
No. 7s: Garry Unger, Joe Mullen
and Keith Tkachuk.
But just as the last strains of
light vanished from behind the
curtains in St. Louis, the 'Red
Baron' burst back onto center
stage.
Friday, Berenson and the No. 6
Michigan hockey team will tangle
with No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha in
the opening round of the NCAA
West Regional. The matchup will
be the Wolverines' first ever inSt.
Louis.
Though the Gateway City rolled
out the red carpet for the veteran
coach last time, there certainly
will be no homecoming party this
time around - that's Berenson's
initiative.
"I still have a lot of friends in St.
Louis, but this is a business trip,

this isn
your fr
Berens
go to St
talk tor
play ho
ButI
owes h
seven y
Canadi
scoring
St..
eves
to
Berens(
That
be endi
Bere
alty kill
after be
the cen
bone or
wanted
town.
wasn't(
"I th

't going back and visiting all son said. "I told them, 'Trade me that era.
iends - I'm not like that," or give me a lot more money.' And "I was traded for the icon of the
on said Monday. "When I they gave me the money." community," Unger told reporters
. Louis, I don't even want to But one person in particular was at 'Salute to No. 7.'
my friends; we're comingto looking out for Berenson - Blues Berenson later returned to the
ckey." coach Scotty Bowman. Berenson Blues' coaching staff, spending
Berenson readily admits he had excelled under Bowman with three years as head coach.
is career to the Blues. After the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, tally- When Berenson retired follow-
rears of floundering in the ing 48 points in 30 games for the ing the 1977-78 season, Berenson
ens and Rangers' systems, minor-league affiliate of Montreal. finished as the seventh-leading
just 16 goals in 185 games, When Bowman heard Berenson goal-scorer in St. Louis history
was on the Rangers' trading block, with 172 goals.
he made the move. So the Rang- And six of those tallies came
ers dealt Berenson to St. Louis, on a single night. On Nov. 7, 1968,
When I go to an expansion team with a ragtag Berenson torched the Philadelphia
bunch playing in a sad excuse of Flyers for a half dozen goals - the
Louis, I don't an arena, first player to ever record a double
"(Bowman) knew I could play, hat-trick in a road game.
n w ant to talk so he made the deal, he got New But at 71 years old, the ever-
York to trade me," Berenson said. humble coach has heard enough
my friends."' "He said, 'You've always needed about that night. He remembers it
a chance. You're getting a chance as an 8-0 win.
now.' That was my chance, and I During last Tuesday's practice
took off. at Yost Ice Arena, Berenson skated
on needed a change.' "It gave me a chance to prove in front of the empty net and rifled
change, he thought, might that I could play. I bumped around a backhand just beneath the cross-
unghis career. a little bit. When I came out of bar. And then he did it four more
nson played solely as a pen- school, I was with Montreal, they times.
ler with the Canadiens, and didn't play me, I was a fourth-line The veteran coach hasn't lost
ring traded to the Rangers, player." his touch.
ter broke his toe and cheek- Berenson went on to play eight "He's got a better backhand
n Christmas - the gift he years with the Blues, sandwiched than me ... And he doesn't just
1 next was a ticket out of around a four-year stint with skate, he flies," senior forward
ks Berenson says, he "just the Detroit Red Wings in which Rust said after the NCAA Selec-
cut out for New York." he was traded for Unger to join a tion Show placed the Wolverines
ought I was done," Beren- team coined the "Dead Wings" in in St. Louis for the West Regional.

tED MOCH/Daily
Michigan coach Red Berenson returns to St. Louis this weekend, where he was
an All-Star caliber forward for the Blues.

As a player who took his knocks
in the NHL and saw time as both
a fourth-line player and a six-time
All-Star, Berenson has carried
his experience into his tenure as
coach of the Wolverines.
"I was up and down," Berenson
said. "I can relate to players that
aren't having success, and I can
relate to our players that are hav-
ing success."
Added senior forward Louie

Caporusso: "(Berenson) shows no
signs of slowing down. He's the
most intense person in the rink
every time there's a game. We feed
off him. His pregame talks and
some of the things he says are very
inspirational - you can't ask for a
better coach."
In St. Louis this weekend,
Berenson hopes to close the cur-
tains with a pair of wins, and not
get sent home singingthe blues.

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