Can't say I was the least bit shocked when I heard earlier this afternoon that Michigan fired coach Tommy Amaker. Amaker inherited a mess when he took over for Brian Ellerbe six seasons ago, but he underachieved in never leading the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament. This year, Michigan finished 22-13 and lost in the second round of the NIT despite having one of the most veteran teams in the big six conferences.
I was asked on the radio the other day whether Marquette coach Tom Crean was a possible Amaker replacement. I said the university would be wise to pursue him, but it's an extreme longshot he would come to Michigan. Crean's got a great situation at Marquette, and the Wolverines would have to pony up a lot of money and make a lot of promises of upgrading the program to lure him away. I don't see that happening.
A few more realistic names to consider are Butler coach Todd Lickliter, who led the Bulldogs to a five seed this year and previously served two seasons as an assistant at Eastern Michigan; UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who spent four seasons at Illinois before jumping to the NBA in 2000; and Washington State coach Tony Bennett, who says he's committed to the Cougars but could be lured back to the Midwest near his Wisconsin roots. All three are solid X and O guys who might be able to rejuvenate one of college basketball's best brand names.
Bennett and Lickliter would seem to have the most to lose by leaving Washington State has only three seniors on its roster and Butler returns junior guards A.J. Graves and Mike Green, while UNLV graduates four starters and whoever takes over will have a sales job to do to keep Michigan's current talent on board. Rumors were rampant during the season that Ekpe Udoh was looking to transfer, and as a courtesy Michigan will have to let recruits Manny Harris and Alex Legion out of their letters of intent if they wish. Regardless, the decision to go in a different direction was best for the program and all parties involved.