Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The three magic letters of success

I don't know as much about basketball coaching as Tommy Amaker. My experience on the bench consists solely of helping my friend Scott coach a recreation league team of high schoolers about seven or eight years ago. Coaches were mostly there because teams needed an adult to sit on the bench. Those guys didn't need us, though I'd like to think our coaching played a role in the team winning the league championship.

Actually, I wasn't there for the final few games. I was sick of dealing with those kids by then. But like I said, they didn't really need us.

But I did learn some things about strategy and motivation. And that's what brings me to Amaker and the Michigan basketball team. After last night's 66-43 stomping of Old Dominion, the Wolverines are one game away from winning the NIT tournament. No, it's not the "real" tournament, and hardly anyone remembers NIT championships years later. But Michigan is winning the games they're playing right now, even if it would've been better for them to play this way three weeks ago.

(Photo by Steve Perez/ Detroit News)

Amaker's players seem to focus when the NIT is on the line, and the coach needs to take advantage of that. Look at Courtney Sims: 18 points and seven rebounds last night. Michigan fans (along with coaches and teammates) have been waiting for that kind of game out of Sims for a long time.

Somehow, the coach needs to convince his guys next season that they're playing for the NIT again. Maybe he can post NIT logos, posters, and banners all over the locker room. Cover up anything that says "NCAA." Get one of the assistants or a student to dub "NIT" over "NCAA" whenever the players watch SportsCenter. Make anyone who dares mention those four letters sleep in the dark and scary upper deck of Crisler Arena.

But that seems like a lot of work. Maybe there's an easier way. And I think Daniel Horton alluded to it in a post-game quote from today's Detroit News:

"We're backed to the three H's that coach talked about," senior guard Daniel Horton said. "That allows us to be a better team. And we're sharing the ball better."

Three letters. Something about that number, regardless of the letters involved, gets these guys' attention. But the combination of the letters "N," "I", and "T" really keeps them sharp. Amaker needs to keep them in that zone. And after carefully considering this for the last 30 minutes over my morning coffee, I think I know how he can do it.


Courtney Sims, you are getting very, veerrrry sleeeeepyyyy. We're playing in the NIT. Relax. Forget the pressure of the NCAA tournament. We're going to hang another banner in Crisler. When I count to three, you will become a dominant frontcourt player, like you were in New York City. Maize rage... maize rage...

I think it's worth a shot. And in case it doesn't completely work, and you have Michigan basketball players wandering the streets of Ann Arbor looking for Times Square or Central Park, put in some trigger word safeguards, like "Webber" or "Ellerbe" to snap them back to reality when it's necessary. Just to be safe, maybe Amaker can just whip out the watch before important conference games. Or just use it in March.

Anyway, like I said, I don't know a lot about basketball coaching. I think I threw away Jerry Krause's book on coaching around the same time I told my buddy that I hated those punk-ass mother#@$%ers we were babysitting every Sunday afternoon. But I think I'm onto something here. Consider it free advice, Coach. No charge.

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  • At March 29, 2006 11:21 AM, Blogger Greg Eno said…

    Isn't it something how the gap between the popularity/importance of the NIT and the Big Dance seems to grow wider each year?

    When U-M won the NIT in 1984 -- led by Timmy McCormick -- it seemed to be much more of a big deal than when they won several years ago.

    Every year the NIT coverage shrinks, at least in our local birdcage liners.

    Would you rather win the NIT or go "one-and-out" in the NCAA? Are you listening, Tom Izzo?

  • At March 29, 2006 2:27 PM, Blogger the sports dude said…

    In all honesty I would love to see a one game playoff between the NIT winner and the NCAA Champion. I wonder what would happen?

  • At March 29, 2006 5:20 PM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    I think the NIT winner and NCAA champion should definitely be in the preseason NIT, if not face each other outright. I suppose it wouldn't look good if the NIT champ beat the NCAA champ, but it'd certainly give us something to talk about.


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