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Monday, April 16, 2007

I actually like Jay Bilas quite a bit. He's one of the rare color guys/studio analysts who will explain the finer details of basketball to the layman. He usually strikes a nice balance between the Vitale and Packer ends of the basketball announcer spectrum. But he's totally nuts about longtime friend Tommy Amaker's firing at Michigan. The latest salvo, and there have been a few previous, is an interview in the Free Press in which Bilas says many ridiculous things. Here's one:

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said he tells his coaches that their job is to be always knocking on the door of a Big Ten championship every year and knocking on the door of a national championship every few years. Is Beilein capable of those standards? They haven't been doing a lot of knocking the last 40 years. Before Amaker got there, all they were known for was cheating.
A completely false and unprofessional assertion. Michigan has been to the Final Four during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, winning a national championship in '89. Even if you would like to pretend that the Fab Five never happened, that's a record of achievement most schools look up to, asshat. In a four-question interview, Bilas brings up Michigan "cheating" twice. (This is where I point out that none of the violations were recruiting inducements, that if Ed Martin didn't exist the Fab Five still would have attended Michigan, and the same frickin' one-year self-imposed postseason ban and meaningless scholarship reduction penalties were assessed to an Ohio State program that obviously turned itself around quite quickly.)

Bilas has been beating this drum ever since people started question Amaker's job at Michigan, constantly questioning the dedication of the program while simultaneously decrying the one extremely obvious thing they did -- firing Amaker and hiring a guy at twice his salary -- that shows they're paying attention. Why does anyone bother to ask Bilas about this situation? Not only is he a fellow Dukie bound by their arcane preppy rituals, he was a frickin' teammate of Amaker and is evidently his bestest friend in the entire world. As a result, he says things like "Tommy put (the program) in really solid footing, and I think Michigan owes him a debt of gratitude for doing that," when any minimally competent coach could have ceased recruiting Dom Ingerson and Maurice Searight and Avery Queen, who were not only thugs but sucky thugs.

We can stipulate that Amaker was a better coach than Brian Ellerbe -- I mean, God, if we're going to get meatheads into the program let's at least make sure they can play -- but that's all. Michigan owes Tommy Amaker nothing more than the 900k stipulated in his contract. He was a terrible floor coach, a recruiter who couldn't put together a coherent roster, and he looked ridiculous. He is not a martyr. He was not done wrong. Michigan showed him more patience than virtually any other school in the country would: six years is an eternity in college basketball. No school above the Northwestern-Penn State level would tolerate Amaker's result and no one except Bilas would confuse the Michigan basketball program with either of those schools.

I want to be very clear on this: Tommy Amaker was not good for the Michigan program. He "cleaned up the program" only because the worst athletic director in the history of Michigan athletics decided to hire the worst coach in the history of Michigan athletics. Since Amaker is not three standard deviations below the mean it looks like he did a good job, but any basketball coach remotely qualified to coach in the Big Ten would have done a better one. Every reasonable candidate kicked around six years ago would have had more success. Everyone in the world except Dick Vitale, who refuses to criticize any coach ("Dave Bliss is awesome, baby!"), realizes this. Except Bilas.

Jay Bilas is quite literally the least objective person on the planet to talk to about this. So why bother asking?

Elsewhere: Joey demolishes Bilas as well:
What actual insight did a purported expert, Jay Bilas, offer during this interview? None. I feel stupider having read it. It was a bunch of tired talking points and worthless generalities. Not a single person who knows even a little bit about college basketball could have learned anything from this piece