Tommy Amaker leaves Seton Hall for Michigan

Thursday, March 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) _ Tommy Amaker on Thursday was named the men's basketball coach at Michigan, which hopes the 35-year-old's youthful enthusiasm and recruiting savvy can revive a program which in recent years has fallen on hard times.

``This is a great opportunity for me and my family. I have always had a great deal of respect for the Michigan program and I'm very happy to have the chance to be the head coach at an institution that has a commitment to both academics and athletics,'' Amaker said.

Amaker agreed to a multiyear contract with Michigan, according to a news release handed out before a scheduled news conference.

Details on Amaker's contract were not immediately released.

Michigan had contacted Rick Pitino about its opening, but he chose to coach at Louisville.

Amaker replaces Brian Ellerbe, who was fired two weeks ago after posting a 62-60 record in four seasons, including a 25-9 mark his first year. The Wolverines were 12-19, 15-14 and 10-18 the past three seasons and didn't finish better than eighth in the Big Ten.

Amaker, who will turn 36 in June, was 68-55 in four seasons at Seton Hall. The former Duke star led the Pirates to four postseason appearances, the highlight being a surprising trip to the round of 16 in last year's NCAA tournament.

Michigan's assistant coaches were not fired along with Ellerbe, but it will be up to the next coach whether they will be retained.

Terence Greene, one of the three assistants, had positive things to say about Amaker on Wednesday.

``He's one of the brightest young minds in the business,'' Greene said. ``He's a great recruiter and he relates well with people. I played against him when I was at DePaul and he was at Duke and he's been a first-class guy ever since I met him.''

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has known Amaker since they were both assistant coaches recruiting NBA star Chris Webber, who went to Michigan in 1991.

``I think it's a great hire. He's a good recruiter and a good coach, who relates well with people,'' Izzo said.

Izzo believes Amaker will help make the Wolverines competitive enough for the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry to be one of the best in college basketball, making it comparable to Duke and North Carolina's rivalry.

``That's what it's all about,'' Izzo said.

Seton Hall was ranked as high as No. 7 early in the season, but the team fell apart down the stretch and didn't qualify for the Big East postseason tournament until it beat Connecticut in its regular season finale.

The Pirates finished 16-15 after losing to Alabama in the opening round of the NIT, the team's third trip to that tournament under Amaker.

Leading candidates to succeed Amaker at Seton Hall included Skip Prosser, who led Xavier to the NCAA tournament this season. Seton Hall athletic director Jeff Fogelson was Prosser's boss when he worked as AD at Xavier.

``We have already begun to identify candidates that we feel will lead Seton Hall's program into the future,'' Fogelson said, noting that the Pirates have already begun a search for a new coach.