Amaker dismissed after six seasons as Michigan coach

Updated: March 18, 2007, 9:00 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker was fired Saturday following six seasons leading the program without an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Tommy Amaker at Michigan
Tommy Amaker
Amaker

Tommy Amaker arrived at Michigan in 2001 after four seasons at Seton Hall. He leaves after six seasons and three NIT bids -- but no trips to the NCAA Tournament. His Michigan record at a glance:

Season Record Postseason
2006-07 22-13 NIT
2005-06 22-11 NIT finalist
2004-05 13-18 None
2003-04 23-11 NIT champ
2002-03 18-12 Ineligible
2001-02 11-18 None
Total 109-83 3 NITs

"Nobody wants to be told your time is up, or that you're no longer wanted," Amaker said during a news conference. "I wouldn't say 'shocked.' I was hopeful we would get a chance to continue, but that's not the case, and I understand and respect the decisions that are made at Michigan."

According to ESPN.com's Andy Katz, some of the names up for consideration to replace Amaker include Washington State's Tony Bennett, Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery, former Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery, UNLV's Lon Kruger, West Virginia's John Beilein, Xavier's Sean Miller and Cal's Ben Braun, as well as ESPN analysts Rick Majerus and Steve Lavin.

Katz also reported that Kentucky coach Tubby Smith could be a candidate, if he's available.

Before this season started, Amaker said it was fair to expect the Wolverines to reach the NCAA Tournament. They ended up playing in the NIT for the third time in four years and were eliminated from that tournament two days ago.

Michigan was on probation for the first five years Amaker was coach there. He led the Wolverines to three NITs, and Michigan won the NIT in 2004.

Amaker found out he was fired Saturday morning after meeting with athletic director Bill Martin. After that meeting, Amaker held a team meeting.

According to Katz, the general feeling is one of surprise that the decision and announcement came today.

"Letting Tommy go was the toughest decision I've had to make in seven years as athletic director," Martin told The Associated Press. "He took over a program that needed help, and he helped it in a lot of ways. But at Michigan, we have a tradition of winning Big Ten and national championships and we haven't been close to doing either in a lot of ways."

The Wolverines finished 22-13, with an 87-66 loss at Florida State on Thursday night.

"There were moments of delight and success [this season]," Martin said. "But we didn't make the NCAA Tournament and that was the goal. To that extent, it was a disappointment."

Amaker's career record at Michigan was 109-83 overall -- with three 20-win seasons -- and 43-53 in the Big Ten.

"Am I disappointed and hurt? Of course," Amaker said. "I'm not going to sit up here and say I'm happy. But angry? Bitter? I don't subscribe to those things.

"When you put your heart and soul and everything you have into something, you are disappointed because you want to see it through. But I understand how this business works."

He was under contract through the 2010-11 season, but the school could fire him without cause by giving him $900,000, according to his contract, which was obtained last week by the AP in a Freedom of Information Act request.

Amaker had to be employed as Michigan's coach on March 31, 2011, to earn a deferred-compensation package after the school's annual contributions of $100,000. By firing him, the school keeps the invested money, according to the contract.

Michigan hired Amaker on March 29, 2001, after firing Brian Ellerbe.

He inherited a mess, stemming from the Ed Martin scandal, the school's lackluster facilities and Ellerbe's awful recruiting.

Martin, a now-deceased former booster, told the federal government he lent $616,000 to ex-Wolverines Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock in what the NCAA said was the largest financial scandal in its history.

Michigan was 18-12 overall and 10-6 during the 2002-03 season -- Amaker's second year -- but the Wolverines were ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.

In four seasons at Seton Hall, Amaker led the Pirates to a 68-55 record, a trip to the round of 16 in the 2000 NCAA Tournament and three NIT bids.

The native of Falls Church, Va., spent nine years on Mike Krzyzewski's staff at Duke, where he was a four-year starter in the mid-1980s.

Amaker's wife, Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, is the University of Michigan's associate dean of students.

Martin said he had a list of candidates but declined to identify any of the coaches.

"Michigan's basketball opening is going to be a highly sought after job," he said. "I want to move as quickly as I can, but some of the coaches we're might be interested in are still coaching in the NCAA Tournament."

While Amaker fell short of helping his team reach its goal, the school has not appeared to live up to its contractual commitment to improve perhaps the Big Ten's worst basketball practice facilities.

"We've already hired a consultant to work on the infrastructure at Crisler Arena," Martin said. "And if a coach makes a major issue out of not having a practice facility yet, then they're probably not the right coach for Michigan."

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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