Amaker May Lead Hoops Team

Appointment of former Michigan coach to come today, Globe says

Former University of Michigan coach Tommy Amaker has been offered the Harvard men’s basketball head coaching position and is expected to accept, according to the Boston Globe.

Representatives at Harvard’s athletic communications office said they could not confirm the Globe’s report and that they had no set date for the announcement of a new coach.

Nichols Family Director of Athletics Robert L. Scalise—who chairs the committee assembled to hire a new coach after Frank Sullivan’s contract was not renewed March 5—declined repeated requests for comment this week.

Members of the men’s basketball team were unaware that any decision regarding the selection had been made.

“That’s news to me as well—they haven’t told us about any hiring,” guard Alek G. Blankenau ’10 said.

The team met with Amaker last Friday, just one day after convening with the other top candidate, Mike Jarvis. Jarvis, who was mostly recently a coach at St. John’s University, served a four-year stint as an assistant coach for the Harvard men’s basketball team in the late 1970s.

“We gave input to the athletic director on what we thought about each candidate, and they’re going to make their decisions from there,” Blankenau said.

After meeting up with Amaker, players on the team said they are looking forward to the potential opportunity of playing under the former Duke University basketball star.

“[Amaker] was a tremendous person. When he was in that room, he got everyone motivated right away,” guard Andrew R. Pusar ’09 said. “Numerous people said if he was the coach, they would want to step out on the court and play for him from day one. I’m psyched about it, I know the team is psyched about it.”

Director of Athletic Communications Charles V Sullivan said last Thursday that he believed the decision would be made at the end of this week. He also told The Crimson that the official announcement would come next week, although the Globe’s article stated that Amaker’s appointment would be announced as soon as today.

Amaker was a stellar point guard under coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, winning the national defensive player of the year award as a senior in 1987, and later began his coaching career as an assistant under Krzyzewski.

“Coaching-style wise, a person coming from his background would be an unbelievable person to learn from,” Pusar said. “He has the best of both worlds—mentored under probably the most famous college basketball coach...and at the same time, he has had success by himself in his own program.”

Amaker’s first head-coaching opportunity came at Seton Hall University in 1998. The Pirates made the postseason all four seasons under Amaker, advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2000.

Amaker moved to the University of Michigan in 2002, where his Wolverines squad won the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in 2004. He failed, however, to take Michigan to the NCAA Tournament in his six seasons in Ann Arbor, leading to his firing in March. Amaker currently holds a career coaching record of 177-138.

The Harvard men’s basketball team has never won the Ivy League title or advanced to the NIT. The team’s sole NCAA appearance was in 1946.

“If [Amaker] comes in, I’d expect instant toughness. We’re all going to respect him,” forward Evan K. Harris ’09 said. “I feel that might have been a hurdle to overcome if it was a coach...[with a track record] we hadn’t known about, but not with someone like him or someone like Jarvis.”

The hiring of either Amaker or Jarvis, who are both black, would also address the notable lack of diversity within the Harvard coaching staff.

The Globe recently revealed that none of the 32 Harvard head coaches are black, later reporting that the athletic administration was “scrambling” to hire a black coach.

Assuming he has been offered the job, Amaker’s decision to accept or decline might be heavily influenced by his wife and her career.

“Any decision made in the Amaker household is a joint decision and I’m not the coach of that team,” Amaker said in a 2001 interview with the Michigan Daily.

His wife, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, is currently a clinical psychologist who was Associate Dean of Students at Michigan and is expected to be a part of the Harvard faculty should Amaker join the coaching staff, according to the Globe.

—Staff writer Walter E. Howell contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at cpeiffer@fas.harvard.edu.