Class B State Championship Boys Basketball celebration. [photo]
Ninth grade Skyline-Pioneer basketball. Halftime lead for Skyline 32-21. JV is in the other gym. [photo]
Another pom-pom game. Big one. Beat State! [photo]
Damn Arbor has published an interview with Davy Rothbart, creator of FOUND Magazine, about “Medora” – his new documentary focused on Medora, Indiana. Along with Andy Cohn, Rothbart is co-director and co-producer of the film, which follows the Medora Hornets varsity basketball team and the complexities of poverty and drug abuse in a small Midwestern town. From the interview, answering a query about Rothbart’s relationship with basketball: “I grew up in Ann Arbor and Ypsi and love playing basketball. We’d shovel off the court at Wheeler Park and play in the winter. We didn’t drink much in high school, so we played basketball. Eberwhite, Burns Park. We’d play at midnight or 4 a.m. We played constantly. We weren’t that good …
Pom poms for the big Arkansas game! [photo]
Reflecting an upgrade to facilities, the University of Michigan board of regents authorized changing the name of Crisler Arena to Crisler Center. The unanimous vote came at the board’s March 15, 2012 meeting.
According to a staff memo, the arena has become more of an all-purpose facility since it was built in 1967. It now includes the adjacent William Davidson player development center with practice courts for men’s and women’s basketball teams, locker rooms and offices and other specialized spaces. The player development center had been renamed in honor of Davidson at the regents’ Feb. 16, 2012 meeting, following a $7.5 million donation from the William Davidson Foundation to the University of Michigan athletics department.
This brief was filed from the …
Following a donation of $7.5 million from the William Davidson Foundation to the University of Michigan athletics department, the UM board of regents approved renaming the basketball player development center in honor of William Davidson, who died in 2009. The unanimous vote was taken at the board’s Feb. 16, 2012 meeting in an item added to the agenda during the meeting.
Davidson, a UM graduate and businessman who owned the Detroit Pistons and other teams, had been a major donor to the university over the past several decades. The William Davidson Institute at UM’s Ross School of Business was founded in 1992 through a gift from Davidson’s business, Guardian Industries.
UM president Mary Sue Coleman described Davidson as a beloved man who had …
The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State in football is one of the best in the country. But it obscures the fact that, in just about every other sport, Michigan’s main rival is Michigan State.
In men’s basketball, there’s no team either school would rather beat than the other. The problem is, for a rivalry to really catch on, both sides need to be at the top of their game. Think of Bo versus Woody, Borg-McEnroe and, of course, Ali-Frazier, which required three death-defying fights just to determine that one of them might have been slightly better than the other.
The Michigan-Michigan State basketball rivalry, in contrast, usually consists of at least one lightweight. When Michigan got to the NCAA final in 1976, Michigan State had not been to the tournament in 17 years.
When Michigan State won the NCAA title in 1979, Michigan finished in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
When Michigan won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1985 and ‘86, State wasn’t close. And when State rolled up four straight Big Ten titles under Tom Izzo, Michigan was headed for probation, and yet another coach.
Around that time, Izzo told me there was no reason, given the basketball talent in this state, that this rivalry could not be every bit as good as Duke and North Carolina. But for more than a decade, it was anything but. Izzo owned Michigan, winning 18 of 21 games through 2010.
But Michigan managed to sweep State last year for the first time in 13 years. And on Tuesday night, for only the fifth time in the rivalry’s long history, Michigan and Michigan State both entered their contest ranked in the top 20.
This was it. The rivalry finally looked like a rivalry.
The past two Sundays, ESPN has been running a documentary called “The Fab Five,” about Michigan’s famed five freshman basketball players who captured the public’s imagination twenty years ago. It’s not quite journalism – four of the Fab Five produced it themselves – but it is a pretty honest account of what those two years were all about. And it is undeniably compelling. The first showing reached over two million homes, making it the highest rated documentary in ESPN’s history.
A lot of this story, you already know: In 1991, five super-talented freshmen came to Michigan, and by mid-season the Wolverines were the first team in NCAA history to start five freshmen. They got to the final game of March Madness before losing to the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils. The next year, they made it to the finals again, but this time they lost to North Carolina when Michigan’s best player, Chris Webber, called a time-out they didn’t have.
Along the way they made baggy shorts and black socks fashionable, and imported rap music and trash talk from the inner-city playgrounds to the college courts. It’s been that way ever since.
Fennville, Michigan – On Monday, I drove across Michigan to see a Class C regional semi-final basketball game, pitting tiny Schoolcraft High School against even tinier Fennville.
Both schools were undefeated – but that’s not why I was going. I was going to see the impact of a young man who would not be there.
Before I drove back, I also learned how quickly even a record-breaking basketball game can become utterly insignificant – and then, just a few days later, how the next game can matter so much.
Fennville is about 200 miles from Detroit, but it might as well be 200 light years. When you approach Fennville, you pass a sign declaring, “Hometown of Richard ‘Richie’ Jordan, Member of the 2001 National High School Sports Hall of Fame.”
You haven’t heard of Richie Jordan, who graduated almost 50 years ago and stands only 5-7. But everyone around here has, and down at the Blue Goose Café, they still talk about all the records he set in football, basketball and baseball. But the last few years, they’ve been talking about Wes Leonard.
In the late ’90s, Eastern Michigan University assembled some its best basketball teams. The Eagles were so good they stunned the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament, 75-60. They were led by the nation’s second-leading scorer in 1998 – a guy named Earl Boykins – who the program said stood just 5-foot-8-inches tall. This, I had to see.
I watched Boykins torch Western, Central and Ball State. He could handle the ball, shoot it and pass it better than anyone on the court – even though he was shorter than everyone on the court. Yep, this was a story.
When I interviewed him, the story just got better. He told me he was so small growing up that he learned to dribble by using a tennis ball. When he was three, his dad could sneak him into games by stuffing him in a gym bag – but, Boykins told me, “Man, that’s back when I was small.”
Then he stood up, and I quickly realized the program listing was very generous. 5-foot-8? I’m 5-foot-8 – and I towered over him. I said, “Duuuuuude! You ain’t 5-8!”
For college coaches and athletes, June is supposed to be reserved for easy chores like conducting camps, fixing tackling dummies and replacing nets.
Well, so much for the lazy, hazy days of summer. This has been one of the craziest Junes of all time.
The NCAA finally completed its four-year investigation of the cesspool that is the University of Southern California’s athletic department. The NCAA was shocked – shocked! – to discover USC’s boosters were giving tens of thousands of dollars to their star players. (The NCAA officials must have been the last folks to know.)
But, to its credit, the NCAA actually came down with some consequences: a two-year ban on bowl games, and the loss of 10 scholarships for the next three years. The school cheated for wins and for money, and their punishment will cost them wins and money – though probably not as many wins and as much money as they gained by cheating.
That would have been pretty big news by itself. But then the Big Ten started talking about expanding, which sent every major conference into a paranoid frenzy, trying to keep their leagues intact. Rumors started flying about this school and that conference. Some said the Big Ten might expand to as many as 16 teams, including Notre Dame, and the Big Eight, the Big East and maybe even the venerable ACC would collapse.
March Madness is one of the best sporting events of the year, every year, on a very short list with the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Olympics. But March Madness is the most inclusive – and, in some ways, the purest.
The tournament’s 65 teams came from 31 states this year. Schools like Gonzaga and Winthrop, Lehigh and New Mexico State all got to play.
What separates March Madness from the other events is that we get to play, too. Every office runs a hoop pool, and the winner is never the ESPN-addicted sharpie in sales, but the receptionist who picks her teams based on her favorite colors. It’s a beautiful thing.
From the outside, it looked like a typically dominant Michigan State basketball team. By the end of January, the Spartans were undefeated in the Big Ten, and ranked fifth in the nation. That record hid some problems the public couldn’t see, but Coach Tom Izzo could.
It wasn’t talent. The Spartans returned four starters, including Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas, from a team that had already reached the NCAA finals the previous year. The problem was simpler, but more serious: the players just didn’t care enough about each other.
The coaches did. In January, Izzo, his trainer, his video guy and Dave Pruder, his long-time equipment manager, all lost close relatives. And every time, they were there for each other. In the middle of the season, Izzo drove down with his trainer to South Bend for his father’s funeral. Pruder told me, “We knew we could rely on each other. But the players didn’t.”
The Michigan basketball team recently lost to Michigan State by one point, all but ending the Wolverines’ chances to return to the NCAA tournament. The Michigan hockey team faces Michigan State this weekend, and they need a sweep to improve their fading chances of getting back to the tournament themselves.
For Michigan fans, this is the Winter of Their Discontent. Provided, that is, only wins and losses count.
But the head coaches of both teams did notch a couple moral victories last week. Yes, they’ve lost some battles this season, but they’re still winning the war.