Editor's note: Over the next five weeks, we will reveal the top 50 coaches in college basketball as decided by our ESPN Forecast panel. Today we unveil No. 22: Harvard's Tommy Amaker. On Friday, we release No. 21.
I still remember how dreary the whole thing felt.
It was late February 2007, and I was covering the basketball beat for my student newspaper. My first trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan -- my first time in the Crisler Center, ground zero for my requisite early-'90s Fab Five idols -- was as gray as the weather outside. The building had as much personality, and as much concrete, as a Soviet-era housing block. Michigan's players looked mostly disengaged. The fans were good, particularly the student section, but the game was pretty ugly. And all afternoon, from the sideline to the postgame news conference, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker looked like he was miserable.
About a month later, Michigan would fire Amaker, and Amaker would accept the job at Harvard. I didn't think much of it. Who did? (I was a senior in college, so hoops-coach realpolitik was not exactly foremost among my thoughts back then, but still.) Amaker was receding from the Big Ten and taking a job at a historically bereft Ivy League school, never to be heard from again.
So much for that. In 2008, Amaker inherited a program whose only NCAA tournament berth came in 1946, which had never won an Ivy League title. In the seven seasons since, Amaker has taken the Crimson to three NCAA tournaments, won two games while there, earned the school's first top 25 ranking, competed for some of the nation's best recruits, riled up all kinds of "Harvard: Just like any other college basketball program?!?" anger and completely redeemed himself.
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