You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 6:47 p.m.

Michigan basketball team receives champion's welcome from charities, fans, Red Berenson and more

By Kyle Austin

Just before midnight on Monday, more than 11,000 fans left the Crisler Center in a stunned silence after watching Michigan fall to Louisville, 82-76 in the national title game.

About 15 hours later, there was once again a line outside Michigan’s basketball arena. Many of those same fans were back once again. But this time, the mood was different.

Despite the team’s run ending with a loss, Wolverines fans came out to show their support for Michigan’s first final four team in 20 years in Tuesday afternoon ceremony.

The Wolverines’ team bus pulled up a little after 3 p.m. When players and coaches entered the arena, they found a gathering of a few hundred fans filling most of three sections in the south end of the Crisler Center, cheering them on as if they were national champions.

“We just want to thank you guys,” point guard Trey Burke told the crowd. “This team’s been through a lot this year. We were doubted, and toward the middle of the year we faced a lot of adversity that we overcame. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win yesterday but we’ve got a lot to be proud of.”


The crowd of fans celebrate the Michigan basketball season at Crisler Arena on Tuesday, April 9.

Daniel Brenner |

With his team in folding chairs around him on the floor, Wolverines coach John Beilein took to the microphone and thanked the fans for coming out. He said he had heard about the Monday night gathering at Crisler when the arena was nearly filled to capacity, and called it “tremendous.”

The microphone was then passed to every assistant coach and player, each of whom thanked the fans for taking time out to show their support.

Stars like Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. received the expected hearty receptions when it was their turn to speak. But the loudest cheer of the day went up for the last speaker: freshman point guard Spike Albrecht.

After averaging less than two points per game during the regular season, Albrecht exploded for 17 in the first half Monday night.

The performance instantly made Albrecht a national phenomenon. So much so that he took to Twitter Tuesday morning to send a message to Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton, thanking her for attending the game and saying he hopes to see her again.

“What you don’t know is that Spike is so big right now that Kate Upton asked him out for a date and he said he’s too busy,” Beilein said.

After all the thank yous, the ceremony ended with the final singing of The Victors for the 2012-13 team.

“It’s very emotional,” Hardaway Jr. said after the ceremony. “We love our fans to death, it was great to see them come out here and support us like they did. They took time out of their day to come out and support us.”

Hardaway Jr. is one of several Wolverines players who could have made their last Crisler appearance Tuesday. Hardaway, Burke, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary could all declare for the NBA draft after the season. Hardaway, Burke and McGary each said they had yet to come to a decision.

"It'll be something that I'll be talking over with my coaching staff and parents over the next week or two," Burke said. "I haven't set a timeline on my future."

A wide range of fans took time to greet the Wolverines in a short-notice ceremony. Right at 3 p.m., Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson was at the Crisler Center door alongside the throng of fans. He found a seat in the bleachers alongside assistant coach Billy Powers to take in the event.

“I just wanted to show my support, and it’s hard to contact Beilein,” Berenson said. “I want them to know that everyone in the athletic department is behind them.”

While Berenson made the short walk across the parking lot from Yost Ice Arena, others traveled much farther to make it to the event. Also among the early arrivers were freshmen Kevin Conn and Gabe Gelbart, who both attended Monday night’s game in Atlanta.

Both made quick trips back to Ann Arbor, Conn arriving by car at around 12:30 p.m. and Gelbart by plane at 1 p.m. After stops at their dorms, both were in their seats at Crisler to see this Wolverines team one final time.

Gelbart called watching the Wolverines in the final four a “life-changing experience.”

“Now every championship game I watch I’ll have been there,” Gelbart said.

Conn said fans’ attachment to this Wolverines team goes beyond the players’ successes.

“You can go up and talk to them and they’ll actually talk to you and have a conversation,” Conn said. “I feel like people sense that and they feel like they’re a part of it all.”


Michigan fans Bob Trudell and Peggy Cole hold up a banner.

Kyle Austin |

One section over, Peggy Cole and Bob Trudell sat holding a large white banner congratulating “our champions,” from the residents of the St. Louis Center in Chelsea.

The St. Louis Center, a residential community for people with developmental disabilities, was chosen this year by Beilein as his charity of choice. Beilein took his players to St. Louis twice this year, where they played basketball with residents and gave them tickets to a game.

“He’s not only taught these guys how to play an incredible game and develop their skills, but he’s also teaching them how to be charitable, which lasts forever,” Cole, St. Louis’s development director, said of Beilein. “So he’s taught them really great lessons.”

Cole had the banner made Monday before the game, and had it signed by the St. Louis residents. She dropped it off at Crisler Monday morning, hoping it could be displayed for the players when they returned. But when she heard there would be a welcome home ceremony for the team, she came back and held it herself.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” Cole said.

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.



Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

This team has given us so much joy on top of a exhilarating season/post-season run, accomplishing it with perseverance, teamwork, class and fun. Everyone added something wonderful to the court when called upon, my 3-goggles had a busy year. It's been easy cheering on our Wolverines-- how could we not support such a great group of guys?! You made us alumni so proud-- Victors all. Only love... GO Blue!

Chase Ingersoll

Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Can anyone else comment on the lack of trash talking by both teams as compared to Syracuse. The players on both teams in this game as well as the coaches just seem like the nicest people. In college basketball, when you make it to a championship game the year before, lose, but return most of your players you should win, especially when playing against a team that was out in the first round the previous year and starts three Freshmen. Louisville had a lot more to loose in this game. Michigan won by just being there and stayed within a single shot, call or free throw of actually winning. I'm just glad they lost to a class act coach and players and not one of the trash talking teams of lesser caliber and that unlike 20 years ago, when Michigan was the trash talking Fib Five, that was going to result in sanctions against teams after the Fibbers departed, this performance will attract only more high caliber recruits and their parents.


Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

very proud of the pose and integrity the coach's instill in these young men Our community is a better place because of them. You are all winners!

Kyle Mattson

Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:10 a.m.

The emotion on the players faces says so much about what it must be like to lose such a big game. You try your best to put a smile on but it's not easy to stop replaying the game in your mind, thinking of what the day would have been like if the championship had been won, etc.


Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

They looked sad, deflated, and tired. If only this team could truly understand what they've done for this program. This team made us all so very PROUD! Heck, I was thrilled just to see them make it into the March Madness brackets! And, wow, as they spoke they showed so much maturity. All the players are very good speakers and it's great knowing that they were out there representing the UM as intelligent, compassionate, educated student athletes. Leaders and the best - no doubt about it!

Kyle Austin

Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

Not to pile on here, but I'll echo what others are saying as far as the turnout. Very short notice for an event during the middle of a weekday, and it was promoted largely on social media. But the people that were there sure were passionate


Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 11:42 p.m.

Number 2 team in the country an 100 to 200 only fans show up? ... so you want these guys to come back then send a strong message regarding that. From 75,000 to 200... not too good but for those who went your AWESOME! Not that I like Indiana but I bet the turnout in the same situation would have been much much larger. Not saying that Michigan has fair weather fans but what this team did was nothing short of amazing and I think the turnout today should have been a lot better.

Susanne Brace

Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

Well EXCUSE ME for having to work! "Not saying that Michigan has fair weather fans" Saying? Maybe not. Implying? CLEARLY.


Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

There were about 350 fans at this last minute announced event (I counted the rows). Tuesdays are one of the busiest filled days for students attending classes, not to mention I personally had to sneak out of my office just to get there. The majority of people work 8am-5pm M-F. I certainly hope this team knows how proud the fans were... because we all are!!


Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:51 a.m.

Would've been there if I lived anywhere close and work had allowed. Go Blue!!

Kyle Austin

Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

No doubt they were absolutely exhausted. Beilein said he got back to the hotel around 2 last night, couldn't fall asleep until 4, then woke up two hours later. Saturday night after Syracuse was similar.


Wed, Apr 10, 2013 : 12:36 a.m.

I was at Crisler last night and again for the team's return today. It was overcast and sprinkling when they arrived. There were about 250 people if not more. Very heartfelt, loud and proud fans, family and friends. The team and staff were VERY appreciative and believe me they were absolutely exhausted. To compare any other team (especially the not even close to #1 hoosiers) to this team OR the fans only shows your colors. Not Maize & Blue. Glad you were not there.


Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

Relax, the basketball team arrival was on short notice. Besides, they are more disappointed in the loss than any of us fans. They probably were glad there wasn't any more fans. You can bet the whole team and coaching staff will be honored at the first home football game.


Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

It was 3:00 PM on a weekday! Not that many of us can get away from work or classes at that time. But we were there with them in spirit.


Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

These kids look so young and have so much potential, so much to look forward to. I hope they know that we are immensely proud of them and will be watching them and cheering for them in the years to come. They are champions in so many ways; they are Michigan. We love you boys.