Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon sees promise in the Michigan basketball program
It closed a disappointing season for the Wolverines, who started the season ranked No. 15 in the country and ended with a 15-17 record. Despite that, Brandon isn't discouraged.
He has belief in Michigan coach John Beilein.
“John’s contract was extended coming out of last year and he’s committed to Michigan," Brandon said. "There’s a lot of schools out there who would like John Beilein coaching their basketball program.
“We’re lucky to have him here.”
From talking to those who know basketball around the country, Brandon said Michigan is in a good position with the 58-year-old Beilein, who had been head coach at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia before coming to the Wolverines.
Next season, for the first time, Beilein will have only his recruits in the program. Michigan is also renovating its basketball facilities, something Brandon said was much needed.
In September, the Board of Regents approved the construction of a 57,000-foot player development center and practice facility expected to open next year. In January, renovations for the first phase of a Crisler Arena overhaul were also given the go-ahead.
It is why Brandon indicated he looks at the entire picture of a sport when evaluating a program.
“I don’t put a disproportionate amount of emphasis on any one year, but clearly this year was a year we hoped for better and certainly lost a little bit of momentum in terms of our improvement,” Brandon said. “But that doesn’t detract from my belief that going forward we can regain that momentum, and our program is going to get bigger and better and stronger when we get those practice facilities in, and we do some things that will afford us to be able to recruit a little more aggressively. It’s going to help both those programs a lot.
“Just in terms of our practice regimen and the resources that we give them to be successful, it will help attract better recruits, because in many instances we are just woefully uncompetitive in what we can show a prospective student athlete, in terms of what support we give our basketball programs.”
The commitment with the practice facilities and Brandon’s ideas for the Crisler renovation are the beginnings of changing that level of support.
Brandon said the new practice facility, which will break ground after graduation ceremonies in May, and the eventual Crisler renovations are ways Michigan can bolster its recruiting efforts.
The first step of the Crisler overhaul will be behind-the-scenes structural upgrades necessary for the overall viability of the building.
The next steps, though, are fixing the fan experience and cosmetic look of the facility.Â
Brandon said he met with architects, financial representatives and operations people this week to discuss different options for Crisler - calling the renovation “an active topic.”
“We need wider concourses, we need more restrooms, we need better amenities in terms of food service and service opportunities for our fans,” Brandon said. “We need to re-seat the bowl, think differently about the kind of seating that we use and probably put in some kind of club-seating opportunities to give special experiences to people who are willing to take advantage of those.
“Probably come up with a different game plan as to where we put the media and just how we professionalize that arena.”
One thing has stuck with Brandon about Crisler. Two years ago, he said, a television broadcaster called Crisler one of the worst facilities in Division I on-air.
That statement bothered him. It is part of the reason why he wants Crisler to look much different a few years from now.
“I want that same guy to come back into town to do a game,” Brandon said. “And announce to the country that the University of Michigan has a basketball facility as good as anyone out there.”
The pieces, Brandon believes, are in the process of falling into place for Michigan basketball. He has the coach he wants, facilities are being built and renovated and that combination will lead to a more consistent program.
“I have high expectations and high hopes that men’s basketball at Michigan can become the program that can compete for Big Ten championships and be in the NCAA tournament,” Brandon said. “And really represent the brand and the university in the manner that we all want it to.”