Tuesday musings before Michigan

If you’re surfing ’round the old Internets today, you might come across a lot of proclamations about the talented Mr. Manny Harris of Michigan. He’s a freshman and he leads the Wolverines in scoring (16.4 per game), rebounding (4.6) and assists (3.0).Manny Harris.

An impressive line, for sure. But let’s keep it in context. Harris is being leaned on heavily right now because he’s the future of the program. There’s no reason for first-year coach John Beilein to play his more-experienced guards because 1) they’ve got the same knowledge of his system that Harris does and 2) they won’t be around much longer.

So if Harris is the more physically gifted player — and he is — despite the fact that he’s prone to freshman mistakes (shot selection) and hasn’t a clue what it means to play in a conference as physical as the Big Ten.

Imagine, for a moment, that Kelvin Sampson had been fired in the off season, and Eric Gordon had followed him wherever he went. A new coach arrives, bringing with him a radically different style to a team with middle-of-the-conference talent. He looks out at the players before him on the first day of practice and sees seniors Mike White and Lance Stemler. Then there’s freshman Brandon McGee.

Who plays?

You’ve got A.J. Ratliff and Jordan Crawford. Whose development is more important for you?

Disclaimer: Harris is a very talented player who plays a strong all-around game. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him guard Eric Gordon tonight, in fact. He’ll be on the Big Ten All-Freshman team and all that.

But Indiana’s got the clear edge in freshmen talent. No rookie duo in the nation is scoring as much as Gordon and Crawford (another Detroit native) and Crawford has only been put in the position of having to carry the offense once (which he did, scoring 20 against Kentucky.)

Speaking of Gordon . . . anybody think he’ll take less than eight 3-pointers tonight against that 1-3-1 zone?


  1. Chris: Your hypothetical comparison leaves me cold. I understand your logic, but as a coach you should treat all the rostered players as a team. Any coach worth his salt (huge salary) should play one season at a time and not look ahead. AJ came in as a phenom. So we put him on the shelf in lieu of Jordan? How about using them both (all) and creating a team. Teams win championships. Not duos, or individuals. I do, however, enjoy your musings and Zak’s questions. I love reading the varying opinions. Keep up the good work. It gives me great reading when I need a break from work.

  2. WW,

    College sports — heck, high school sports — are a cold business these days. I’ve covered so many situations where an older player who has paid his dues by waiting on the bench never gets his shot to play because a coach decides that playing a few younger kids and allowing them to develop would be more beneficial in the long run.

    But those situations aren’t the norm. Coaches talk about building a program and the ones who do it well eventually create a system where team is above all else and even talented young players must fit into the system and show some patience. It’s usually during the transition years that you get a different situation taking place.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Well said. You see more than I do. I guess I am a bit naive and idealistic thinking that a coach starts the best five and uses the best of the rest. Sports are a biz these days.

  4. WW – It isn’t even about the business aspect of it.

    I coach youth football, I have to allow every kid a certain amount of playing time, but as a rule, the better players see more action. However, If I only worry about playing my “best” players, my younger guys will never develop. Then what good are they to me when my “best” players move to the next league?

    This isn’t about the giving the individual players more playing time, it is about developing the team as a whole. The more experience I can get my younger players, the better my team is in the long run.

  5. Mike, I appreciate your future outlooks as a coach, but I would think there is a fine line between coaching for the best team now and developing for the future. My main point was that a team includes every player on the roster. I also coached and I attempted to make every player an equal part of the team. This is especially important with youth. I also was required to play every child a certain amount of time. Not equal playing time but equal importance to the team. You have different skill levels but I coached for the moment. Not for next year. Each year I would encourage team spirit, competitiveness, and working together. These basics still work at the more professional (and college) levels. Sorry……I think we are saying essentially the same thing. I was just telling Chris that his comments hit me hard on the first read. He is a writer and he did a good job of reporting an opinion. I agree that these high paying, short lived coaching jobs bring pressures that I will never know. A tough job. A much different calling than youth coach.

  6. let me get this straight….let’s say a new coach comes in – for this example, let’s say his initials are KS. a couple of the players on the team are seniors and will be gone the next season, lets call them RW and EC. knowing that they will not be around for the future of the program, coach KS benches RW and EC for the entire season and plays the new kids XK and JS major minutes. hmmmm…..sounds a lot like what happened at IU last season, doesn’t it?

    Chris, your logic is fine, but that’s not how it works. the best players play and the raw players sit – then transfer after the season ends. therefore, manny harris must be the best player. i think he’d find quite a bit of playing time if he were in Bloomington – even with the glut of guards in town.

  7. Mike P. (Chicago version),

    My guess is that Sampson didn’t think he could build around XK and JS — wouldn’t you agree? — but did think AB would be a good player, and so AB got some extra exposure early so that he would develop later.

    Harris is a really, really good player and I’m excited to see him play.

  8. Mike P. – Chicago,

    One other thing. I didn’t really mean that Harris wouldn’t be playing at all under my scenario, just that he wouldn’t be such a focal point of the offense.

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