By: Jeff Riger

With Michigan basketball being a perfect 9-0 on the season and ranked 3rd in the country a lot of people seem to be getting credit, as the team prepares for Binghamton at Crisler Center tonight.  Fans talk about the maturation of Trey Burke in his second year, the impressive freshman trio of Nik Staukas, Glen Robinson III and Mitch McGary and people are even enjoying Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan as the veteran leaders.  But, nobody seems to be talking about the coach!

Even if Michigan wins nothing this year, it’s pretty damn impressive what John Beilein has accomplished in his 6 years on the job.  Beilein inherited a team that was void of talent after Tommy Amaker was fired and then eventually took the Harvard job.  When Beilein arrived, Manny Harris was it!  Since then the program has received 3 NCAA tournament bids, vastly better recruits, won a conference championship and finally got much needed facilities that will help things for many years to come.

Simply put…Beilein has been a God-send for Michigan basketball.

But is he the best coach/manager in the state?

I asked this very question on the air over the weekend and received many interesting answers.  So I have decided to make my own list.  Below are my top coaches/managers in the state.

FYI, I only included the four local pro teams and Michigan and Michigan State football and basketball.  So here goes…

8. Lawrence Frank-

Lawrence Frank comes in last on my list for one simple reason; I have not seen enough.  Every other coach/manager on this list, I have had a chance to watch for at least a couple of seasons.  With Frank, he has yet to even coach the Pistons for a full year and I believe his team will look much different in two more years.  Sure Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond will be in the mix but that is about all that is guaranteed.  I choose to not call Frank the worst coach on my list but rather the most unknown.

7. Jim Schwartz-

Sure he guided the Lions to their first playoff appearance in over a decade however the ongoing of 2012 puts him in the back of the pack on this list.  After 10-6 in 2011, this year was supposed to be so much better.  Hell, this was supposed to be the year where Lions fans saw their second playoff win in the last 50 plus years.  Yeah, that’s not going to happen.  I might have been easier on Schwartz if the 4-9 record was all that was bad about this team, but that’s not the case.  We have seen anonymous players and GM’s ripping on the team.  We have seen Schwartz single handedly lose the Thanksgiving day game.  And, the topper has to be failing to turn Ford Field into any type of home field advantage.  2012 has been brutal for Schwartz!  He would have appeared higher on this list if I believed he could right the ship next year.  Sadly, I don’t!

6. Brady Hoke-

Ok, this is not fair!  Hoke is kind of like Frank here.  He has been on the job 2 seasons and while he has won some impressive games, I still need to see more.  If Michigan would have been able to win one of the four they lost this season, I would have bumped Hoke up a couple of notches, but they didn’t.  I still am not 100% sure that Brady is the man that will guide the Wolverines back to football dominance.  There are too many other coaches in the state that are better right now, that’s why Hoke gets the 6 spot!

5. Mark Dantonio-

During his time in East Lansing, Mark Dantonio has done the unthinkable; made people forget about Michigan.  Dantonio put together 4 straight wins against the Wolverines before finally losing to them this season and more importantly won a Big Ten championship and got to the first ever Big Ten championship game.  If MSU had lived up to expectations this season, than no doubt Dantonio would have made the top four, but, well, 6-6 killed that.

4. John Beilein-

Beilein makes the top four for a lot of the reasons that were already talked about at the start of this blog.  Plain and simple, Beilein might have been top 3 caliber if the 3 coaches/managers above him weren’t so accomplished and successful!

3. Jim Leyland-

I really contemplated long and hard (5 seconds) if Leyland deserved to be top 2, but it came down to his lack of a title.  Sure two World Series appearances in 7 years is impressive, but there has also been some brutal times in that timeframe as well.  There is no need to list the negatives here as people reading will be happy to do it themselves.  Leyland has been fantastic for the Tigers and despite the throng of people that daily call for his job, the skipper is a big reason as to why Detroit Tigers baseball has been revitalized in this town!

2. Mike Babcock-

This decision was tough!  If the Wings would have won the 2009 Stanley Cup, you know the one that the Penguins won in a game 7 at the Joe, yeah if they would have won that cup, and then it would have been impossible to not put Babcock number one on this list.  Don’t get me wrong, guiding team Canada to the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 was impressive and benching Martin Brodeur took major guts.  But that’s the Olympics and it’s not even the US.  I’m sticking to the NHL here.  Plus as good as Babcock has been in his time with the Wings, he has had two first round knockouts and two second round knockouts with pretty impressive teams.  Also, and I’m not agreeing with this, but some of the experts claim that the super free agents like Zach Parise and Bruce Sutter passed on Detroit because Babcock is too demanding.  Obviously that is not a bad trait, but it can be when it comes to luring great players with huge egos.

1. Tom Izzo-

As much as this pains me, because I am a Michigan fan, Izzo still deserves this honor.  He schedules tough, still gets good recruits and is responsible for one of the most impressive records in college basketball.  Every player that has stayed four years has gone to a Final Four under the Northern Michigan native.  The 5 Final Fours and National Title of course had a lot to do with this decision as well.

Many people believe Michigan has passed Michigan State in basketball and if you want to judge that by the early season than sure, I’ll agree.  But, if you go back the last 20 years and compare what Izzo has achieved to what the Wolverines have done, it’s not even close!  Izzo, by far is still the best coach/manager in the state and I don’t see it changing anytime soon!


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