High School/AAU Coaches Sound Off (Part 5)

In Michigan's search for its next basketball coach much has been made of the next coach's ability to recruit and relate to the high school and AAU coaches in the state. Ironically, no one has spoken to many of the people that must be related to, so GoBlueWolverine has been busy doing just that. In part five we spoke to coach of the the AAU program, the Michigan Mustangs, Norm Oden.

Norm Oden has coached such standouts as Charlie Bell, Al Horford, Drew Neitzel, Draymond Green, and current Michigan Wolverines K'len Morris and Zach Gibson.

Let's look back on Tommy and his tenure as Michigan’s coach.  Look back, and tell me what you think went wrong during his tenure here. 

"I think Tommy was a good guy. I liked him as a person.  He was a good guy.  I think that initially he didn’t have the staff that related with the guys.  He reached out personally.  He and I talked several times.  I’ve known lots of coaches for a long time, and I use to talk to Tommy as much as I talked to any head coach.  I thought that he was good in that area as far as I was concerned.  I can’t speak for other people, but I thought that he was good.  I’ve known Tom Izzo for a long time, but I talked to Tommy more than I talked to Izzo.  I consider him a friend.  I’ve known Tom from back when he was recruiting Charlie Bell.  But like I said, I talked to Tommy more than I talked to Izzo. But I can't say that I think the assistants he had at the time did what other assistants at other schools I deal with did, which is keep up with what’s going on. I never talked to Tommy’s assistants that much as far as keeping up with what’s going on.  That is my take on it. I think the lack of success also played a part in kids looking other ways.  The next coach is going to have to have to really recruit to win, but once he wins I think the recruiting should start getting easier."

There's a negative perception of AAU coaches in the area… especially as it relates to steering kids to different schools.  Fair or unfair?

"I want my kids to go where they want to go. (I call them my kids)  I want the kids that play in our program to have the opportunity to go to the schools that they like.  That’s all I want. I don’t tell the kids where to go. I’ve only told one kid where not to go, and he went there anyway (laughter).  It doesn’t work that way. I don’t tell them where to go. You are concerned with wanting them to go somewhere where it is a good situation.  How do you feel like you know it’s a good situation?  Because you know the people involved.  You feel the level of comfort that that they are going to treat your kids with there. You feel the level of comfort that if he gets a little home sick, they might call and say, 'hey, you might wanna give him a call he’s struggling a little bit,' rather than leaving him hanging out there dangling.  You feel that they are going to make sure that he gets his butt up and goes to class so he stays on top of things academically. I love basketball, but technically my ultimate goal in this whole game is just trying to get kids in school.  That really is the bottom line. As a group of people, (AAU coaches) have a reputation of having a lot of other motives to do this.  It costs me money to do this.  I know that is not the popular view of what we do, but the vast majority of guys are in the same boat that I’m in.  Maybe I’m just a bad business man, but I don’t view it as a business.  I view it as a way to get kids in school, and that is truly is my thing." 

"When it comes to recruiting, if it’s a kid whose high school coach is involved, that whole process may bypass me.  My involvement is not a pre-requisite for a kid having the opportunity to play in my program or a coach having the opportunity to recruit him.  I’ll help the ones that don’t have anybody helping them.  If the high school coach or parent has it under control, then I am out of the loop."   

Have you been paying attention to some of the names mentioned as being up for the Michigan job?

"I’ve seen Lowery’s name mentioned.  I’ve seen Beilein’s name mentioned.  I got a kid that used to play for me that plays for Beilein named Jamie Smalligan.  He went to East Grand Rapids, went to Butler, and then transferred to West Virginia. He likes playing up there, so that would probably be a good reference point.  I really don’t know a whole lot about Beilein personally. I just know that Jamie likes him a lot."

How do you think Beilein would fit in at Michigan?

"I don’t know. I know a kid that likes him quite a bit, and I respect Jamie’s opinion.  Some of the kids you get pretty close to, and they’re 'your guy.'  Jamie and I were close.  So in that regard, I know that Jamie likes him.   I respect that because Jamie is a pretty fair judge of people… and Jamie is kinda hard on people.  If Jamie thinks he is a good and fair person, I think that bodes well.  I respect his opinion."

Give me your thoughts on Beilein's offensive system or style of play.

"Well, they shoot a lot of threes.  His system has been effective in the Big East.  Just personally, though, that ain't how I play.  But that's okay because I've had kids like a Brad Redford that will fit into his system.  A Jamie Smalligan fits into his system.  When you are trying to help a kid make a decision, if you're involved in that decision, you do look at things that fit.  There are kids that do fit that system.  Like I said, Brad Redford would be perfect.  He can shoot it all day.  Jamie Smalligan, being 7-feet tall and being able to shoot threes, it fits for him.  I thought that Boston College was a great fit for Josh Southern.  With the way they run the flex, you need a big strong wide body in there that can shoot elbow jumpers.  Josh would fit Boston College better than he would fit West Virginia.  I think it depends on the kid whether or not I would be thinking, 'hey, that's a great opportunity.' But I do have kids that actually fit that system."

Give me some for-examples regarding kids that would or would not fit Beilein's system.  How about a guy from one of the areas where you generally grab your players… Darquavis Tucker.

"He doesn't fit that system in my opinion."

Corperryale Harris

"Does not fit that system."

Alex Legion

"Uhhh, Alex can shoot it pretty good.  He might fit it."

What do you think about Todd Licklighter?

"I like him.  He's a good guy.  I talk to the guys at Butler quite a bit.  I've had some history with Butler.  Todd Licklighter is a hell of a coach and a good guy.  There is a lot three-point shooting in his system too, but it's more drive-and-kick."

You mentioned Chris Lowery earlier.  What do you think of him?

"He's my kind of coach because I like guys that check.  I think he fits the grinder style of the Big Ten.  That's my opinion.  It's not necessarily the right opinion, but it's my opinion."  

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