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July 5, 2013

The Week That Was: Jordan interviews with Butler

Michigan's basketball program could learn today the fate of assistant coach LaVall Jordan, who is considered a strong candidate to land the head-coaching position at Butler. Jordan's decision dominated the news in The Week That Was.

LaVall Jordan interviewed for Butler job

When Brad Stevens shocked the basketball world Wednesday with news he would be leaving the Bulldogs after six seasons to coach the Boston Celtics, one of U-M's assistants, Jordan, became an instant favorite to fill Stevens' vacant post. Jordan played for Butler from 1998-2001 and was an assistant there from 2004-07. He has spent the past three seasons with the Maize and Blue, working with Michigan's guards, and has also been instrumental on the recruiting front.

What They're Saying

Losing Jordan would be huge, MLive.com's Kyle Meinke reports: "He has earned major praise for his work with the guards in the past three seasons, and specifically has been accredited for helping turn Trey Burke into the national player of the year and Tim Hardaway Jr. into a first-round NBA draft pick. Former point guard Darius Morris also bloomed into an NBA draft pick under Jordan's tutelage.

"Jordan also has been a major asset in recruiting, especially in Indiana, where his ties remain strong and could be a benefit if hired at Butler. He helped woo Glenn Robinson III to Michigan from Saint John, Ind., as well as incoming five-star prospect Zak Irvin of Fishers."

So is it close to happening? The Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer notes that Jordan is one of two finalists: "The vacant Butler basketball coaching job will come down to either Brandon Miller or LaVall Jordan, a source with knowledge of the situation has told The Indianapolis Star.

"Miller, a Bulldogs assistant coach, interviewed with Butler athletic director Barry Collier on Wednesday, just hours after Collier was told by Brad Stevens that he had accepted the Boston Celtics coaching job. Jordan, a Michigan assistant, was set to interview [Thursday]."

Most reports expect Jordan to take the job if offered, and if that were to occur, Michigan must fill his void quickly, with the summer basketball recruiting period on deck. Former Wolverines Travis Conlan and C.J. Lee would be prime candidates, our own Chris Balas writes: "Conlan would make great sense. He left his director of operations job to pursue a career in coaching this year, and he's as Michigan as it gets. Having seen former point guard C.J. Lee in action at the recent U-M camp and in Atlanta during the Final Four - well, he seems to be a rising star in the profession and is as much a Beilein protégé as there is.

"Lee told us last month it was his dream to coach at Michigan. He was recently promoted to administrative specialist."

My Take: Certainly there were a myriad of challenges facing John Beilein when he first took over in 2008, but there is no coincidence that when Beilein tabbed both Jordan and Bacari Alexander as his assistants in 2011, the Wolverines' recruiting really took off. From 2008-10, Beilein signed 10 prospects, but only two four-star talents - Darius Morris in 2009 and Evan Smotrycz in 2010. With Jordan and Alexander, the Maize and Blue have landed seven four- or five-star prospects among its 11 signees/commitments in the past four recruiting classes.

The good news is that Alexander plans to stick around, assistant Jeff Meyer has a strong feel for recruiting, as does Beilein, and with Michigan's on-court product what it is today, the recruiting will continue at high levels. However, Jordan would be missed, as would his presence in the day-to-day, working with U-M's guards.

Still, this is part of the process of rising to a basketball power. Kids leave after one or two seasons, as we've seen with Morris, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and coaches will invariably leave too because of the opportunities that become available to take over their own programs. The key to sustained success is to reload, in the locker room and with coaches, consistently tabbing the next greats.

Michigan is capable of doing just that, but certainly if Jordan exits, it will sting in the short term.

Actor Mark Wahlberg stops by Ann Arbor

It's a relatively slow news week when the highlight for the football team is the appearance of an actor, even one as well-known as Mark Wahlberg (but hey, that news is far better than bad news). In the area shooting Transformers 4, Wahlberg took pictures with Michigan players, caught passes from Devin Gardner and gave plenty of Wolverines something to brag about.

What They're Saying

MLive had the entirety of Wahlberg's visit covered, including just about every tweet and picture captured with the actor. Meinke even had a little fun with his lead: "Things got a little funky around Schembechler Hall on Wednesday. Actor Mark Wahlberg, once the front man for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, visited the Michigan football program's practice facility while in the Ann Arbor area shooting Transformers 4."

This sort of thing just happens, but coaches can use it to their advantage, bleacherreport.com mentions: "You've got to believe that somehow, somewhere down the road, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is going to use Wahlberg's visit as a pitch to his recruits."

My Take: This isn't the first time a celebrity has stopped by U-M. A few years ago, the basketball program tweeted out pictures of a few famous New York Yankees, including Alex Rodriguez, coming by for a visit, and, of course, there is the whole Russell Crowe thing; Crowe was friends with Lloyd Carr and came to rally around the coach and his team after Michigan fell to Appalachian State in the 2007 opener.

The greatest benefactors of Wahlberg's visit were the players themselves, who will have a 'cool' memory they'll never forget. As for using his stop as a recruiting pitch? Probably not, though he didn't choose to visit Michigan State so at least that's something.

Noah Furbush commits to Michigan

The Wolverines picked up their 14th commitment in the 2014 class when the three-star linebacker announced for U-M on Monday. The 6-4, 229-pounder out of Kenton, Ohio, became the third linebacker commitment in this class and the second Ohioan.

What They're Saying

TheWolverine.com's Tim Sullivan says one of the reasons Furbush is so lightly regarded at the moment is a lack of film and competition at his school, but that will change, and fans will find a menacing player: "Furbush is a high-ceiling player. Scouting on his game has been light to date, thanks to Kenton's lower-division status and Furbush's own hesitance to seek exposure. That won't be the case for long with a Michigan commitment under his belt. His game should be picked apart and analyzed piece-by-piece.

"Viewers will see a linebacker prospect who plays with a high level of violence - music to Brady Hoke, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, and linebackers coach Mark Smith's respective ears - and one who has plenty of room to improve. He's only played linebacker for one year, and with more experience at the position, will only get better."

MaizeandBrew.com's Anthony Mammel has a good breakdown on where Furbush could fit within the defensive scheme: "Most believe that Furbush is destined for one of the rush or SAM positions because of his 6'4", 240-pound frame, but Michigan wants to start him out on the inside. Why?

"There's a video answer for you. Furbush bangs skulls. His level of competition isn't the highest, but that doesn't change the fact that Noah is clearly at his best when he can stare a running play down, diagnose it and put his body through it."

My Take: There has been a lot of hand-wringing in the past week over Michigan's three most recent commitments - receiver Freddy Canteen and cornerback Brandon Watson committed June 29 - but I don't think there should be much consternation over Furbush; the kid is a player.

Count me among the group that sees him as a future rush end or even a strongside end. He has the frame to add 30-40 pounds, and he seems to be at his best when he's attacking the offensive backfield.

That said, there has been talk Michigan likes him at inside linebacker, but we'll have to see how his body unfolds over the next year. It's very possible he could report to U-M in the fall of 2014 at 250 pounds. Far too big to be a linebacker, even a MIKE, in today's college game.

Of course, the subplot of this story was whether the Wolverines wasted a scholarship when there are bigger fish (at least by ranking standards) out there. The Maize and Blue likely only have four, five, maybe six spots left and they're in on a ton of top talent, including five-star end DeShawn Hand and four-star end Malik McDowell.

One would hate to see Michigan run out of room when it could have had a high-impact and higher-ceiling recruit. Yet, the U-M coaches have had too much success in three years on the recruiting trail to be completely second-guessed now. They know their team, needs and the likelihood of landing other prospects far better than anyone else, and in this situation, deserve the benefit of the doubt.




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