Crisler Center Rededication Ceremony roundtable
To celebrate the renovations to Crisler Arena, the Wolverines invited Michigan legends Cazzie Russell, Glen Rice and Diane Dietz back to talk about their experiences at Michigan.
The trio of basketball greats held a roundtable discussion, with host Desmond Howard, Friday night, in front of a crowd of season ticket holders.
Russell was the 1966 Player Of The Year and a 2011 inductee of the College Basketball Hall Of Fame. Rice is the program record holder for points (2,442) and was a member of the 1989 National Championship squad. Dietz is the women's program record holder for points scored (2,076).
Howard: "I have to start off with Glen. You were on campus when I was here. I have to thank you and the '89 team for making my stay here even more special. I guess the first question I'd like to ask you is about Coach [Bo] Schembechler. This is a guy that is very important in my life, and you made a comment about the speech that he gave to you guys before the tournament started. Could you share that with everyone?"
Rice: "We were in a situation right before the tournament where we lost our head coach. Bill Frieder accepted a job somewhere else, and we got beat up pretty good at the end of the season by Illinois. We were at a low point. But it was the strangest thing. Bo Schembechler came in to talk to us. He looked at each and every one of us and said, 'Guys, you're Michigan Men. You're on a Michigan team. We're going to go out there and do this the Michigan way, and we're going to win.'
"I was thinking to myself, 'We lost our coach. We got beat up pretty good. We may win the first game.' And that was a string 'may.' But his speech and the things he was saying to each one of us were so strong, it was really motivational. At the beginning of the season, it was like we were Superman, and then Kryptonite was thrown at us. But after Bo's speech, the Kryptonite didn't bother us. We could go out there and beat anybody."
"When Bo speaks, boy let me tell you, if you had a single hair that wasn't standing when he started speaking, you did after. It was strong, and we believed it. And we went out and did it."
Howard: "Diane, who was the most influential coach during your time at Michigan?"
Dietz: "Definitely Gloria Soluk. She was here when I came in. I played against her teams a lot in high school - she was at a rival school then. But she was a Bobby Knight disciple, so it was motion offense, all the way. A lot of people weren't doing that then. She spent a lot of time with us, coaching that philosophy, and it changed the way I played, how all of us played."
Howard: "When you came here, did you buy into that system? Did you buck the system? What was the transition like, for you to come here and become the great scorer you were?"
Dietz: "It's interesting. We scored a lot in high school. You look at the game now, and clearly the women are playing better defense. That's one difference. We averaged 80 points a game in high school and went to the state finals four years in a row. My senior year here, we averaged 77 points a game. A big part of it was the motion offense. You're coming off screens, and we had good shooters. It was very effective."
Howard: "Cazzie, can you share the story of your recruitment."
Russell: "A lot of people think that was a rumor, but it actually happened. My initial visit to the University of Michigan, they were telling me what a great campus they had, what a great university it was. So, my question was, 'Where do we play?'
"So they brought me over to Yost, and I kept seeing this hesitation. He [Don Canham] is searching in his pocket, and all of a sudden he tells me he has either lost or left the keys somewhere. I actually never got a chance to see the inside of Yost Fieldhouse. Aren't you supposed to get a chance to see where you're going to play basketball? Instead, they took me to The Big House, to the luxury box where we had lunch overlooking Ann Arbor. I figured everything was just like that!
"You can imagine what I felt when I came back in the fall and I finally saw Yost: bats flying in the rafters. What a great floor, thought. Yost had a great floor."
Howard: "So what made you decide to come to Michigan?"
Russell: "Interesting story. It came down to UCLA, Cincinnati and Michigan. After I made the initial visit here, Oscar Robertson came to my high school and tried to talk me into going to Cincinnati. He had a great speech, and I ate lunch with my idol. I'm saying, 'Oh my goodness. Cincinnati sounds good.' I prayed about the decision. I was a young man, and I am grateful I was led to Michigan."
Howard: "Diane, what made you decide to bring your talents to Ann Arbor?"
Dietz: "When I was in high school, schools were just starting to give scholarships. So, there were a lot of schools interested, and it was a no-brainer for me. I came to campus, went to Crisler Arena - and they had the key - and watched a couple games. I grew up watching the Michigan men play, and it was a dream for me.
Howard: "Glen, you grew up in Flint, Michigan. Why did decide to come to Michigan?"
Rice: "It was easy for me at that time, because Ann Arbor had grown so much. I was down the road, and Michigan was one of the elite basketball teams at the time. When I came on my visit, they showed me the good stuff as well. And being that it was close to home - and I was a home boy -which was great, because my mom always kept me out of trouble. And I had Roy Tarpley and Antoine Joubert and Gary Grant telling me that this is the place I had to be. They said, 'If you want to win and be successful, you want to be here at Michigan.' Lo and behold, I came here and all that stuff came true. And I'm pleased, to this very day."
Howard: "It's interesting you mentioned Antoine Joubert. They used to call me The Judge. I watched him play in the state championship game here in Crisler. I think he scored 44 points."
Rice: "I remember that game. It seemed like 600 [points]. He could fill it up."
Howard: "Diane, you scored 45 points in a game once. Tell us about that experience."
Dietz: "I have a lot of memories from that game. It was one of my last games playing for Michigan, the second-to-last home game. The men were playing a double-header. They were playing Indiana after the game. The first half, it was just one of those games where everything was going right. We scored over 100 points as a team.
"Illinois was playing us close the whole game. My family was here, and my brothers and sisters didn't get a chance to see me play much. But they were all there. I remember halftime, a couple of my brothers coming over to the tunnel and giving me a thumbs up. I don't get a lot of those from my brothers, so I figured something must be going right.
"As we came out for the second half, people are starting to show up. People were showing up early for the men's game. The whole atmosphere, it was fantastic. This was at the very beginning for women's basketball, and it was a real challenge, to figure out how to make it work - or would it work? And Don Canham was there - it meant a lot to me. It was neat."
Howard: "Cazzie, how did it feel when you took that big escalator up, and you saw that big picture of you saying, 'The House That Cazzie Built'?"
Russell Pause, to collect himself.
Rice: "I almost cried for him."
Russell: "Once I saw that, my mind just raced back to the time I actually took that picture, standing in the construction zone. An Ann Arbor News photographer wanted to take the picture, because there was a chance I could play there my senior year. So, we go over to Crisler Arena, and we were fumbling around, taking a few shots, and he said, 'Just hold out two basketballs.' I had on what I called my 'Joe College' hat, trying to look collegiate, standing in the middle of Crisler.
"So I walked up the escalator and saw this picture, I mean, it was a thousand flashbacks. To Billy Buntin, who sort of talked me into coming to Michigan. A big kid, 6-8, telling me that Michigan is on the upsurge. To the great teams I played for in '64 and '65. It was a great flash of memories as I saw that picture. It was a very humbling experience. I'm very grateful to know that I got a chance to play at this great institution. And to be remember, that's a great feeling. Thank you, University of Michigan."
Howard: "Diane, how did it feel being the big woman on campus?"
Dietz: "If only I knew then that that's what I was. You make me realize, too, that this was Title IX, people were worried about it. People were always stirring it up, 'The guys are getting this and that.' I just never had the thought. I was like, 'What are you talking about? I'm at the University of Michigan, playing the same teams the men are playing, using the same facilities.' I was just so grateful.
"I was so focused on getting to class, too. And I think a big part of that was the athletics. It just became priority, to be a person who cared as much about the academics as I did the athletics."
Howard: "Glen, I remember watching your run. You had some great games in the regular season and in the tournament. When did you get that drive to compete the way you competed every game, especially when the tournament came around?"
Rice: "I have always tried to put in a lot of work. Also, more importantly, I saw myself as one of the leaders. We had two seniors: me and Mark Hughes. What was more important to me was leaving as a leader. Everyone on our team, from the top to the bottom, was super important, and one of the things I tried to do as a leader was show by example and make everyone feel like they were as big a part of what we were doing as I was.
"I think that's why we were able to accomplish what we did. For me, I have always wanted to be the best at whatever I am doing. If it's cooking - which I'm still trying to do, but I have a long way to go before I'm the best at it - or a becoming a shooter, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be one of the best shooters to ever play the game, and I put in a lot of hard work and hours. And at the same time, I demanded my teammates worked as hard as I did. We were a family first, and I think that's why we clicked. I think that's why we were able to accomplish what we did with an interim coach who hadn't coached a college game as a head coach. The way we came in, you were not going to beat us. We weren't going to be denied. That strong faith and believe, we had a sense that we were going to shock the world."
Howard: "Diane, growing up with brothers, how did that help your game?"
Dietz: "It absolutely did. I have four brothers, three very close in age, and they always needed one more person on the court. We would walk to the local grade school and play basketball, or go out in the backyard and play football. And I played baseball for a lot of years. Whatever was going on, I was in the middle of it. My brothers had a lot to do with it - whatever they were playing, I wanted to be a part of it. We were very competitive, and it was a blast. Those were some of the greatest memories."
Howard: "When you're watching a Big Ten sporting event and you see or hear that 'Leaders And Best' what goes through your mind?"
Dietz: "I don't think people understand how much goes into college sports. People want to focus more on the athletes that want to go professional - but there are 900 student-athletes here, and they're all Leaders And Best. Every single person here is invested in making them Leaders And Best. Everything they do every single day. We watched them practice in the new facility. You look at the new academic center. It changes you as a person. Everyone up here will tell you that, whatever success you had after graduation, has everything to do with showing up to practice every day and the people who were there to support us."
Howard: "What about you, Cazzie?"
Russell: "I think of Saturday mornings. You'd hear it playing all over campus. People had what was supposedly apple cider in their cups. Some guys knew I was not a big drinker, so they'd say, 'You have to have a glass of apple cider' on the way over to the stadium. And you'd hear the fight song being played. It's one of the greatest fight songs ever.
"I live down south now, and I hear about the ACC or the SEC, and I just start singing The Victors. That usually quiets them down."
Howard: "What lessons have you taken from being a student-athlete that have stayed with you throughout your life?"
Russell: "I think one of the first lessons I learned was decision-making. When I got to campus, no one was going to get me up and make me go to class, force you to do anything. You're on your own now.
"There was also a camaraderie amongst the students. I lived in South Quad, and I still have friends from that time. You also take the diversity that you come across at Michigan, from all walks of life. You meet a lot of people, and it expands your horizon. You get to know people. It was great as a student-athlete, and you realize how blessed you are to be able to bring your gifts here and to take things from the students in the classroom. For me, coming from a school with 800 to one with 28,000, it was shock, first of all, but it's a great experience."
Howard: "Glen, when you transitioned from Flint to Ann Arbor, was there anyone outside of the basketball community who helped you with that?"
Rice: "As much as I love Flint, I was ready to get out of there. There was way too much violence going on there. The coaches and also the personnel. But at the top of my chart was always my mom. She has always instilled in me and my brothers and sisters to have faith and believe. When I came here, we had a lot of seniors on the team, and they helped. With the help of them, my mom and my coaches, I came here as a boy and left as a man. With what I learned in the classroom, the leadership qualities I developed, it carried over after basketball. I have my own promotional company now. Believe me, it's not like basketball. I can't just yell at these guys, walk into the locker room, take a shower and call it a day. That wouldn't work.
"I have to lead by example, get there a lot earlier than they do. It's like 7 o'clock, and as an athlete, you know, we don't start our day till 9 or 10. So it was rough for me. But what I learned here at Michigan, it taught me to me respectful of all things, to be accountable for what you're doing and how you carry yourself. To this day, I owe that to Michigan.
"We promote mixed martial arts, like the UFC, and the reason why I was drawn to that was to give these guys an opportunity, as stage, to where maybe someday they can rise up to the UFC. These guys are just as dedicated as players in the NBA, and I wanted to give these guys and girls a chance."
Howard: "How did you get involved in that?"
Rice: "I had a lot of friends who were involved in mixed martial arts. I thought it would be a good way to keep me busy, because I retired in 2004, and I didn't want to sit around and have my life waste away."
Howard: "From the '89 team, how many guys are you still in contact with?"
Rice: "Pretty much all of them, through email and stuff. I see Mark Hughes, Loy Vaught and Terry Mills quite a bit. We were a family, and we still are to this day. We try and reach out to one another as best as possible, and we have very fond memories of the time we spent here."
Howard: "Diane, if you had an opportunity to address the women's team before the game against Ohio, what would you say to them?"
Dietz: "They are playing so well. Like the men's team, every game is so competitive. I watched them beat Purdue, just last week. I'd tell them to do that, for starters, because they played so well in that game.
"Beating Ohio, I don't know if it would be anything specific. Looking back, we had eight wins one year, but one of them was against Ohio State. That was one of my proudest moments at Michigan. For this year, I love watching them play. They're such a good team, and I hope they do well in the tournament coming up."
Howard: "When you played, who was your toughest competition?"
Dietz: "It was different every year. Teams were changing every year, bringing in a ton of new freshmen every year. When I came in, there were 14 freshmen, two sophomores and junior. So it was a different team every year, and it was the same with the teams we were playing. Ohio State was pretty solid. Michigan State was up-and-down, like we were. Illinois was very good back then."
Howard: "Cazzie, your toughest competiton."
Russell: "Ohio State always had great teams. Michigan State, of course, was great. Purdue gave us a pretty good battle. A lot of people don't know that Bob Griese was a pretty tough basketball player. I say that because Bob Griese picked me up from the parking lot when Purdue played Michigan - that's when he started guarding me, it felt like. He was tough.
"I took a lot of pride in playing Ohio State and Michigan State. One year, we lost to Ohio State, and it was probably my worst feeling ever, as a collegiate player. We were 13-0 going into Ohio State to play the last regular-season game. I came down with Strep Throat and 103 temperature. I tried to play, and I'm grateful that I didn't, because when I was feeling terrible. Ohio State was the last team to go undefeated, and we had a chance, and then I got sick. There was no doctor traveling with the team back them. I had Strep Throat and a little case of mono. They flew me back, and I woke up the next morning here, and I had never seen so many doctors, but I was glad to see them.
"But Ohio State and Michigan State were our toughest opponents, because of the rivalry. You didn't have to get up for those games. You didn't have to say much."
Rice: "Obviously, Ohio State and Michigan State. They were always someone who were circled, 'We have to beat them,' and for the most part we did. But the team that just gave us fits was the Fighting Illini. Oh my God. They had some athletic players. All those guys were pros. We thought our team was pretty good, but the way they came in here and whooped us, they were a great team. It was fortunate that in the tournament, we built up enough courage and belief that we could go out there and stop all that."
Howard: "When you lost a game to Ohio State, what did that do to you, in terms of motivating you?"
Russell: "There's certainly a lot of talk about Ohio State. Even though I didn't play that night, I felt worse. I knew we had a chance to go undefeated, but it left a horrible taste. And the game we lost to Michigan State, I felt awful. I was a terrible loser. I had to grow into that, shaking hands and everything. To lose to those guys, that's an awful taste."
Howard: "Cazzie, that's the same language I use when people talk to me about the Buckeyes. But I say, 'You know what? I don't know what it tastes like to lose to them dudes.'
"Can you critique your game? What were your strengths and weaknesses?"
Russell: "I'd say my strengths were probably conditioning, running the floor and shooting. I took great pride in being able to do whatever the situation called for. If we needed a bounce pass, an overhead pass, a rebound or an assist - I could do it.
"Weak points were probably interior defense, because I had to sometimes play bigger guys. Being a bigger guard, means I was up front playing small forwards. My biggest weakness was … well, there wasn't very many weaknesses."
Howard: "How about you, Diane? You were a lefty. Does that give you an advantage?"
Dietz: "First off, I really enjoyed watching Cazzie try to come up with a weakness. He was struggling. For me, I used to pride myself on playing both ends. If you're a natural scorer, people always want to talk about your scoring. But it was really important for me to play the best defense, get steals and all of that. I wanted to be an all-around play. Two years, I played guard, and two I played forward. I played good under pressure, and I never thought the game was getting ahead of me or playing too fast. But free throws were my weakness, no question. I started off at about 70 percent, and it just kept getting worse. I remember my coaching joking, 'Maybe you can move back a little and just shoot a jump shot, instead.'"
Howard: "Now, why did you switch positions?"
Dietz: "It was just a function of who else was on the team. It was funny, for half of the first year, I was the point guard, and then I moved to the two, and then down to the three for my junior and senior years. It was as much about who else was on the team and how the coach needed to utilize them."
Howard: "Glen, what about your strengths and weaknesses?"
Rice: "I didn't have a weakness, and you know why I say that? People always said, 'Glen doesn't play great defense.' And I was like, 'Yes I do.' Because my thing was to go out there and put everything I had on the guy that was guarding me, so all he thought about on offense was resting. Therefore, I don't have a weakness."
Russell: "Boy, I should have thought of that."
Howard: "Glen, who are some of the players you grew up watching that you modeled your game after?"
Rice: "I didn't get into basketball until late. I think it was my ninth grade year. I played a lot in the park, but not really organized basketball. The one guy that I idolized both on and off the court was Doctor Jay. He was that guy. He was a first-class act. You saw him on the court, soaring through the air. And then you saw how much of a gentleman he was in how he conducted himself. It was a no-brainer to me. And of course, at that time, when I couldn't shoot as well - that's when I had a weakness - I was trying to dunk like The Doc. Thank God I evolved and became a great shooter, because dunking was not a strong suit."
Howard: "At what point did you realize you had a gift for basketball?"
Rice: "I didn't realize that until probably my junior year here at Michigan. My first year here was a great learning experience, because we had a lot of seniors. I didn't play a whole lot, but because I didn't start, I got to learn lot. Once I got the opportunity, because I worked so hard and paid attention to details, I led the Big Ten in rebounds as a sophomore. I never thought I could lead a conference in rebounds, but it was a testament to my hard work. And then scoring became really easy.
"Like I said, I put in a lot of work, and right after my junior year, I realized I might have a shot to get to the pros. And after I had that run in the tournament, oh, I knew I was going to the pros. Me and my teammates at Michigan, we were going to make things happen. I was trying to do my best to represent not only myself, but the whole state of Michigan and the university."
Howard: "Mr. Russell, we were talking before this, and you mentioned your football career here at Michigan - touch football. Did you play football growing up? Did you play other sports?"
Russell: "My greatest love is baseball. That's what I played exclusively when I was little. I was discovered in my physical education class during my first year of high school and taught how to play basketball. I was told to stay after class, and I thought, 'Oh my, what have I done.' My high school coach was a great disciplinarian. And he asked two other guys to stay, too, so I figured we were all in trouble.
"That's how I learned how to play. I played baseball, and I did a lot of cross country and long-distance running, running in combat boots. But my football career - you weren't supposed to say anything. We played touch football, intramural, here. Played for South Quad. I'm sure that if the basketball coaches found out we were doing that, we would have gotten in trouble. My first love was baseball."
1. "This question is for you Cazzie. Can you describe what it was like to hit the game-winning buzzer beater in the No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 2 Wichita State game?
Russell: "I still can't understand why Wichita State allowed us to roll the ball up the floor without the clock moving. That helped us. There was maybe five second left. I came across halfcourt, got a step out of the circle and I let it go.
"Out of the corner of my eye, I see the official raise his hands, so I know it's good if it goes. And that ball must have hung in the air for four seconds. That was such a great shot for us, because we had just lost two nights before that to Nebraska. We had a terrible storm and only got to the game about 45 minutes before it started. They had a player throw the ball over his shoulder, and it went in.
"When you get into the game 45 minutes before it starts, and you have to change clothes and warm up and everything. We gave it our all, but we lost to Nebraska. But we had a chance to redeem ourselves, and it felt good against Wichita State."
2. "Another question for Cazzie. Would you like to see you No. 33 jersey used in the same manner as Desmond Howard's No. 21, or do you want to see it remain retired."
Russell: "That's a tough question. I will tell you, and I don't want to sound selfish, but it is a great feeling for an athlete to have his number retired. I love seeing that 33 on a Michigan uniform, but I think I'd like to see it just stay retired."
3. "A question for Glen Rice. How do the players feel about Bill Frieder being removed, and did that controversy provide extra motivation?"
Rice: "Bill Frieder came in and talked to us right before he took the other job. We already knew what was going to happen, but at the same time, it was tough to swallow, because that was our leader. We were like kids in a candy store, and all of a sudden we didn't have anyone to discipline us. In a sense it was tough, but if I'm being totally honest, if it wasn't for Bo Schembechler, I really think the story would have been different."