Steve Fisher To Return Sunday, Rumeal Robinson Comments On 1989 Champs
Michigan will be holding a 30-year reunion of the 1989 National Championship Team Sunday when U-M hosts Michigan State, and a familiar face is expected to attend.
Several close to the team have indicated coach Steve Fisher, who retired two seasons ago after a nice career at San Diego State, will be in attendance with the team he led to an unexpected run to U-M’s first National Title.
Fisher took over for Bill Frieder, who was replaced by then Athletic Director Bo Schembechler after Frieder accepted the Arizona State job. Frieder told Schembechler he would coach the team through the tournament, but during a press conference to announce Fisher as interim head coach Schembechler pointedly said, “I want a Michigan Man coaching at Michigan.”
Fisher, of course, led the Wolverines to an improbable six-game run through South Alabama, Xavier, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and then Seton Hall. The Wolverines won in overtime on two Rumeal Robinson free throws with only seconds remaining.
Michigan head coach John Beilein said last year he would love to see Fisher back in Ann Arbor, hinting it was in the works.
"Steve Fisher and I have been friends long back when he was Michigan coach, and he has gone out of his way over and over again when I'm on the road, I'm traveling … the Nike trips,” Beilein said. “We have actually spent a lot of time together. Steve's a close friend, and I know that's in the plans.
“He did a fantastic job at Michigan, and he's a great friend of mine. We're always thinking how we can bring former coaches and former players back. We've really done a great job. He's been coaching at San Diego State, so he could never make it back to some of our reunions.”
Michigan replaced Fisher with assistant Brian Ellerbe in October 1997 after the Ed Martin recruiting scandal surfaced. Though he denied knowing of the loans Martin (deemed a booster) paid to several Michigan players and was never punished by the NCAA, the NCAA did find him at fault for allowing Martin access to his players.
Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune last year he didn't let the past gnaw at him.
“I don’t give it a tremendous amount of thought, to be honest with you," he said. "For those people who matter most to me, everybody knows the history and the legacy that we had. It would be nice and appropriate if (the university) would acknowledge that this is an accomplishment we’re proud of, rather than something we don’t want to acknowledge or be proud of.”
Asked if he still cheered for the Wolverines he responded, "you pull for people."
“I have a lot of respect for [Beilein], as a coach and as a person,” Fisher said. “He has gone out of his way to say publicly and privately positive things about us and what we did while we were there.”
Many of the former Wolverines standouts are expected to attend the reunion, including Terry Mills, U-M radio’s color commentator alongside play-by-play man Matt Shepard, and finals MVP Glen Rice.
Robinson, however, won’t attend. He has a prior engagement, but nothing but good memories about his time in Ann Arbor.
“I loved every minute with my teammates, especially that year,” he said. “It was the best four years of my life, and the support we got from the fans was incredible.”
Robinson did return for the 20-year reunion and saw the 1989 National Championship banner hanging in the rafters.
“Seeing that banner up there was amazing,” he said. “The only thing that would top it would be to see these guys win another one. We’d like some company up there.”
• Shepard, whose wife Lisa is home recovering and improving after a serious car accident last month, was recently named the permanent play-by-play voice of the Detroit Tigers for Fox Sports Detroit. He’d like to continue doing Michigan basketball, but his obligations with the Tigers would preclude Michigan basketball, which probably means missing any postseason with the team.
“I want to keep calling Michigan gams as long as they’ll have me,” Shepard said, noting he’s let the Michigan administration know. “I love calling the games and repping the program.”
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