Arizona coach Sean Miller praised his counterpart, Tommy Amaker of Harvard, saying, “Whether he’s a player at Duke and what he did at Seton Hall and watching him at Michigan and now Harvard, he’s an excellent coach, terrific recruiter.” Following his All-American career at Duke, Amaker coached nine seasons as an assistant under his mentor Mike Krzyzewski and had lukewarm success at Seton Hall and Michigan on the basketball court. Seton Hall went to only one NCAA tournament in his four seasons with the Pirates, and Michigan never went to the Big Dance in his six years in Ann Arbor. Harvard hired him because it was more impressed with how Amaker cleaned up Michigan’s program in the wake of improprieties involving a booster before Amaker coached the Wolverines. Amaker, in his sixth year with Harvard, has coached the Crimson to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946 when it made the field last year, and he coached it to its first NCAA tournament victory with the win over New Mexico on Thursday. Harvard has become a success without two of its best players — All-Ivy League selections Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry — who withdrew from school after an academic cheating scandal. Amaker is getting the most out of the Crimson despite being soft-spoken. He objects to having a radio or television show like other head coaches.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino told the media Friday that he was not surprised Harvard upset New Mexico. “We’re the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds,” Pitino said. “We play Harvard 10 times, we might win six, they might win four.” Harvard has won at Cal, lost at St. Mary’s on a last-second shot and battled host Memphis and coach Josh Pastner closely on Jan. 19 before losing 60-50. Harvard trailed 36-16 a minute into the second half and rallied to take a 46-44 with 7:07 left. Memphis, which increased its winning streak to eight with that win, managed to pull away in the closing minutes. “It’s a good win,” Pastner told the media afterward. “That’s a very good Harvard team. They’re extremely well-coached. We won the game through defense. We had a big-time skid offensively where we were not in a rhythm. Harvard comes in as the third-best three-point shooting team in the entire country, and we held them to 25 percent from three and 37 percent from the field. We did another great job on the glass – plus 14.” Harvard ranks 334th among Division I teams in rebounding with 29 a game. The Crimson is 12th in field-goal shooting at 48.2 percent. No rebounds are necessary if the Crimson does not miss. Harvard has four sophomore regulars who shoot better than 50 percent from the field — forward Jonah Travis (60.2 percent), center Kenyatta Smith (58.1), forward Wesley Saunders (53.8) and forward Steve Moundou-Missi (53.7).
RELATED NCAA TOURNAMENT LINKS
— Balanced Arizona to face gritty, resourceful Harvard
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— Arizona faces upset-minded Harvard in next round of NCAA tournament
— Arizona basketball: Getting to know Harvard (Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com)
— Arizona basketball: Wildcats’ opportunities open wide in the West (Gimino)
— Coach K on Arizona-Harvard game: Crimson has a chance (Gimino)
— Crimson coach Amaker understands underdogs (Greg Hansen, The Arizona Daily Star)
— Mark Lyons finds his fire from ashes of childhood (Patrick Finley, The Arizona Daily Star)
— Harvard has UA staff scrambling (Bruce Pascoe, The Arizona Daily Star)
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner