The Michigan Wolverines are flying high right now off the heels of a thrilling weekend victory over the rival Ohio State Buckeyes on the hardwood by a 92-87 final score.
Assistant coach Phil Martelli joined ESPN analyst Dan Dakich on his show to discuss not only the recent win, but the growth of the lineup under head coach Juwan Howard.
“In the first half I kept thinking, ‘does this remind me of a second weekend, Thursday night game or is this like a regional final?’” Martelli said. “The second thing that crossed my mind … don’t you really miss the crowd? I said that yesterday checking in our lineup, asked the guys … I said I felt like there was a lot of heat in here today, but what would it be like? [The scorer] points around the corner, said, ‘all these seats, this would be VIP. All our NFL guys would be back, all our state people would be here, all our NBA guys would be here … Michigan Ohio State, 3 vs. 4 and all that’s gone into the season.’
“But man, I did feel that yesterday. This is great hoop … really great hoop. In fact, three of our favorite people, I said to each of them, listen fellas, just don’t get in the way. These kids got this today. Just don’t get in the way.”
Martelli went on to praise the competitiveness of the Big Ten.
“Over the two years the thing that has blown me away … my East Coast bias, I just thought everyone ran into each other and the bigger, stronger teams ended up winning,” he said. “The fierce defense and all that. What has absolutely blown me away is the level of offensive thinking in this league over two years.
“From the players’ point of view, the players are just bigger at positions. Franz Wagner is legitimately 6-10, and he’s a wing player. Even top end, Villanova, a National Champion, they’re not running around with 6-10 wing players. The offensive thoughts in this league and the size at all positions has just been extraordinary.”
Martelli then praised Howard, and described the hiring process that brought him to Ann Arbor to be Howard's right-hand man:
“We had a phone call two days before Juwan ever interviewed for this job. Not a cliché or movie, but the first couple sentences I thought, man, this would be pretty good,” Martelli recalled. “This guy has values, loves his family and loves his school. I could do this …
“He is such a good person — a Mount Rushmore kind of person, and boy is he a good coach.”
– – Quotes via Chris Balas of The Wolverine Link – –