The Wolverine

October 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 68 of 75

OCTOBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 69 BY CHRIS BALAS R eaching college basketball's summit — the national championship game — hasn't been a problem for Michigan over the years. The Wolverines have made it to "Monday night" six times in the program's his‑ tory and at least once in each de‑ cade from the 1960s until 2000, taking a hiatus from 2000‑10 be‑ fore getting there again in 2013. Planting the victory flag at the top of that mountain, though, has proven a bit more difficult. Only once — in 1989 — has Michigan basketball captured a national title, and the cir‑ cumstances were such that the head coach who helped build the team wasn't the one that coached them in the final. Steve Fisher is best known for taking the Wolverines on their six‑game journey to the champi‑ onship that season, taking over after former head coach Bill Frieder accepted the coaching job at Arizona State before the tournament started. Frieder, though, was the team's ar‑ chitect, rebuilding the program from the ground up after taking over for Iowa State‑bound Johnny Orr in 1980, and he had plenty of help. Stories abound of Frieder's relent‑ less pursuit on the recruiting trail, sleeping in his car at times (if sleep‑ ing at all). When there was a prized recruit he had to have, however, he often turned to assistant Mike Boyd. From 1978 to 1990, Boyd was Frie‑ der's right‑hand man on the recruit‑ ing trail — a great basketball mind, but at least as adept at building rela‑ tionships with blue‑chip prospects. Clarkston (Mich.) High big man Tim McCormick and Flint (Mich.) Central point guard Eric Turner were the two that helped lay the foundation in the early 1980s, and after the Wolverines won the NIT in 1984, they turned to a freshman point guard to lead them after Turner bolted for the NBA. Gary Grant would become one of U‑M's all‑time greats, and "The Gen‑ eral" was also one of Boyd's greatest recruiting success stories. "[Former Michigan great and Ohioan] Phil Hubbard, I knew his uncle … his uncle knew Gary Grant's family that was from Cleveland, and that family moved to Canton," Boyd recalled. "I went down and saw Gary play and came back, told Bill, 'This kid can flat out play.' Well, from that day on, that was the priority." "Priority" in the 1980s meant something entirely different than it does today. Dead periods, limited visits, etc. — none of those were in place in 1984, so Boyd spent much of his spare time at Canton McKin‑ ley High School. He'd rent the nicest looking car possible, he recalled, and made the six‑hour round‑trip drive dozens of times over several months. "Back then you could recruit every day if you wanted to, so that's what I did," Boyd said. "I'd drive down, get there before the game started, walk out there and would get un‑ derneath the basket, make sure Gary saw me. I'd wave, get my seat, watch the game … game over, come down if they won, make sure I went to the locker room, would say, 'Hello coach; hello, Gary.' After that I'd walk out, jump in the car and drive back to Ann Arbor." He often got back well after midnight. That itinerary wasn't limited to basketball season, either. Grant was also a baseball player, so Boyd spent many spring days at the school as well, watching him practice or play games before making the three‑hour trek home. It paid off on signing day. "Gary was a character, always joking and messing around. His dad was a pastor, and he didn't like all that," Boyd recalled with a laugh. "The night before sign‑ ing day I drove down and Gary was at the skating rink. It was 9:00, then 10:00, approaching 12:00 — and this is Easter week‑ end. I sat outside waiting for him to come out. "So I followed him home, got to the house, got in and sat down … he's telling jokes until 12:30 or 1:00, was fooling around sitting there. Finally his dad came out and said, 'Hey Gary, stop fooling around, sign the papers and get it done so this young man can drive back home.' "To me, it didn't matter that I got home at 4:30. That piece of paper was signed." That was the name of the game, and Boyd became one of the best. He helped assemble and coach Michi‑ gan's last back‑to‑back outright Big Ten championship squads in 1985‑ 86, led by Grant and the "original Fab Five" class of 1986, including the late Roy Tarpley, Robert Henderson, Butch Wade, Richard Rellford and Paul Jokisch. By 1988, the Wolverines were hum‑ ming again thanks to another huge re‑ cruiting coup — future All‑American Glen Rice. Fisher took over when Frie‑ der left for Arizona State, but Boyd was right beside him while Rice put on a shooting display for the ages. Many believed Frieder's departure   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Michigan Basketball Assistant Mike Boyd Helped Build A National Champion Boyd served as an assistant in Ann Arbor from 1978 until 1990, when he was hired to become the head coach at Cleveland State. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

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