Harvard’s Big Win

1196711577For this month’s issue of Boston magazine, I interviewed Tommy Amaker, Harvard’s new basketball coach. Even though he refused to adopt my ascot suggestion (pity), he candidly answered questions about the program’s historic futility. And though Harvard has never won an Ivy League title, Amaker sounded genuinely optimistic that, over time, he could change the school’s fortunes.

Neither of us could have guessed, though, how quickly he’d get the Crimson together. In case you missed it, Harvard got what was arguably its biggest win in the last 30 years when it beat Michigan at home on Saturday. Making the victory that much sweeter was the fact that, prior to taking the Harvard job, Amaker coached the Wolverines for six seasons before being fired.

After the nationally televised triumph, students chanted “we got Tommy” as they stormed the court. It was a pretty amazing thing to watch.

“It was great for our students,” Amaker told me. “It was just a fabulous atmosphere for our kids. I’m not sure how many times we’ve had that kind of environment here at Harvard, but it was meaningful for a lot of us.”

Try as I did, I couldn’t get Amaker to badmouth Michigan or gloat in the slightest. (He’s far classier than I am.) He was thrilled, however, about what this win could mean for Harvard’s rebuilding program.

“It was a statement win,” Amaker admitted. “I’m incredibly pleased. I never had a timetable for how I wanted things to progress, but I always thought that we could really build on the Harvard name. I always thought certain things were possible for us one day.”

This is a fine first step.