The University Record, October 29, 1997
Ellerbe with reporters following the press conference. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
By Jane R. Elgass
An unwillingness to compromise the core values of the University and athletic department and a desire "to keep the unit together" prompted Athletic Director Tom Goss to name Brian Ellerbe as interim head coach for the 1997-98 basketball season last Fri day. Goss will name a permanent coach at the close of the season next spring.
Ellerbe joined the basketball staff May 29 after serving as head coach at Loyola College in Baltimore, Md., for three years. He is the only member of the U-M staff with head coaching experience. Prior to his work at Loyola he was a top assistant coa ch at several other institutions.
Goss noted at the late afternoon press conference that since firing Steve Fisher Oct. 11, he had interviewed 36 candidates by phone, narrowing that group down to seven he interviewed face-to-face.
Goss further narrowed the field by asking two questions: How would your departure impact your institution? How would your departure impact the student-athletes you have just recruited?
While he found answers to the first question satisfying, he had problems with answers to the second.
At this point he had two choices: Compromise one of his core valuesintegrityor stay with his principles and look to the long term. "If I set a standard for the students, the athletes, I can't talk out of both sides of my mouth."
Goss had attended two practices, watching the team interact with the coaching staff, and stayed in close contact with the players over the past two weeks. He said their feelings played a part in his decision to name Ellerbe, which he characterized "t he best solution for Michigan."
Goss made the decision around 2 p.m. Friday, after having interviewed the last candidate that morning. He talked with Ellerbe three hours Thursday night.
Ellerbe said that he looks at the interim position "as a great stepping stone for the rest of my career." Asked by reporters about possibly being named head coach after this season, Ellerbe said he hoped he'd "shine and make Tom Goss forget about eve ryone else."
Ellerbe said the decision will finally allow the "team to go forward. We've got closure." "We've got good players," he said. "They found out a lot about their character [over the past two weeks] and if they can exude that on the floor, we'll have a good team. We have an opportunity. It's up to us to take advantage of it."
He also noted that he has the full support of assistants Brian Dutcher and Scott Trost. "There will be three of us leading this program," he stated.
Brian Ellerbe is a native of Capitol Heights, Md., where he was a standout high school player, leading the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in scoring for two consecutive years while at Bowie High School. He played in the 1981 McDonald's Capital Classic All-Star Game with Patrick Ewing and against Michael Jordan.
Ellerbe holds a degree in urban planning from Rutgers University, where he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach. He was a four-year starter with Rutgers, finishing with 979 points and a second-place ranking in career assists. He suffered a career-ending shoulder injury midway through his senior year.
Ellerbe was an assistant coach at the University of Virginia (1991-94), University of South Carolina (1990), George Mason University (1989) and Bowling Green State University (1987-88).
He has coached, developed and recruited several players who went on to play professionally in the NBA and Europe. He improved the talent at Loyola, claiming the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's (MAAC) top recruiting class for two years and plac ing at least one player on the MAAC All-Rookie team each season. In his final season there, he guided the team to the best conference record in school history.