I can already envision the disgusted faces of Wake fans reading this headline. "A Dukie? What are you a Crazy?"
My response? Now is no time to get picky.
Wake Forest basketball is at a crossroads. Another poor hire and a once-proud program will be dropped by the wayside in the ultra-competitive ACC.
Wake Forest desperately needs a head coach that can infuse a winning culture into a floundering program. The Deacs need an experienced coach who can galvanize a fan base and convince top recruits to join Tie-Dye Nation.
If a former Blue Devil is the best option to bring the Deacs out of the doldrums, so be it.
During Amaker’s time at Duke, he oversaw the transformation of the Blue Devils from a good ACC team into a national powerhouse. On the court, opposing coaches and players respected Amaker as a prescient floor general. While undersized, Amaker’s decision-making and blue collar play made him into an All-American.
After playing with Coach K’s first NCAA tournament team, he coached alongside the Blue Devils’ first national title run in 1991- and their NCAA title defense in 1992.
Coach K has repeatedly praised his disciple’s knowledge and feel for the game. But equally as important, Amaker has a knack for resonating with recruits.
"He has this ability to connect with guys in recruiting, which is one of the big parts of having a successful Division I program," former Dukie Grant Hill, who Amaker recruited, told Boston Magazine. "You have to be a salesperson, to convince them to come and then to buy into your beliefs and into one another. He had that."
Between Seton Hall and Michigan, Amaker has coached 10 seasons in a BCS conference, compiling a 176-139 record. With the Pirates, he reached the postseason in all four of his seasons—they have made the postseason five times in 13 years since his departure.
Amaker even attracted the No. 2 rated recruiting class to West Orange, which is more difficult than selling "this pen" to Jordan Belfort. This accomplishment cannot be unstated because the Pirates have a puny fan base-in an area that cares more about the WNBA than the NCAA-and play their home games 20 miles from campus.
Oft-criticized for his six years with the Wolverines, his time was mired by probation and having the worst facilities in the Big Ten. While Amaker did not satisfy the expectations of the school or fanbase, he still managed to lead Michigan to three 22+ win seasons and an NIT Title.
With his stock at a low point, Amaker took the head coaching position at Harvard, a school with more former U.S. presidents than NBA players. He meticulously developed the Crimson into a conference superpower. Amaker has traveled around the country and brought in Top 100 recruits to Cambridge who can contribute on the court and in the classroom.
He established a new standard for a school that had never won a conference championship. Since Amaker, they have won the Ivy League in four straight seasons. The Crimson entered the national rankings for the first time in 66 seasons. The high water mark was defeating No. 10 New Mexico last season in the NCAA tournament- the program’s first Top 10 win. He has corralled last season's win with an upset over Cincinnati in this year's NCAA Tournament.
Is Amaker the perfect candidate. No. His time at Michigan understandably raises some question marks.
But out of the realistic options, who is?
At Wake, Amaker would restore the confidence and swagger of a Demon Deacon. Still only 48, Amaker has the fire, determination and experience to reinvigorate the Wake Forest program. Additionally, his recruiting prowess is critical to return to contention in the ACC.
For Wake fans who can’t bear hiring a Dukie, don’t forget: Tommy Amaker hasn't worked in Durham since 1997, or before any current Demon Deacon player started kindergarten.
For everyone else, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.