On reflection, I think it was unfair of me to make yesterday’s post on Harvard basketball a referendum on whether Tommy Amaker is a jerk. I don’t know enough about the issue to make it so personal. And in any event, Amaker’s personality isn’t the real issue. My apologies, Mr. Amaker.
(Though I still believe that, no matter how much Amaker and AD Bob Scalise may not like Times reporter Pete Thamel, they should talk to him, rather than foist off the responsibility on an associate AD, as they did.)
But the larger issue, of course, is what kind of basketball program Harvard wants, and whether that sort of program is so important to the university that it will compromise the traditional values of Ivy League athletics.
Here’s an excerpt from a blog called Hoops Addict that sums up the situation from that perspective:
Amaker’s presence and his and his athletic director’s assertion that Harvard Basketball is taking a new direction – an investment in winning – makes for more pressure for all the other Ivy League coaches. It is a proclamation that the Ivies are joining the big-time.
And this forces the coaches from the Ivies to join the NCAA basketball universe of the 21st century. They must actively recruit players from regions around the country that are, perhaps, outside of their comfort zones. They must ask for more money from the university and from boosters to conduct their business. This means glad-handing, doing rounds of speaking engagements, and even attending corporate and political mixers, which is the rarified air inhabited by well-heeled Ivy League boosters.
The question this all raises is why? Honestly, who cares whether Harvard has an elite basketball program? Isn’t the university creating a product for which there is no significant demand—and potentially compromising itself in the process?