Howard Herman: Mike Maker set high mark for future of Williams men's hoops
Anybody who coaches in high school, college or the professional ranks is supremely confident he or she can win.
But the bar that Mike Maker set in his six years as the men's basketball coach at Williams College is pretty high this morning.
"What we achieved was beyond my wildest imagination," Maker told me on Wednesday, after he was introduced as the head coach at Division I Marist College.
How high is the bar? All Maker did was win 82 percent of his games (147-32), take three Eph teams to the NCAA Division III Final Four, including the 2014 heartbreaking loser to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the championship game, and had people in Williamstown disappointed when Williams won only 17 games in a season.
"It's hard for me to leave and talk about what those kids did for our school and for me and my family," a choked-up Maker said. "I'll be forever grateful."
What folks in the Hudson Valley will learn quickly about Maker and the Red Foxes is that Mike Maker is very good at building -- and not just a team.
"The run we just made in the tournament, every single game -- including the heartbreaking finish -- we played as beautiful as a team can play," said Maker. "We dominated the field and we did it going away with really good people. That was year six for me."
Williams College wins the Directors Cup almost every year which means that the school has the best Division III athletic program in America, with NCAA champions and finalists dotting rosters. But no other team at Williams has been adopted by basketball fans in Berkshire County like Maker's team was.
Every time there was a big game at Chandler Gym, it was filled to capacity. Williams has more than 2,000 students, but I guarantee you, they're not all basketball fans. At least 50 percent of the crowd came from the community.
It's not just the Williamstown community I'm talking about. I know regulars at Eph games from Pittsfield and Great Barrington. The Williams basketball team truly was Berkshire County's team. High school coaches cribbed game notes from watching the Ephs and local players thought those kids in purple and white were pretty good.
To me, more than the wins, losses and banners, that is the bar whoever athletic director Lisa Melendy, president Adam Falk and the search committee recommends will have to clear.
In one of the more interesting ironies regarding Maker's leaving for Marist, college athletic director Tim Murray said that it was Maker's predecessor, Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen, who recommended Maker.
"Hopefully, I left the program better than I found it. I'm sure they'll hire the right person going forward," Maker said. "I have confidence in Lisa Melendy and the administration that like they did with me, like they did with Dave, like they did with Harry [Sheehy], coach [Curt] Tong, coach [Shaw], that they'll hire the right person.
"It's an attractive job because of the players -- who they are, how they play, the incredible things they accomplish during their time at Williams and after."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.
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