You wouldn’t think that Gerard Pique had an encyclopedic knowledge of college basketball, but here we are.
Don’t know who Gerard Pique is?
Beyond being Shakira’s lesser half, he is the longtime starting centerback for Barcelona as well as Spain’s national soccer team, and it’s the latter position that has him being written about on a college basketball website.
For those that are unaware, Thursday marks the beginning of the World Cup. On Friday, the Spanish team is slated to square off with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in their first match of group play, a critical game if the Spaniards want to avoid being dumped out of football’s most important tournament before the knockout rounds like they did in 2014. On Wednesday, the Spanish national team fired their manager, Julen Lopetegui, replacing him with Fernando Hierro.
The reasons for the firing are complicated and centered around the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the long and short of it is that news leaked out that Lopetegui had accepted the job as Madrid’s manager. The Spanish FA did not want someone coaching their national team that had already taken another job, so they unloaded him.
Where does Pique fall in this mess?
As this drama was unfolding, he tweeted the following:
For those that don’t speak spanish, the tweet reads: “University of Michigan. Basketball. 1989. NCAA Championship. It would not be the first time this has happened. All together, no more than ever before.”
What Pique is referring to is the national title that Steve Fisher won as the head coach of the Wolverines, and it is a fun trip down memory lane that I had totally forgotten about. Hell, it may be a new story for many of you.
In 1989, just two days before the start of the NCAA tournament, Michigan head coach Bill Frieder resigned. Well, technically he was fired. He was told by athletic director that he shouldn’t bother showing up for the tournament after accepting the job as head coach at Arizona State.
“I don’t want someone from Arizona State coaching the Michigan team,” Schembechler said. “A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan.”
Fisher had been an assistant coach on the Michigan staff for seven seasons, and he was named the interim head coach for the 1989 tournament, launching what might be a Hall of Fame coaching career. Fisher would lead Michigan past North Carolina — who had eliminated the Wolverines in the last two tournaments — in the Sweet 16 and coach them to a thrilling win over Illinois in the Final Four before Rumeal Robinson’s free throws in overtime of the title game gave Fisher one of the most improbable national titles in the history of the tournament.
And the rest is history. Fisher would go on to recruit the Fab Five, reach two more national title games and then rebuild a moribund San Diego State program into a west coast power before retiring.
The irony of it all?
Fisher was not the man that Schembechler wanted to hire. He wanted Pete Gillen or Jim Crews or whatever hot name there was on the coaching carousel that spring. But Fisher went out and won the title, making the job and the future of the Michigan program his.
It’s a great story, one that doesn’t get told enough.
And if you are a fan of Spain, you’re hoping that history will repeat itself.