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Fisher and Michigan Continue to Make for a Perfect Match

December 20, 1989|STEVE BERKOWITZ | WASHINGTON POST

Sure enough, three days later, Michigan defeated the Cyclones, 101-78. Since then the Wolverines have run off four impressive victories, including a 113-108 overtime decision against then-No. 6 Duke. At last they are beginning to look like a team that returned seven of its top nine scorers -- even if one of those who didn't return is Glen Rice, the Big Ten Conference's leading scorer last season who also averaged 30.7 points per game during the NCAA tournament.

"We're a team that is experienced so you wouldn't think it would be quite as difficult for us to blend in a player," Fisher said, "but sometimes it is. The concern that I have with our team this year is numbers six, seven and eight off the bench. They are lacking in experience."

Junior guard Demetrius Calip played a significant role in the Wolverines' tournament victories, but had not played much before then. Six-foot-nine junior forward Chris Seter and 6-11 sophomore center Eric Riley never had played before this season. Guard Michael Talley is talented, but he is a freshman.

"When we get in foul trouble or we have to go deep to our bench and have several of them (the less-experienced players) out there at the same time, that is when I feel when we're not going to blend and flow like we will later in the season," Fisher said. "They just haven't done it before."

But Robinson has. His free throws with three seconds left in overtime clinched the Wolverines' victory in the NCAA tournament final. Yet, like Fisher, Robinson has not changed appreciably despite being besieged by fans and the media.

"He's done a great job of being able to handle that and blend that with basketball," Fisher said. "It's not easy. I'm finding that out also. But he knows his role, and he knows it goes beyond just dribbling and shooting the ball. He's the leader."

Robinson said he understands that, although he does not seem totally at ease with his life away from the gym.

"I think people have been looking at me differently for a long time and because of that, I've been able to understand what has happened to me and what people will see about Rumeal," Robinson said.

Asked if he is comfortable with that, he replied:

"Not really. You can't say you're really comfortable, because in some aspects you don't know who is being true and who is not. It's almost like you have to have your guard up when you really don't want to. And the people that you find out you don't have your guard up around are the ones you end up hurting because you do have your guard up."

Fisher knows the feeling, but his job also involves not forgetting what it took for him to receive all of the attention in the first place.

"A lot of people told me, 'Go everywhere, do everything, shake every hand and enjoy it because it probably will never happen again,' " Fisher said. "So I've really tried to do the interviews. I spoke at 20 to 30 Michigan functions throughout the country. I tried to enjoy it and tried to be proud of what we had accomplished and have fun doing it but still not lose sight of the fact that I'm a basketball coach, not an after-dinner speaker.

"I want to enjoy the whole process," he added. "But it doesn't matter who you are, it's not fun when you don't win."

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