The Final Four is taking place in the state of Michigan this year but for many their best college basketball memory of that state, and possibly ever, is the Wolverines’ Fab Five. A very unique squad when it comes to college sports – five freshmen taking a team to the NCAA Final – we’re not talking division II here. As the Head Coach of that team (Steve Fisher) mentions, this is not a feat which will be duplicated in today’s college game. People love the NCAA because of its innocence and hard-working kids, well, this is the ultimate of those emotions. Five fresh faced boys right out of high school, taking the country on a ride. Even as a young person myself in 1991, I could feel the societal backing the Wolverines had. They also had a cultural impact as many people attribute long hoops shorts and black hoop sneaks and socks to the Fab Five.
Coach Steve Fisher joins Brandon & Woolvey on WQXI The Zoneto talk about his best memories, the naysayers, and an incredible story regarding John Wooden and Chris Webber after C-Webb’s famous timeout.
One thing that’s often overlooked about that group is they returned to the Final
On the uniqueness of that team:
“In today’s world, five freshmen can’t start anywhere in the country, and if you have them starting you can’t win. And, we did both. They started, we got to the national championship game as freshmen, and I think that set them apart from any recruiting class in history. No, we didn’t win the national championship, but they will be long remembered for a whole lot of things. For me, the most important thing, the winning and the way they won, and the fact that they were so good, so young together.”
On why people thought they wouldn’t succeed:
“If you go back and read some the things that were written when the class was signed, it’s ‘Well, they don’t have everything lined up… they got Webber and (Juwan) Howard, they both play the same position… you have no point guard’. Jalen Rose was a back to the basket four or five man in high school and he never played with the ball in his hands and he’s 6’8″. So, all of a sudden though, it happened.”
Steve Fisher on the big three, John Wooden talking to Chris Webber after the timeout call, and the full interview after the break.
On what each of the big three brought to the table:
“Everybody knew how good Webber was, and the first practice, you say: ‘This is the best player we got talent-wise.’ Juwan willed his way in to the lineup; we had three starters back including Eric Riley who went to play in the NBA for a while, and Juwan just willed his way in to the starting lineup. And, Jalen, once we started, it didn’t take me long to say, ‘The smartest guy we’ve got. Give him the ball and good things will happen with it.”
On what John Wooden did for Chris Webber after the traumatic timeout:
“We were scheduled two days later to go to Los Angeles for The Wooden Awards – Chris was a finalist, he knew that he didn’t win. Afterward, he says, ‘Coach, I’m not going. I can’t go. I cannot go.’ I said: ‘You have to go. You made a commitment. I made a commitment. You’re going.’ ‘I’m not going.’ Between his dad and myself, we got him to go. We got there and Coach John Wooden, when he saw Chris, he said ‘Steve, can I talk to Chris for a few minutes?’ Brought him back in the back room, and for about 30 minutes he had a 1-on-1 with Webber and afterward Chris came out with a smile like it was Christmas and said ‘Coach, thank you, this was the highlight of my college career, what coach Wooden said to me.’ And, it was so unsolicited, so coach Wooden, to know the timing was perfect for him to talk to Chris.”