Amaker has been a part of rebuilding through most of his life. As a point guard at W.T. Woodson High in Fairfax he dreamed of following in John Lucas’s footsteps at Maryland. But Krzyzewski convinced him he would “make him a star” at Duke.
After Amaker had made the clinching free throws in his first game as a freshman in 1983, Krzyzewski walked past Amaker as he stood surrounded by reporters in the locker room and whispered, “I told you.”
Amaker ended up starting every game of his four-year career and was the national defensive player of the year in 1987. His size, 6 feet and 150 pounds soaking wet, probably kept him from playing in the NBA, so he turned to coaching, working for Krzyzewski for 10 seasons before spending four years as the head coach at Seton Hall and the six years at Michigan.
It was a logical coaching path for someone who had been a star in a big-time program. After Michigan, though, Amaker wasn’t certain what he wanted. His wife, Stephanie, is a clinical psychologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School. He could have gone back and finished the MBA he had started 20 years earlier. Instead, he landed at Harvard.
“You never say never as a coach,” he said on the subject of his future. “Because if you say that then you can end up looking foolish. But I love it here. My wife loves it here. I feel like we’ve brought Harvard together with our success in a way it hasn’t been brought together in a long time. You would think a place like this wouldn’t need that but when I look at our gym packed to the rafters now, I think maybe we did need it.”
Amaker loves his life right now and believes, regardless of where or when this season ends, that the Crimson can continue to improve. “I think it’s impossible not to notice when Harvard is playing good basketball,” he said. “I think if we can show people this is a great place to play basketball and it’s Harvard — wow. That could be really cool.”
It has already been cool. With luck, it will be even cooler for many years to come.
For John Feinstein’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/
feinstein. For more, visit his blog at feinsteinonthebrink.com.