Secret to Michigan basketball’s heady guards? They are sons of coaches

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Why do opponents dislike Michigan forward Moritz Wagner? He answers the question Friday, March 30 at the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.
Nick Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press

SAN ANTONIO — Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has an old soul, like an old coach lives inside him.

He carries himself with ease.

Calm and composed.

Never flustered.

Which will be an important key on Saturday night when Michigan plays Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four.

It’s hard to imagine the moment will be too big for him.

“I’ll be excited to play but I’ll try to stick to what I know, and that’s being even-keeled and being ready for anything,” Abdur-Rahkman said.

Spoken like a coach.

Or at least, the son of a coach.

Abdur-Rahkman has grown up on a basketball court. His father, Dawud Abdur-Rahkman, is the head coach at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, Pa.

“When he was a kid, I was coaching at Howard,” Dawud Abdur-Rahkman said. “He’d be in practices with us and be a ball boy. He’d go to the games with us. He’d be in the locker room. I’d go pick up recruits and he’d go with me.”

Abdur-Rahkman is one of three players who are the sons of coaches on the Wolverines.

The others are Zavier Simpson and Ibi Watson.

All three are guards.

Which makes perfect sense.

Michigan coach John Beilein’s two-guard offense requires a player with a high IQ.

Who are the smartest players, by and large? The kids of coaches.

And that is one of Michigan’s strengths.

The Wolverines have smart, heady guards, who know how to take care of the basketball.

That’s the benefit of recruiting the son of a coach.

Then again, the son of a coach comes from an extremely complicated situation.

“Are there any disadvantages to being a coach’s son?” I asked Watson.

“It depends how you play,” he said.

Now, there’s the rub.

Being the son of a coach is both a blessing and a curse.

“You know what, I coached my own son,” Beilein said. “It’s not always a bowl of cherries. It can be difficult at times.”

Dawud Abdur-Rahkman held off coaching his son to minimize that difficulty. “I started coaching him when he was 11 going on 12,” he said. “It’s kind of my philosophy. I don’t think you should coach them before that. My older son was the same way. I think it’s too much pressure. I think it’s important for kids to learn to love the game.”

Sure, that might work for some. But Quincy Simpson took the exact opposite approach with Zavier. Quincy has been coaching him forever.

“I love my dad,” Zavier said. “He’s put me in the position that I’m in today.”

So there’s no right way, no single way, for any of this.

Not from either perspective.

One thing is for certain: There are bound to be complications in the father-son coaching situation.

“I’m going through that with my own son, me and him bump heads every day,” said Michigan assistant coach DeAndre Haynes. “Me and Coach B had that conversation. He said he and his son butted heads a lot. It is what it is.”

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It is what it is: seriously complicated.

From all sides.

Beilein once had a parent question why his son wasn’t playing.

And he has had the opposite. “I have had a parent tell me, I’m trying to figure out why you’re playing him at all,” Beilein said. “He shouldn’t be out there.”

But for all the complications, there are a ton of benefits, which brings us back to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

“I’ve been all over with (my dad) when he’s recruiting,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I’ve been on the bench when he’s coaching games. He provides insight into what college basketball is about and the game itself. It also makes me a little stubborn.”

Dawud Abdur-Rahkman has an interesting perspective on the Wolverines.

From the perspective of a coach sitting in the stands, he is most impressed with Michigan’s defense.

“There is no quadratic formula to defense,” he said. “But here is what is different: Beilein’s commitment to it. Turning it over to Luke Yaklich and Yaklich being a motivator. He coaches it like I do. Defense is a disposition. It’s an attitude. You gotta have an attitude to play defense. He gives them that, that’s what is impressive.

“The difference is, they are hopping on everything. Hop. Hop. Hop. Hop. Watch them. Everybody. They are hopping on everything. It’s easy to get lazy on defense. But they are hopping.”

All of them.

Especially the sons of the coaches.

Who seem to be in the right place, at the right time.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.

 

 

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