Dan Fife was captain of Michigan’s basketball team his senior year in 1971 while playing for Johnny Orr, then actually talked to athletic director Tom Goss about the head coaching job after Steve Fisher was fired prior to the 1997-98 season.
Fife’s son, Dugan, played for Fisher during the Fab Five era, actually starting two seasons for the Wolverines. And Fife’s youngest son, Dane, could be considered a long shot candidate to be the next head coach at Michigan following John Beilein’s departure for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Dane has been an assistant coach at Michigan State the last eight years.
“I was stunned,” said Dan Fife of hearing the news Monday that Beilein was leaving Michigan.
Beilein was Michigan’s winningest coach (278 wins, 12 years), taking the top spot over Orr, who won 209 games in 12 seasons.
Michigan showed some interest in Dan Fife in 1997 after Fisher was fired, but it never led to anything substantial. Fife was coaching Clarkston at the time and would remain there until retiring in 2018 after consecutive Class A state championships.
“I couldn’t really (take it),” Fife said about the Michigan job. “That’s when Dane was in high school, and he was supposed to visit Michigan the day Fisher was let go. Dane had visited all the big schools, Indiana, Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State.
“I wouldn’t have taken it because of Dane. I wouldn’t want to have Dane to have that type of pressure. I wanted him to be able to go wherever he wanted to go, not just follow me. They never offered me the job. They called me and talked to me, had a talk with Goss, but didn’t know if they were serious or not and I didn’t get too excited about it.”
Dane Fife went on to become Mr. Basketball during his senior year at Clarkston in 1998. He went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana, then leading the Hoosiers to the 2002 national championship game under current Detroit Mercy coach Mike Davis, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Dane Fife spent two years as an assistant at Indiana under Davis before becoming head coach at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne for six years (2005-11). He has been Tom Izzo’s assistant for eight years.
Dan Fife believes Dane, 39, is ready for another head coaching job.
“I would be happy for any head coaching job Dane would get,” “He’s been fortunate to be a young head coach, then to be able to work with Izzo all these years. I haven’t talked to Dane today, but he’s ready for it. He played for Knight at Indiana, coached under Izzo at Michigan State.
“Dane knows what he’s doing and he’s paid his dues. I’m sure he has thoughts, but we haven’t shared them. I know he’s enjoyed his time at Michigan State, but his brother played at Michigan and so has his dad. We’d certainly support him if he was offered.”
Another young coach with Michigan roots, 44-year-old Nate Oats, issued a statement Monday that suggested he would not be interested in succeeding Beilein. Oats coached at Romulus High before going 96-43 with three MAC titles and NCAA Tournament appearances in four seasons at Buffalo, then took the head coaching job at Alabama.
“I think if Nate Oats was able to do it (get the Alabama job), I think Dane is certainly able to get to the next level, but there will be a lot of big names going into this one,” Dan Fife said. “The Alabama thing went so quick.”