Catching up with former Illini Tom Michael

Catching up with former Illini Tom Michael

Tom Michael will have five full years as athletic director at Eastern Illinois University come August. The former Illinois forward, who played for Lou Henson from 1990-94, discusses his view on the current Illini and how his job at EIU has changed since he got the gig in 2014:

How much of the Illini do you get to watch and what was your take on this past season?

I don't get an opportunity to watch hardly any games, so my observations are really based on your reports I read in the paper just because I'm so busy with everything here. In the middle of the Big Ten season, they seemed to find a groove. They get Michigan State at home and put a few wins together. It was obviously very encouraging. At the end of the season, I suspect a lot of that had to do with youth. Through the summer and going into next season, guys will have more experience and more maturity. They've got the big fella (Kofi Cockburn) coming in. Hopefully the future is pointing in the right direction to get the program back to where it belongs.

Was there a game in your career like this year's Michigan State win that has stuck with you?

There's certainly the LSU game. We beat them in overtime at our place when (Shaquille O'Neal) played. I've got a picture on the wall here in my office of that game. You think of the Iowa game when Andy (Kaufmann) hits the shot. I just think about how good the Big Ten was when I was able to play. You think about the Fab Five. You think about Ohio State with Jimmy Jackson. You talk about Purdue when they had Glenn Robinson. ... For a few years we were playing against No. 1 draft picks all the time. That certainly says a lot about where the league was in the early '90s.

What's the state of football and basketball at EIU?

The fall was a little bit tough just with the football situation that we had (Kim Dameron was fired). At the same time, I couldn't be more excited about where the program is today (after Adam Cushing was hired). From a basketball standpoint we had some good wins early in the conference season, and it's obvious we didn't get some of those wins late in the season. We're working with Jay (Spoonhour) and trying to figure out ways to make our basketball program better. We certainly want to make the OVC tournament every year. How do we get to the point where we're playing on Friday night in the semifinals and then now we're playing for a bunch of marbles to get in the NCAA tournament?