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the Harvard Mid-Atlantic Region Alumni Clubs

Charlottesville, Delaware, Maryland, Philadelphia, Virginia and Washington DC


“A Conversation

with the great Harvard Men's Basketball Coach

Tommy Amaker”

‘Teach. Lead. Serve.’


In candid conversation and moderated Q & A with Coach Amaker on Harvard athletics today, early sports specialization and year round commitment, national issues surrounding college recruiting, and lessons learned.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

6 - 7:30pm

By Zoom


Pre-Registration Required

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A 6’1 star point guard from Falls Church, Virginia, Amaker is a Duke University Hall of Famer and a former All American and National Defensive Player of the Year. He racked up 108 career wins at Duke, where he helped lead his team to a national runner-up finish in 1986. Amaker won a gold medal with the U.S. national team that won the World Championship in 1986. He was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in the third round of the 1987 NBA Draft with the 55th pick overall.  Check out Amaker’s collegiate record.


After graduation, Amaker stayed with the Duke University Blue Devils as a graduate assistant then assistant coach for nine seasons. His first head coaching position brought him to the Big East, where he led Seton Hall for four seasons, a stint that included a Sweet Sixteen appearance. From there, a six-season stint as head coach at the University of Michigan followed, which included a 2004 NIT championship title, making him the youngest Black coach to ever win a national title (NIT or NCAA). Since joining the Harvard community in 2007, Amaker has brought the Crimson to unprecedented heights, racking up not only the first, but now seven Ivy League championships, making four NCAA tournament appearances and earning three NIT berths.  Explore the Harvard Men’s Basketball program.


Amaker’s philosophy is ‘Teach. Lead. Serve.’, and he has designed a program where student athletes are exposed to different perspectives, explore new ways of thinking, and start on their path to becoming future leaders. Amaker prioritizes learning experiences off the court, such as trips anchored in the themes of social justice and moral courage, and through mentoring relationships like the ones built in his Breakfast Club, an initiative he created with renowned Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree where student athletes get to meet notable business leaders and social activists like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and basketball legend and social justice champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Learn more about Amaker’s program. Biography

In the 14 seasons since taking over as head coach of Harvard’s men’s basketball program, Tommy Amaker has reinvented the Crimson into an Ivy League power with a national presence. He has directed Harvard to a period of unprecedented prosperity in the form of seven Ivy League championships (2011-15, 2018-19), four NCAA tournament appearances (2012-15) and seven 20-win seasons (2010-15, 2020). Amaker is the all-time winningest coach with the Crimson, surpassing Frank Sullivan with a 74-66 win at Boston College on Dec. 7, 2016. The 2021-22 campaign will mark his 15th in Cambridge.


Amaker was introduced as head coach by then-Nichols Family Director of Athletics Bob Scalise on April 13, 2007, following six seasons as head coach at Michigan and four at the helm of Seton Hall. Amaker owns a 427-278 career record: 251-139 at Harvard, 108-84 at Michigan and 68-55 at Seton Hall. He has earned numerous coach-of-the-year awards, including the 2013 Clarence "Big House" Gaines College Basketball Coach of the Year Award, presented to the top minority basketball coach in NCAA Division I. In 2012, he was presented with district coach-of-the-year awards from both the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), and was a candidate for the AP National Coach of the Year. He has also been named a finalist for the Ben Jobe Award six times (2011-15, 2019), and the Hugh Durham Award three times (2011, 2012, 2015). In June 2020, he was named The James Herscot '58 Coach of Excellence, a title he held in 2020-21, becoming the fifth recipient in Harvard history.


With Amaker at the helm, Harvard student-athletes have garnered seven All-America honors, 14 All-District distinctions and 35 all-conference accolades. Additionally, Keith Wright '12 (2012), Wesley Saunders ’15 (2014) and Seth Towns '20 (2018) have been named Ivy League Player of the Year, Steve Moundou-Missi ’15 (2015) and Agunwa Okolie ’16 (2016) have garnered defensive-player-of-the-year plaudits, with Kyle Casey ’13-14 (2010), Siyani Chambers ’16-17 (2013), Bryce Aiken '20 (2017) and Noah Kirkwood '22 (2019) earning rookie-of-the-year honors.


Before beginning his head-coaching career, Amaker won two NCAA championships and advanced to five Final Fours as an assistant and associate head coach at Duke. He was previously a four-year starter at point guard for the Blue Devils, leading the team to the 1986 NCAA title game before earning All-America honors and recognition as the nation’s top defensive player in his senior year of 1987.


Harvard has garnered the attention of the nation with eight postseason appearances in the last 12 years, but Amaker's teams have long been making headlines, with each season bringing more program milestones. Some of the highlights:

  • A 208-95 (.686) overall record since 2009-10, ranking as the 25th-highest win percentage in the NCAA over the last 10 seasons (entering 2019-20)
  • A 110-18 (.859) home record since 2009-10, ranking as the 15th-highest home-court win percentage in the NCAA over the last 10 seasons (entering 2019-20)
  • Four straight NCAA tournament appearances (2012, ’13, ’14, ’15), becoming just the third program in Ancient Eight history with at least four straight NCAA bids
  • Five consecutive Ivy League championships (2011, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’15), becoming just the second program in Ancient Eight history with at least five straight titles
  • Six straight seasons with 20 wins and a postseason appearance (2010, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’15), tying the longest streak in Ivy League history for 20-win seasons
  • Harvard’s first appearance in a major national poll, ranking as high as No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25 in 2011-12
  • Harvard’s first appearance in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25, ranking No. 25 in 2014-15
  • The seven highest single-season win totals in program history (27-5 in 2013-14, 26-5 in 2011-12, 23-7 in 2010-11, 22-8 in 2014-15, 21-8 in 2009-10 and 2019-20, and 20-10 in 2012-13)
  • Two wins in the NCAA tournament (68-62 vs. No. 3 New Mexico, March 21, 2013; 61-57 vs. No. 5 Cincinnati, March 20, 2014), Harvard’s first two NCAA tournament wins.
  • Harvard’s first win in the NIT (71-68 vs. Georgetown, March 20, 2019)
  • 28-game home winning streak from 2010-12
  • 2013 Great Alaska Shootout tournament champions
  • 2011 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament champions
  • 18 wins against power-conference opponents, with an 8-6 record against Atlantic Coast Conference teams
  • Four wins against ranked teams
  • Earned berths in the first four Ivy League tournaments
  • Fifteen (15) first team All-Ivy League selections, four Ivy League Rookies of the Year (Kyle Casey '13-14, Siyani Chambers '16-17, Bryce Aiken ’20 and Noah Kirkwood ’22), two Ivy League Defensive Players of the Year (Steve Moundou-Missi ’15 & Agunwa Okolie ’16), three Ivy League Players of the Year (Keith Wright ’12, Wesley Saunders '15 & Seth Towns ’20), and one NBA signee (Jeremy Lin ’10). 

Among Amaker’s career achievements:

  • 427-278 record (.606)
  • 14 postseason appearances
  • 2004 NIT championship
  • Five NCAA tournament appearances, including 2000 Sweet Sixteen
  • Coached six NBA players

In 2019-20, the Crimson reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2014-15, finishing with a 21-8 record. On the way to its fifth-highest win total in program history, Harvard defeated Power-5 conference foes Texas A&M and California, and enjoyed a pair of lengthy winning streaks (8 games and 6 games). The Crimson earned a berth to the Ivy League Tournament after a runner-up finish in the regular season, but the league and university canceled the event and eventually the rest of the spring schedule, effectively ending the campaign. Despite the abrupt finish, Harvard had a first-team all-Ivy selection in Noah Kirkwood, while Chris Lewis, who completed his career as the school's all-time leader in blocked shots and field goal percentage, garnered second-team accolades.


In 2018-19, Harvard earned the Ivy League championship, its second straight and seventh in nine seasons. Bryce Aiken was a unanimous all-Ivy League first team selection, while Noah Kirkwood became Harvard’s fourth Ivy League Rookie of the Year under Amaker. The Crimson capped the 2018-19 season with its second-straight trip to the NIT, where it earned the first win in the event in program history, over Georgetown (71-68).


The Crimson captured its sixth Ivy League crown in program history in 2017-18, each coming under Amaker, and earned its second-ever berth to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Seth Towns capped a tremendous season as the Ivy League Player of the Year and All-America selection, while Chris Lewis and Justin Bassey also garnered All-Ivy recognition. With a victory over Dartmouth on Jan. 20, Amaker became the fifth head coach in Ivy League history to reach 200 wins at an Ivy program, doing it the second-fastest in the conference’s history.


Harvard capped the 2016-17 season with an appearance in the inaugural Ivy League tournament. The Crimson - the 10th-youngest team according to KenPom rankings - finished 18-10 overall, including a 10-4 mark in Ancient Eight play. On Dec. 7, 2016, Amaker became the all-time winningest men's basketball coach in Harvard history, surpassing the previous mark with a 74-66 win at Boston College. Amaker also ended the season as the all-time leader at Harvard in Ivy wins (94). 

In 2014-15, Harvard finished the regular season tied with Yale for the Ancient Eight crown. The Crimson defeated the Bulldogs in a one-game playoff for the right to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament, where it fell to fourth-seeded North Carolina, 67-65, despite taking a 65-63 lead with 1:15 to play. Harvard also completed its second straight season sweep of traditional Ivy powers Penn and Princeton during the regular season, becoming the first program in conference history to do in consecutive years.


In 2013-14, the 12th-seeded Crimson knocked off fifth-seeded Cincinnati in the tournament's second round, and nearly pulled off an upset of fourth-seeded Michigan State to reach the Sweet 16. Harvard finished the year with a 27-5 overall record and a 13-1 mark in the Ivy League, setting program bests for both overall victories and conference victories, and also captured the title at the Great Alaska Shootout along the way. Additionally, a record six Crimson were named to the All-Ivy League teams, including player of the year Wesley Saunders '15.


A year earlier, Harvard earned a historic win in the NCAA tournament as the 14th-seeded Crimson upset third-seeded New Mexico, which was ranked 10th nationally. The victory was the first by the Crimson against a top-10 opponent and left Harvard among the nation’s top 32 teams at season’s end. The 2012-13 season also saw Amaker become the fourth head coach to win 100 games at Harvard, reaching that milestone on Jan. 5, 2013, when the Crimson defeated Rice, 92-62.

A win in the NCAA tournament was a natural progression after the 2011-12 season, perhaps the best overall campaign in program history and the first in which the Crimson claimed sole possession of the Ivy title.  En route to ending its 66-year NCAA tournament drought, Harvard debuted in the national rankings, climbing as high as No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and No. 22 in the Associated Press poll. Finishing 26-5, Harvard eclipsed the program's previous record for wins for the third straight year and matched the previous season’s program-best 12-2 Ivy mark. The Crimson also won the inaugural Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, with wins against Utah, No. 20 Florida State and UCF.


For his effort, Amaker was named the USBWA and NABC district coach of the year, as well as the College Insider Ivy League Coach of the Year. Amaker was also tabbed a finalist for the Ben Jobe Award and the Hugh Durham Award for coaching and was selected as a candidate for the AP National Coach of the Year. He received the NABC, College Insider, Jobe and Durham recognitions for the second straight year.


Harvard’s first Ivy crown came in 2010-11, when the Crimson went 23-7, tied Princeton at 12-2 in league play, set a program record with 14 home wins and made its first NIT appearance.  The 23 wins briefly held as the program standard, erasing the 21 victories from 2009-10 from the top spot. That 2009-10 campaign ended in the Tournament, Harvard’s first postseason berth since 1946.


Amaker’s first two seasons showed signs of the great achievements to come. The 2008-09 freshman class was tabbed as one of the nation’s 25 best recruiting classes by ESPN, an accolade never before bestowed upon an Ivy League institution. The Crimson went on to post a victory at No. 17 Boston College. The marquee win in Amaker’s debut season of 2007-08 was a 62-51 victory over Michigan—Amaker’s former team—on national television.


At Michigan, Amaker inherited a program that was reeling from institutional and NCAA sanctions but led the Wolverines to the postseason three times, winning the 2004 NIT title and reaching the championship game of the 2006 NIT. The Wolverines were ranked as high as No. 20 in the nation during the 2005-06 season.


Seton Hall reached the postseason every year during Amaker’s tenure. He led the Pirates to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2000 and to three appearances in the NIT. He was credited with bringing in the top recruiting class in the country, including the national high school player of the year, for the 2000-01 season.


Amaker has been the head coach of six players who were either drafted, or signed as free agents, by NBA clubs, including two first-round draft picks.


Amaker served nine years as a graduate assistant, assistant coach and associate head coach at Duke, working for legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski. He was an assistant on two NCAA championship teams with the Blue Devils (1991, ’92) and helped Duke to three other Final Fours in eight NCAA tournament appearances. Duke was a combined 230-80 in Amaker’s nine years on the Blue Devils coaching staff.


A native of Falls Church, Virginia, Amaker began his career in college basketball with a highly successful playing stint at Duke. He led the Blue Devils to four NCAA tournaments, including the 1986 national championship game, and served as team captain as a senior. Amaker was the 1987 winner of the Henry Iba Corinthian Award as the nation’s top defensive player, and he was enshrined in the Duke Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2013, Amaker was inducted in the Washington Metropolitan Basketball Hall of Fame.


Amaker is also a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2013, and the W.T. Woodson H.S. Hall of Fame (Fairfax, Va.) (2012).

Amaker’s playing career also includes a gold medal as part of the U.S. national team at the 1986 World Championships.


A 1987 Duke graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Amaker was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1987 NBA draft. He currently serves on the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Board of Directors and co-chairs its Committee on Racial Reconciliation, after having served as a board member of the NABC Foundation. He also joined forces with Kentucky's John Calipari in the summer of 2020, to introduce the McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative and became involved with Black Coaches United. His work with the NABC and with Calipari led to him receiving the NABC Guardians of the Game Award (Inclusion) in 2021. Additionally, Amaker served on the board of USA Basketball where he was a member of the Men’s Collegiate and Men’s Senior National Committees, helping to select members of the gold-medal-winning 1996 U.S. Olympic team.


Amaker, who was recognized as one of five Champions of Diversity and Inclusion by the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee in February 2021, also serves on the Board of Overseers for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, is an Executive Fellow at Harvard Business School and a Special Assistant to Harvard University President Larry Bacow.