IT WAS almost as rare a sight in Cambridge, Mass., as a pro-Bush rally: a sellout crowd (of 2,050) rushing the court at Harvard's Lavietes Pavilion after a basketball win. "It's amazing," forward Evan Harris said after the 4--4 Crimson upset Michigan 62--51 last Saturday. "We were joking in the locker room that this win will increase our fan base threefold." The victory was especially sweet for Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who was fired last March after six years at Michigan. Amaker, 42, a former Duke guard, was pilloried in Ann Arbor for failing to reach the NCAA tournament. But at Harvard—the school hasn't been to the tournament in 61 years, the NCAA's longest drought—Amaker has already invigorated the program.
Amaker says he came to Harvard—here, athletic budgets are small and sports scholarships are prohibited—because he likes what he calls the school's "brand," the combination of educational and postgrad employment opportunities for players. (His wife, Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, a clinical psychologist and former associate dean at Michigan, is expected to join the Harvard faculty.) That sales pitch and Amaker's status—he's easily the biggest name in Ivy League hoops—have sparked a recruiting surge. Amaker's 2008 recruiting class is rated among the top 30 in Division I. (Among the six players is coveted 6'10" Arlington, Va., center Frank Ben-Eze.) "I think [beating Michigan] was significant," Amaker says. "You hope to get some momentum, and now we're going to try and use it."