Tommy Amaker is an educator, coach, and leader
Tommy Amaker is an educator, coach, and leader who has transformed the Division I men’s basketball program at Harvard University both on the basketball court and “Beyond the 94 x 50.”
Amaker began his basketball career as a star point guard at Duke University in the 1980s, becoming an All American, a National Defensive Player of the Year, and a gold medalist with the U.S. national team that won the World Championship in 1986. He stayed at Duke after graduation, working as a graduate assistant and then assistant coach under his mentor, the famed Coach Mike Krzyzewski. After leaving the Blue Devils in 1997, he took his first head coaching job at Seton Hall, where he would take the team to an NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance. 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 taken the program to unprecedented heights, racking up the first and now seven Ivy League championships, four NCAA tournament appearances, and three NIT berths. He is the all-time winningest coach with the Crimson.
But it’s Amaker’s work with his players outside of basketball that makes him most proud. For the past 13 years, his program philosophy has been “Teach. Lead. Serve,” and he has devoted as much time and energy to developing his athletes into future leaders as he has to building their basketball prowess. He launched a Breakfast Club initiative 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.
His approach to integrating social justice and leadership development into his program landed him a leadership role as a Board member for the National Association of Basketball Coaches, where he co-chairs the Committee on Racial Reconciliation. He’s also a force behind the John McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative, which is designed to give young people of color more opportunities to work in athletic departments throughout the higher education landscape.
Amaker 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.
Awards and Honors
- Clarence “Big House” Gaines College Basketball Coach of the Year Award, 2013
- The James Herscot ’58 Coach of Excellence, 2020
- USBWA Coach of the Year, 2011-2012
- NABC District Coach of the Year, 2011-2012
- College Insider Ivy League Coach of the Year, 2011-2012