I got an early morning text the other day from a friend that read, “Michigan basketball is finished.” My immediate thought was that John Beilein was leaving. That, in my opinion, would justify the dramatic statement from my maize and blue buddy.
Then I thought maybe the NCAA discovered some illegal activity surrounding the basketball program – wouldn’t be the first time now would it. But that brought me right back to John Beilein because if anything the outstanding men’s basktball coach has run a model program built on integrity, hard work and doing things the right way. The Beilein way, if you will.
NCAA violations or sanctions or wrong doings just didn’t fit this coach. And that alone is worth at least a tip of your cap to Beilein and his staff.
Beilein announced earlier this week that he will be stepping down as the Wolverines men’s basketball coach to take the head coaching position with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. In his 12 seasons with Michigan, Beilein compiled a 278-149 record and led the Wolverines to a pair of national championship game appearances (2013, ’18) en route to becoming the winningest coach in program history.
Beilein was the true definition of teacher. He taught his players to be better individually and collectively and the results of those efforts took center court when it mattered most – in March.
Under Beilein’s tutelage, Michigan made nine NCAA Tournament appearances, won two Big Ten regular-season titles, including the program’s first outright crown in 28 years in 2014, and captured back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles.
In his 41 years as a collegiate head coach, Beilein compiled a career record of 829-468 (.639), recorded 20-plus-win seasons on 23 occasions, and finished with a winning record in 35 of those seasons. Beilein has 20 career postseason appearances – 13 in the NCAA Division I Tournament, six in the NIT and one in the NCAA Division II Tournament. With the nine trips to the Big Dance with U-M, Beilein is one of 14 coaches to have taken four different schools to the NCAA Tournament – Canisius (1996), Richmond (1998), West Virginia (2005, ’06) and Michigan (2009, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’16, ’17, ’18, ’19).
While plenty of people worry and discus and frustrate over the football team at U-M, there was none of that on the basketball court. The hoops program was in very capable hands, and even during the lows – three losses this past season to Michigan State among them – there was never any real panic. Beilein would handle it. Beilein would right the ship. Beilein would have them ready when it mattered the most.
They came up one game short of winning it all in 2013 and 2018 but consistency will be Beilein’s Michigan legacy. Consistently good. Consistently respected. Consistently improving and peaking at the right time. And, of course, consistently clean and above board.
The names of replacements on the list continue to grow – or narrow depending on your point of view. Everyone from Bobby Hurley to Billy Donovan to Chris Beard to Juwan Howard have been mentioned somewhere or another. Another name is Rick Pitino – please NO! He is the opposite of Beilein when it comes to respect and class and integrity.
While Beilein makes a bee line for the NBA let’s give him more than a round of applause – let’s hire someone just like him to replace him. So we can all be rest assured the basketball program at least is in good and capable hands.
Photo/graphic courtesy of U-M Athletics