Why John Beilein, Why


A lot of stuff happened over the weekend in sports and movies and TV. But the story I awoke to this morning takes precedence over all the other stuff I want to write about.

I was resting in my bed, my son was playing video games, my daughter was sleeping and my wife left for work when the news buzzed across my phone. John Beilein, the head basketball coach at Michigan for the last 12 years, was leaving to become the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I didn't believe it at first. I thought it might have been a joke, or a wrongly reported story. I thought maybe the people got the name wrong. After he flirted with the Pistons last year, I assumed that he was going to stick in college for the rest of his career. But, after doing a good amount of research, I found out that it was true. Whenever you see Woj has reported the story, when it comes to NBA news, you know it's true. Beilein then went on Twitter to confirm the news himself.

I was stunned. I took this a lot harder than I thought I was going to. I think it hit me so hard because I did not see this coming, at all. Every year I have to hear about how overrated a football coach Jim Harbaugh is, but that this NFL team or that NFL team was going to lure him away from Michigan. Harbaugh has been there for five years now, and after every season, he is mentioned in open NFL head coaching jobs. It is something I have come to expect. But John Beilein has been a staple.

Beilein came to this team 12 years ago, when they were in the toilet, and he has built them up to a perennial Big Ten power. He has led them to tons of Sweet Sixteen's. He has been to 2 Final Fours and 2 title games. He has gone to the NCAA tourney in 9 of his 12 years. He turned guys like Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Mo Wagner and Mitch McGary into first round NBA picks. He helped Glenn Robinson III to the NBA. He has been able to replace top notch point guards year after year. He has added great assistants every year. He has adjusted his teams to fit their strengths. They were all offense when he first got there, then they had super athletes, then they became a deadly three point shooting team, then he made his big men become stretch 5's, and this past season, he helped turn them into a defensive powerhouse. And they looked to be pretty solid heading into the 2019-20 season.

And then this news appeared this morning.

As I said, I have read a ton of stuff since hearing the news, and I still am a bit shook. I heard that he is leaving because he doesn't like the state of college basketball recruiting. He is not a fan of the "one and done" culture. I get that. I mean, Iggy Brazdeikes is good, but he is not NBA ready. But, he has decided to test the waters. He is also losing Jordan Poole because Poole had a few good games and some GM's said he could be a pick. I love Jordan Poole, but I do not think he is even close to being ready for the NBA. And even earlier in his career, guys like Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III and Daruis Morris all left much earlier than they should have. This is a problem with college basketball. I get that. But, he is going to have to deal with guys that make much more money than him, and if he doesn't produce soon, he will be gone.

Which leads me to another thing I read. He chose the Cavs because he will be able to rebuild. Sure, that sounds nice, but like I just said, how patient will that fan base be if they don't get the number one pick this year, and win 20 games over the next three years? That will not be fun. The 76ers fired a ton of coaches during the process era. The Lakers are on their third coach in 5 years because that fan base is hungry for wins. The Knicks have gone through a ton of coaches because they can't, or aren't willing to try, to win games. This could very well happen to Beilein. Cleveland is not a good team. They have one solid player in Colin Sexton, and nothing much else. I know Kevin Love is there, but he is only getting older, and he is always injured. I also think they are going to trade him. I like Cedi Osman, but he is still a work in progress. Tristan Thompson is a bum. Matthew Dellavedova is a scrub. I mean, this roster is rough. And if they don't get Zion Williamson, they will be probably take someone like RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish. Those guys are the definition of a project. I don't know if Beilein wants to take on that task.

The one thing I heard that has me not questioning his move was Beilein wants to try at the highest level. That actually makes sense. He is 66 years old, making him the third oldest coach in the NBA now. If he was going to try, now is the best, and possibly only, chance he has. When this contract is up, if he makes it all the way through, he will be 71, and, I'd assume, ready to retire. This is the only reason I, right now, will accept as to why he took this job.

I'm still stunned. I am upset because I adored him as the Michigan basketball coach. He made them a power again. He restored this team. They have been far superior to the football team for some time now. They have won big games. They have played on big stages. They did everything, minus a national title, that any fan would want to see. And now he is leaving to coach the Cavs. I just cannot wrap my head around that. I get the lure of the NBA, but if he really wanted to go, why not take the Pistons or Magic job that he interviewed for last year? They were both playoff teams with solid rosters this year. I just do not get the choice to take the Cavs job. He could've stayed at Michigan and been poised for another deep tourney run this year. He had some good recruits coming in. He had a great core returning. Now he gets to coach the remains of a team LeBron left in shambles a year ago.

I really do wish John Beilein nothing but the best, I always want to see former Wolverines shine at the highest level. I'm trying to not be so skeptical and cynical. But, this move is bizarre. This team is bad and he, if he doesn't show improvement very soon, will not finish out this contract. I've watched enough NBA to know that the Cavs front office is volatile, and while they like you today, they may hate you in a month, especially if you don't win games. I'm upset and bummed, but I hope John Beilein succeeds. I don't think he will, but I'm rooting for him.

What a bummer of a day to be a Michigan basketball fan. I'm curious to see who they hire next because it will set the tone for awhile. They don't necessarily need to make a "splash" hire. But, they need to make a very, very solid hire. I want to keep believing in this team like I did when Beilein was hired, and after what he has done for 12 seasons.


Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet. 

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