John Beilein is leaving Michigan to coach in the NBA.
Wolverines fans and alums are heartbroken and shocked but grateful for all that Coach B has done.
He’s 66 years old and he completes the improbable run from high school JV coach to NBA head man.
While he had some great seasons at Richmond and West Virginia, his legacy will be largely tied to the great work done in Ann Arbor. Beilein arrived at Michigan in his mid-50s and the program was struggling. Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker both struggled to bring the program to relevancy after the scandals from the Fab 5 left the program in shambles.
Beilein came in and brought an exciting perimeter style, recruited players he knew would buy in and had terrific success. His teams went to 2 Final Fours and twice lost in the championship game. His teams went to the NCAA Tournament 9 times and he coached 9 guys to the NBA. Trey Burke was a national player of the year, Nik Stauskas was a Big Ten player of the year. 18 players were named All-Big Ten.
There are tons of accolades, and I could list more, but there is one word that exemplifies John Beilein: Class. His avuncular nature manifested itself with the media, with the fans, with his players and with his contemporaries. It’s difficult to find anyone who had a negative word to say about Coach B during the last 12 years.
Even Tom Izzo, Beilein’s biggest rival at Michigan, would often be effusive in his praise for the coach “down the road.” In a story last season, Izzo described their relationship perfectly saying, “I always tell John, I hate Michigan because you got to … I have great respect for the University of Michigan. I probably have even more respect for John Beilein.”
Beilein bought into being at a big school with a lot of traditions and alumni with high expectations. He tried to bridge the gap with the fabled Fab 5 to get them to reconcile with the school. He befriended Coach Harbaugh and learned what it meant to be a “Michigan Man.” He jumped around with his players in joyful locker rooms. He built lasting relationships.
The line that is most common with John Beilein is “he did it the right way.” Developing players and investing in them, getting the most out of his guys. True to Bo Schembechler’s definition of a “Michigan Man” – Beilein did things that made anyone who played for him, worked with him or rooted for him proud.
That’s a heckuva legacy.
Among the best player stories in his tenure was Caris LeVert. LeVert was lightly recruited, but Beilein saw something in him and gave him a shot. Each year LeVert got better, worked his tail off, bought in, and is now a very good NBA player. Jon Teske is another example of a guy who has benefitted extensively from Beilein’s guidance.
And then there was Mo Wagner. It was joyful to see Beilein shower praise on his star player throughout their time together in Ann Arbor. There was a genuine affection that families share. Wagner shared his impressions in a Players’ Tribune piece saying, “I’ll miss the heck out of Coach Beilein, one of the best coaches in the country and also an incredible teacher. What makes Coach Beilein so great? O.K., so the short answer is: an insane focus on preparation.”
It’s rare to see the best coach in a college program’s history leave for the NBA, but that is what John Beilein is doing. In a tweet on Monday morning, he said thanks in a perfect way on Twitter.
Thanks to everyone at the Univ of Michigan for their incredible support these last 12 years. Our fans , alums , leaders, players and students are AMAZING It has been a heck of a ride and I hope you enjoyed our teams and staff as much as I did !Go Blue Forever ! #GoBlue
— John Beilein (@JohnBeilein) May 13, 2019
The Wolverines job has been elevated in the last 12 years to an elite level. A program that competes for Big Ten and national titles, that puts guys in the NBA, that has a great crowd and energized fanbase. And the man who orchestrated that revival is a class act who will always be revered in the state of Michigan and among basketball people.
Go Blue forever, coach.