A recent Mgoblog post contained some thoughts on how the majority of NCAA coaches generally think that Michigan head coach John Beilein is among the best in the business. It turns out that a friend of mine is currently a coach at the NCAA level and I intrepidly asked him what he thought of Beilein. A few notes before we move on:
a) The correspondance was via email, as he is nearly impossible to reach on the phone
b) The actual emails were all sent from his Blackberry because he was on the road at the time. So unfortunately most of my questions were answered in short bursts lacking real in-depth stuff. Now, in terms of texting ability, the Zooker he ain't, so I've taken most of the stuff that would have required a [sic] and I un-sic'd it as best I could. It still reads kinda text-message-y though.
c) I've withheld my friend's name, obvi. You'll have to take it on faith that the guy is a college coach.
B2: Hey, what do you think of John Beilein as a coach?
Coach: I think that he is soft...haha. If he gets the right kids in there his system will work..and actually will change the way the big ten will play...overall I think he is a pretty good coach.
So clearly at this point I have no idea what he means by soft, but it is interesting to note that he thinks that Beilein's system will actually change the way the Big Ten plays basketball. I focus on the latter part of the quote. (BTW, the coach is not a Big Ten coach, obviously) I press on:
B2: How will Beilien change the way the B10 plays ball? Is it his 1-3-1 that he runs that teams will eventually have to deal with? Or is it the offensive scheme that he runs?
Coach: Teams will have to start adjusting due to the type of players he recruits. Coach B wants to shoot 3s and lots of them. Traditionally the b10 is a grunt, slow, down low type of game. B came from the big east where they had faster players, more athletes, and a lot more 3 point attempts. Teams in b10 are not used to that. When he gets the players he wants and they start making outside shots teams will have to eventually guard them which means the floor will be more spread out and easier to get the backdoors. It will be hard for the traditional 5-man [meaning the traditional "center" position - ed] of the big ten to guard this cause they are usually slow not athletic but very strong. You do get some teams like michigan state who are not like the norm and very athletic. Teams will want to play zone against him but won't be able to due to the shooting capabilities. Teams are going to have a lot of trouble with michigan this year and in coming years. Just look at the games from this year thus far.
So clearly coach here thinks that it's actually Beilein's (referred to as "b" above) offensive scheme that is going to cause the most choas in the Big Ten - not the heralded 1-3-1. Those traditional centers are going to be forced to guard the perimeter against Michigan, which is problematic for a conference that likes to play power-ball more than speed-ball. Once an opposing team is forced to guard the perimeter, the backdoor opens right up, and Beilein switches gears. Instead of shooting over you, his players start zipping passes to backdoor cutters. Obviously a way to stop this is the zone, but that only works when Michigan can't shoot over it. Once UM forces you to man-up, it takes a very, very athletic team to cover them; something the Big Ten doesn't necessarily have...yet.
Finally, I follow up with the "soft" question:
B2: When you said "soft" what did you mean? Soft on the players? Doesn't teach them to be physical? Would rather win with finesse than...i dunno...try to rebound?
Coach: Haha when I said soft I meant that he doesn't get after his players. But there is line to be drawn on this. I feel like if he was a bit harder on his players then they would be a little better on the defensive end and boards. The team's demeaner isn't the ones like Southern Illinois, Maryland, or now Indiana. Just to name a few. Don't get me wrong he's a good coach and he will win games that was just a personal thing. A coach doesn't need to cuss and scream and yell to get their players to play hard but a coach must have a presence of strictness and meanness.
Ok, so he kinda loses me there at the end, but I get the gist of what he's saying. Bobby Knight Coach Beilein ain't. And, at least in this coach's view, his personality can be seen on the court: Michigan isn't a physical team; they don't rebound well. I think Michigan's intensity on the defensive end has been fine so far, but the coach here is right, they don't take it personally. Now obviously this is a personal thing with this particular coach, but it's interesting to see where a fellow coach could find a flaw. I'm ok with it.
This coach singled out 4 teams to talk about while answering my questions: Michigan State, he said (in so many words) is the most athletic team in the Big Ten. Southern Illinois, Maryland, and "now Indiana" he said are some good examples of coaches who preach physicality, and aren't afraid to "get on" their players. It's going to be awhile before Indiana gets to any kind of level talent-wise for you to see that, but there it is. We've seen it with Maryland for sure - their point guard out rebounded our entire team*. In all, however, you see the praise. Your money quote: "Teams are going to have a lot of trouble with michigan this year and in coming years. Just look at the games from this year thus far." Praise from writers and sports news talking heads is one thing; praise from your peers is quite another. John Beilein has both, and appears to be on his way to rebuilding something pretty cool here in Ann Arbor.
*Untrue, but jeez did it feel like it.