It’s a moment decades in the making, and Patrick Beilein has set aside some time to make sure he appreciates all it will signify.
Friday night, Beilein will greet familiar stadium ushers, step onto a familiar court and shake a familiar man’s hand. He’ll hear some familiar cheers and see some familiar faces, and then he’ll coach basketball, a familiar game.
But it’ll all seem more than a little different -- and more than a little emotional -- because Patrick was once Le Moyne’s water boy, and now he’s their first-year head coach. He’s also leading the same program his father, John, once commanded for nine seasons.
Oh, and Friday? Patrick will be coaching his Dolphins against his father’s Michigan Wolverines at the Crisler Center, where the younger Beilein once worked as a graduate manager.
"The opportunity to coach against my dad is something that I’ll try to take a step back and appreciate during the handshake at the beginning of the game," Patrick said. "Not many father-son combinations have that opportunity.
"You never know if you’re going to have another opportunity to coach against your dad. I’m going to take a step back and enjoy it, maybe half a second. But then we’re going to get pretty competitive and go at each other."
It’s just an exhibition, Le Moyne’s second of the year -- they lost to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Monday -- but it’s a game that has been circled on Patrick’s calendar since the day he was welcomed as the program’s eighth head coach.
That June morning, after Patrick’s introductory press conference, John approached his son and asked whether Le Moyne would be interested in a preseason game in Ann Arbor. The answer, Patrick said, was a no-brainer.
Playing at the Crisler Center will be a reward for Qwadere Lovell and Connor Mahoney, the Dolphins’ two senior leaders. It’ll provide experience against an elite backcourt and game film of Michigan’s efficient two-guard offense, the same system Patrick is implementing with his own team. And the high-profile preseason matchup could even help Le Moyne catch the eyes of potential recruits.
"It will be a great learning tool for our guys, and something that can really, really help us," Patrick said.
Not that Patrick needs much help drawing attention, especially from Le Moyne’s fans -- his last name alone seems to do the trick. Earlier this fall, for instance, a fan approached him and asked if he knew John had won 20 games during his first season with the Dolphins.
"I don’t know if they’re expecting me to win 20 because I’m a Beilein," Patrick laughed. "I guess that’s the hint I got."
But off the court, Patrick and John try to avoid the comparisons and expectations. They are, after all, father and son. Rarely do they discuss basketball, choosing instead to talk about their love for the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Cardinals. In the summer, when the family vacations to a cottage up north, they eschew pick-and-rolls for Florida Georgia Line, leaving the whiteboards behind as they crank up their favorite country music.
"I know it’s hard to believe, but he’s been a better father than he is a coach," Patrick said.
It comes as little surprise, then, that John would make an exception to his policy and invite an out-of-state team for an exhibition in Ann Arbor. It’s a gesture of respect to his son, but also one of appreciation toward the program that gave John a chance to coach at the Division II level.
So he’ll treat the entire Le Moyne program as family. Thursday evening, after the Dolphins practice in the Player Development Center, they will receive a catered meal courtesy of John, his wife Kathleen, and Michigan basketball. It’s an additional "thank you" to Patrick for making the trip, and to the Le Moyne basketball program for allowing both to contribute to the school’s basketball tradition.
And come Friday, game day, Patrick and John -- father and son -- will meet at midcourt in the Crisler Center. Then they’ll shake hands, head coach and head coach.
It might take until then for everything to sink in.
"I remember being a little kid with my dad at practices and games," Patrick said. "Then it kind of hits me.
"It’s special to follow in his footsteps."