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Michigan Fans Used to Want John Beilein Fired and Now They Don’t.

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Many thought the program was in a rut and got the pitchforks ready. Then Michigan made it to the Final Four.

Florida State v Michigan Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Not the right man to lead the program, some said.

Can’t develop talent, others said.

Isn’t able to reign in the big recruits either, another contingent screamed.

John Beilein must be doing something right if half the Michigan fanbase is perpetually unhappy with him. When he takes his Michigan team to a second straight Big Ten Tournament championship, and on Saturday, a second career Final Four, the voices of dissent fade away.

That inevitably leads to comparisons across different sports as a measuring stick for program success.

Like when national sportswriters get the impulse to arbitrarily compare John Beilein’s body of work to Jim Harbaugh’s for no apparent reason other than to get the young people to pay attention to your writing.

But that, like that argument, is neither here nor there.

As recently as the beginning of the season in Maui, and more vocally partway through last season, it was imperative Michigan part ways with Beilein for the sake of the program.

But sure, he can’t coach!

I get it. Beilein has taken the long road to sustained success, and it feels like there should be more to show for it at this juncture. Michigan fans have been starved for consistent basketball program success ever since the banners were taken down. But John Beilein has added a lot of banners in their place, don’t forget. A regular season Big Ten championship, a couple final fours, two conference tournament championships. Tons of (recent) wins against rivals, wins against power five teams both in and out of conference on the road, seven players drafted into the NBA, and no whiff of scandal anywhere in sight. In a bizarro world of always-higher expectations, that’s somehow still not good enough.

And a *finger kiss* roughly a month before the last time Michigan charged to the Final Four:

When Beilein was hired, he was billed as a guy who: recruits well, wins games, has an exciting system of basketball, and develops players to get the most out of their talent, rankings be damned.

Can any of that be refuted or countered? Yes, Michigan was in a bit of a rut coming out of last year when they lost three top scorers to the NBA and some guys transferred. Those are correctable problems for a program that has a reputation for getting guys either graduated or drafted or both. Michigan basketball is good again, and has been good ever since Beilein arrived.

Amazing to wonder what the measure of success is for whatever program the torch and pitchfork crowd thinks has not yet been established in Ann Arbor. I was just happy when Michigan made the tournament again for the first time in ten years, but I guess I wasn’t setting my sights high enough. Aside from winning the big one, I’d sure like to know what else Beilein has not accomplished at Michigan that he set out to do.

In fairness, most of the owners of those above tweets and message board posts did wipe the egg off their faces and humbly congratulate the basketball program they love so dearly. We’re all fans, we want Michigan to win. Not too long ago a lot of us treated basketball season as merely a dead period between football bowl season and the spring game.

John Beilein changed that.

On Saturday evening when Michigan tips off against Loyola-Chicago in San Antonio, the torches and pitchforks won’t be anywhere in sight.

Neither will Tom Izzo, who will be on his couch at home, not in the final four.

Hang as many banners as will fit in those Crisler rafters.