Just over two months ago, John Beilein was considered the savior of Michigan basketball — as if he hadn’t proved to be already.
On April 2, the Wolverines fell to Villanova in the national title game. It was the second time Beilein got his team in position to be crowned the kings of college basketball, only to fall short of holding the throne again.
The fact of the matter, though, is Michigan basketball under Beilein’s guidance proved to be a competitor. After making the championship in the 2012-13 season followed by a trip to the Elite Eight, U-M stumbled. Injury plagued or not, they went .500 (16-16) in 2014-15 and barely made a First Four appearance the next campaign.
Then the Wolverines regained balance. They made the Sweet 16 and were edged out by a point two seasons ago and last season made the finale.
For this offseason, the biggest headline seemed to be Moritz Wagner, who elected to go to the 2018 NBA Draft with an agent hired, forgoing his final season of college eligibility. Then Charles Matthews tested NBA waters, which caught people off guard. He returned to school less than a week ago.
Meanwhile, Beilein was having a normal offseason — or at least what everyone thought was normal — recruiting, vacation time and the normal routine.
When your program becomes as stable as U-M has under Beilein the last 10 seasons, things become very real, very fast.
Now, every Wolverine fan is realizing that, and this one isn’t quite as heartwarming.
A couple of weeks ago, the NBA team just down the road contacted the U-M head coach. It followed with a job interview for the Pistons last Thursday. According to multiple sources, Beilein along with former Raptors coach Dwane Casey are the two frontrunners for the position in Detroit.
Detroit is interested in further conversations with former Toronto coach Dwane Casey and Michigan coach John Beilein on Pistons head coaching job, league sources tell ESPN. Both coaches have met with front office already.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 4, 2018
ESPN then reported Monday night that Beilein, Casey and Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka are the final three canidates for the position.
According to The Athletic, all of the interviews are still set up for next week.
Many people are wondering not only why this came about, but how. Beilein — who has coached college basketball at the Division I level since 1992 — is a 65-year-old with what appears to be plenty of good days ahead of him.
Currently in Ann Arbor, Beilein has three years left with the program worth $3.37 million per year through 2020-21. The common saying since Friday when Adrian Wojnarowski dropped the tweet setting the social media train off the rails has been he’s using the move for “leverage.”
In all actuality, that probably isn’t true. He is the ninth highest-paid coach in the nation and is looking at a bonus of most-likely around $4 million. U-M Athletic Director Warde Manuel has said to the media plenty of times he plans to make changes to Beilein’s deal.
For a first-year NBA coach, the max pay is usually no more than $5 million.
Beilein isn’t in this for the money, folks. What it all comes down to is if Beilein wants dip his hands into the NBA waters for the first time.
Would it be a risk to take Beilein for the Pistons or any other NBA team? Yes, without question. He has never coached professionally and lacking experience in that category alone hurts. He also has been known for developing college kids very well, but in today’s state of the NBA, personalities aren’t always easily coachable. For the Pistons specifically, they have some front court players who are highly-paid and there are plenty of preexisting contracts to overcome. Beilein’s offense usually revolves around one big man and a lot of shooters, with a point guard who can take over at any time. This Pistons don’t exactly lineup with that.
But why not Beilein? He’s made his was from being a high school head coach, to an NAIA head coach, jumping to Division II, followed by a spot as a mid-major Division I head coach to where he currently stands now — a high-major Division I head coach. He’s moved his way up the ladder of coaching, and while he hasn’t won a title with U-M, he brought them back to prominence from a program full of sanctions before he took over. Who’s to say if he feels he could turn around Detroit’s situation, he couldn’t do it.
If he were to land in Detroit, he wouldn’t be forced to move either, just a longer drive to work. Also, with what has recently occured in the NCAA and college basketball, life might be easier in the NBA. He’s coached the likes of Nik Stauskas, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Caris Levert, Glenn Robinson III and others into pro talent. In a league where 3-point shooting has become dominant, Beilein had it as the key to his offense at the college level a majority of the time.
So yes, the panic is understandable. The possibility of decommits from impressive incoming recruits, a sense of stability in the program and losing a very valuable piece of U-M athletics over the past 10 years is hanging in the balance.
Pushing what he has done to the side and criticizing him for choosing to attend these interviews and consider an NBA job, however, is not very understanding or appreciative of a fan base.
He’s already left a legacy in Ann Arbor and may go down as the best coach the university has ever seen. Wolverine fans should be more focused on that.
For as real as the turn around of the program, back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles and multiple NCAA Tournament runs were, so is this.
The Pistons are considering Beilein. Beilein clearly is considering a shot in the NBA.
At this point in his life, the decision is based on how far he wants to go. Not for money or anything else. Reality is knocking at the door, regardless of how this ends, Beilein should be looked at as the same.
He has given so much to U-M, now he’s making his own life choice. It should be respected.