John Beilein was the kind of college basketball coach any fan would love to have run their program. He brought banners to Crisler, all while doing it the right way. His 12-year stretch provided amazing runs and championships, and turned Michigan into a national contender.
I caught up with someone very close to the Michigan program to get his initial reactions about this news — John U. Bacon.
In case you don’t know who Bacon is — which you absolutely should — he has written numerous books on the University of Michigan football program, done speaking events and has even taught classes at U-M. You could say he knows the university and the athletics program quite well.
“On a scale of 1-to-10, a solid 8,” Bacon said of how shocked he was. “I hadn’t heard any rumblings, or saw any other signs indicating a jump to the NBA was still possible, especially after last year’s flirtation with the Detroit Pistons resulted in a bigger contract.”
Beilein didn’t land 5-star players every year, but he did develop numerous NBA guys, and that’s partly why his run was so impressive.
“Since he never had a single McDonald’s All-American on his team, and by all accounts played by the rules, Beilein’s success was rather surprising. But he knew the kind of players who would succeed in his system, he did a great job developing them, and he had a unique offense that was hard to defend,” he said.
Bacon also mentioned what he thought was Beilein’s biggest accomplishment — having his successes while running a clean program.
“He was simply the best basketball coach in Michigan history, going back almost 100 years,” Bacon said. “Two Big Ten regular season titles, two Big Ten tournament titles and two NCAA finals without a whiff of scandal. That speaks for itself.
“(Beilein is) a very rare combination of class and competitiveness.”
Michigan’s search for Beilein’s replacement is underway, and a few names have already been thrown out there.
“Right now it’s wide open. If LaVall Jordan had done better this year at Butler, he’d probably be the favorite, I’d wager,” Bacon said. “But as is, I’d guess (athletic director) Warde Manuel will have to go outside the family to find Michigan’s next coach — who could be in the college ranks or even the NBA.”
Nobody knows how Beilein will do in the NBA, but if his career in college is any indication, he could do very well.
“It’s a different world (in the NBA), of course. But you have to say, he’s succeeded at every stop, from high school, up the college ranks and has never been fired. I wouldn’t want to bet against him, especially if his players are smart enough to listen to him.”
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