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Roundtable Reaction to John Beilein’s Departure

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The night is dark and full of terrors

Nebraska v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Dan Allweiss: So, um, I don’t think anyone expected to wake up to the news that John Beilein is heading to Cleveland to coach the post-LeBron cavs, right? This is about as left field as left field comes.

David Noe: It’s been an unreal ride the last 12 years. I don’t think anyone thought he’d accomplish what he did, especially over the last few years. My initial reaction is mixed, knowing how much he meant to the program. He was all class in everything he did, well respected, and will be deeply missed. The bee line in the Maize Rage will unfortunately have to dissolve.

Dan Allweiss: Yeah, it almost seems surreal. I don’t know of anyone that’s met John that had anything negative to say. He was a, excuse my cliche, tremendous pilar in the Michigan community and someone people rallied around or pointed to as what a #MichiganMan should be. Does anyone want to bother finding a silver lining here?

Dan Plocher: John Beilein was everything that Michigan ever wanted and needed from a head coach. He was the complete package. He had one of the best offensive schemes in the country and was intelligent enough to modify that offense to players’ needs. He was a leader on and off the basketball court. Sure, he faced hardships, but he never took the easy way out like so many other collegiate coaches have. He ran a true and honest blue blood program that is now in place to succeed as he departs. He sincerely loved his players, the Michigan community, and its fans and made that predominantly known as he constantly reiterated it. Beilein was one of the best teachers in the country and distributed nine NBA-quality players in his twelve-year career at Michigan.

But college basketball is changing and seemingly Beilein was unwilling to change with it. Over the last few years, we have seen a huge shift to one-and-done players who are just trying to get through one or two seasons of collegiate basketball and head pro, even if they aren’t quite ready for it. That is not something that is going to change anytime soon in the collegiate and NBA system that is currently in place.

Programs and the coaches are being tainted by a slew of scandals that are striking up all across the country to get (and maybe even pay) some of the top talents to come to their school.

Beilein was fed up, ready for change and more consistency. In the NBA he won’t have to worry about his best players up and leaving without a fighting chance. He is now under a system that actually punishes its organization for breaking the rules. Beilein no longer has to worry about recruiting, and he is going to get his chance to coach and train the same players year after year.

John Beilein almost single-handedly turned around the Michigan program, and he is going to do the same thing in the Cavaliers organization.

Kevin Bunkley: Remember that feeling one gets when there’s years of build-up, and then an event happens, and it feels so anticlimactic that you question one’s own existence? Sorry, I’m talking about basketball, not Game of Thrones. This feels like that, but if it involved something I love more than a basket of kittens.

Don’t let that feeling discount the program this man has built.

In a way, Beilein has outpaced his own success while becoming a relic of the old ways of college basketball — not because he didn’t adapt, but because he ran an impeccably, almost impossibly clean program. One that produced conference championships, tournament victories, final four appearances, and NBA draft picks in numbers not seen out of Ann Arbor ever before.

It has the stench of, “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” but we don’t know the whole situation. Maybe it was his dream all along to get to this level, maybe it became too hard on his kind heart to have to fight tooth and nail to get these kids he recruited so hard to just stay in school. No one assumed he’d coach forever, but I’m not alone in feeling gut-punched. He’s a grandfather now, he had his health scare last year. His son was just hired at Niagra. People’s priorities change. To have it happen this way...well, I can’t fully explain it at this time.

There is no Maize Rage, no sellouts, no draft day elation, and no banners, without John Beilein. I desperately wanted him to keep going to get that elusive biggest banner, but I get it. The next phase of Michigan basketball is that final hurdle to becoming the program he spent twelve years of his life pursuing, and if they get there, it’s because of him, not in spite of him.

But...Ohio? Really?

Luke Ghiardi: I don’t really think there is a silver lining. Not going to lie, this hurts. I understand why Beilein did it, he’s been hampered by his own success. He never expected guys like Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke to leave after 2 years. What followed was a very bad year, I don’t think he ever wanted that again. And then, it happened again, with Poole and Iggy both leaving. If there was ever a time to make the jump the time is now. But if there *is* one potential silver lining, it is that he has left Michigan as a desirable coaching spot. Michigan has the money, and now the national recruiting footprint and prominence to hire a big-name, top tier coach. But until that happens, this is going to sting.

Andrew Vailliencourt: Yeah, there’s not really any silver lining here. It stinks for Michigan. I’m not sure that anyone will ever be able to replicate the success he had here. He’s the Bo Schembechler of college basketball. Now that Michigan is considered a top job, Warde Manuel needs to hit a home run. You must make the top coaches in the country say no to you. That means calling Jay Wright, Tony Bennett, Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan and Chris Beard. Now, is Michigan going to land any of them? No. But you have to at least make the phone call. The timing of this is very poor for the Wolverines. It wouldn’t stun me if they opt to go with an interim coach for a year and make a hire later on. However, that could just make things more complicated later. There are plenty of No. 2 choices that would be fine should Michigan not be able to land the big fish. I will say this, I don’t need the next coach to be someone with Michigan ties. Nothing about Juwan Howard or Lavall Jordan particularly excites me (in fact, I think I’d be disappointed). U-M has the cash and the cachet to get a top coach.

Dan Allweiss: I agree with pretty much everything you all have said. Except… *whispers* I have enjoyed this season of Thrones… Anyway, I know that there’s likely going to be more coming from us as far as speculation and the current state of college basketball, so let’s sit on that. However, I can’t help but think that y’all are most likely correct there. It makes a lot of sense, especially with someone like Poole.

I’ve argued on reddit and other places before that one of the worst things happening to college athletics is the analytics of pro/stay decision making. I know I’m telling the kids to get off my lawn, but it’s how I feel. Jordan made the decision that a second round slot or late first and then gambling on himself at the next level is worth more $$$ than giving UM another go and leaving as a junior. I feel we’ve stretched out past the point of having faith in your coaches and system and now everything is a business decision aimed at getting a step closer to that next check. I’m sure that’s part of why Jon is leaving, but we may never know.

This is a tough day for Michigan fans, but there could be some really good names on the market. I don’t think Billy Donovan ever wants to recruit again, but I’d write a blank check to Jay Wright at Villanova. Beyond that, I’m at someone of a loss to where to go. Could you pry Bruce Pearl out of Auburn? Personally I’d love that, though the relics of the Bo era in Michigan’s fanbase would likely lose their minds. Whatever happens next, I think we can all agree it’s going to be a very very important next few months for the program.