The Cleveland Cavaliers have hired University of Michigan Head Coach John Beilein to be their next head coach. The hire stunned many in the basketball community. Here’s why:
- Beilein has never coached in the NBA. He has spent his entire coaching career at the high school and college level. Additionally, there has not been much success from coaches jumping from college to the NBA without having prior experience.
- Beilein is 66 years old. The game is getting younger and teams are hiring younger and younger coaches to relate to today’s players- especially teams that are in rebuild mode, like the Cavaliers.
- Beilein spent the last 12 years building Michigan into one of the premier programs in college basketball. He had spent 35+ years working his way through all levels to the top of college basketball.
- The Cavaliers are looking at a major rebuild. They finished with the 2nd worst record in the NBA this past season. While they will receive a high draft pick, Cleveland is not considered a free agent destination. The roster is young and lacks talent and depth.
Why would he leave such a premier college program that he has worked so hard for to take over a major rebuild:
- The challenge. Beilein has been a mover in his career. Unlike many of the major college basketball coaches, Beilein has really worked his way from the bottom to the top with many destinations in-between. He started as a high school basketball in the 1970’s. He has been a community college coach. He coached at Division 2. Then 3 stops at Division 1 schools before arriving at Michigan. In each case, he took over a program with no to little success and built it up. He has taken Michigan to the National Championship twice in the past 7 years, finishing runner-up both times. Perhaps he sees it as time to move on and take on a new challenge. What would be next for a guy at the top of college basketball? The NBA. The Cavaliers certainly need a guy who is up to the task of building a new winning culture.
- NCAA/FBI Investigation. It is completely possible that he is sick of not playing on an equal playing field. Beilein is one of the good guys in college basketball that is known for building a program “the right way.” While there has always been cheating in college basketball, the NCAA is finally in a position to do something about it and they seem to either not care or at least really drag their feet. This can wear on coaches that are trying to do it the right way and compete for championships. By going to the NBA, he is able to remove this issue from the equation. I would not be surprised to see more of the “good guys” in college basketball to make the jump in the next few years if something is not done at the collegiate level.
- The early entry problem. With more and more kids leaving school early for the NBA, it has become harder for college coaches to build programs and sustain success due to roster turnover. Beilein has built a foundation of success in his program with “4-year” players (or at least the majority of them). However, he has seen more and more of his lowerclassmen leaving for the draft early. This year, the Wolverines are set to experience a major roster turnover as it is set to lose 4 of their 5 starters.
Whatever the reason Beilein has for leaving Michigan, he has a major challenge ahead of him with the Cavs.