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’75 Alumnus John Beilein leaving Michigan to coach Cleveland Cavaliers

Monday, May 13, 2019 1:30 PM
WU News


John Beilein is leaving Michigan after 12 seasons to become the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ coach.

Sources told ESPN that he will receive a five-year deal.

Beilein reached a deal with the Cavaliers on Sunday and informed Michigan’s administration of his decision to leave for the NBA on Monday morning, sources said.

“John is one of the most accomplished and innovative basketball minds and leaders in the entire game,” Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman said in a statement. “He has a unique ability to create an outstanding culture that will promote the development of young players and provide a solid structure to the entire program; not to mention the fact that John Beilein wins everywhere he goes. We are excited Coach Beilein is joining our organization as we continue to build the foundation that any enterprise needs to be successful and competitive year in and year out.”

The Cavaliers have been using the term “culture driver” internally when discussing the possibility of hiring Beilein, sources said. He’s considered one of the elite offensive tacticians and teachers in basketball, a coach who has never been an assistant and climbed almost every level of basketball — coaching high school, junior college and Division III, II and I. The final step in an odyssey that has brought him an 829-468 college record has been the NBA, and now Beilein makes the leap.

He led Michigan to two Final Fours and four Big Ten tournament and regular-season titles during his 12-year run in Ann Arbor.

Beilein, 66, has entertained thoughts about the NBA for several years and had detailed discussions with two franchises — the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons — last year before deciding to return to Michigan.

Beilein and his wife didn’t want to move far from Michigan, and the Pistons’ borderline playoff roster with little financial flexibility to make changes made staying in-state less appealing. Cleveland’s rebuild status, with point guard Collin Sexton and a 14 percent chance — along with New York and Phoenix — to earn the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, appealed to Beilein.

He is expected to join the Cavs’ front office and ownership in Chicago for the draft lottery and combine this week.

“I love the position the team is in to build and grow and this was something I felt was the perfect fit for me,” Beilein said in the Cavaliers’ statement. “With hard work and dedication by all of us, we will grow this team day by day and reinforce a culture of success that sustains itself with strong core values. Cleveland is a great city with amazing fans and I am really looking forward to calling Cleveland home for years to come.”

Beilein replaces Larry Drew, who finished last season after Tyronn Lue was fired six games into the campaign. Lue won a title with the team in 2016, but LeBron James left in free agency before last season, prompting an accelerated rebuild. Cleveland finished 19-63 in 2018-19.

Altman had long been intrigued by Beilein, and his assistant GM, Mike Gansey, has a close relationship and history with Beilein. Gansey played under Beilein at West Virginia, advancing to the Elite Eight in 2005. Owner Dan Gilbert lives and works in Detroit and, despite his Michigan State loyalties, has long admired Beilein’s work. Beilein has been assured — even encouraged — that the franchise wants him to install his value system with the Cavaliers.

Talks between Beilein and the Cavaliers had been running concurrently with the franchise’s search, which culminated with final interviews with their other candidates on Saturday in Denver, sources said.

The Cavaliers plan to surround Beilein with an experienced staff of NBA assistants, sources said.

Beilein has run model programs in college, free of scandal and impropriety. In recent years, he has become increasingly frustrated with the nature of college basketball recruiting and the retention of top players. The impending loss of Michigan freshman Ignas Brazdeikis, senior Charles Matthews and sophomore Jordan Poole to the NBA draft dented what might have been a national championship contender.

Beilein’s son, Patrick, was recently hired as the coach at Niagara University, which is about a 3½-hour drive from Cleveland.