Posted on May 13, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Both college basketball and the NBA received a major shakeup in the coaching ranks Monday. Long-time Michigan head coach John Beilein has announced that he’s leaving the school to take the head coaching vacancy with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Beilein has been curious about NBA jobs in the past and is apparently ready to take the leap. After 12 seasons at Michigan, Beilein will try his hand at making the post-LeBron Cavaliers contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Beilein reportedly reached a deal with the Cavaliers on Sunday night. He soon informed officials at Michigan that he was leaving. Monday morning, Beilein confirmed via Twitter that he was leaving, although did not mention the Cavaliers specifically. However, Cavs GM Koby Altman made a formal announcement.
“We conducted a deep and thorough search to find the best possible candidate for the next head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. We interviewed several strong and talented candidates who, no doubt, will get an opportunity to become an NBA head coach somewhere down the line,” said Altman. “Following the end of those interviews, it became clear to us that Coach Beilein was the right choice and best fit for our franchise. “
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For Beilein, the move comes less than a year after signing an extension to stay at Michigan through the 2022-23 season. That extension came after Beilein became a serious candidate for the Detroit Pistons job. However, Beilein ultimately withdrew his name from consideration. But a year later, Beilein heard the NBA calling and couldn’t turn it down.
Beilein has spent the past four decades as a college coach. He got his start in 1978 at Erie Community College in western New York state. His coaching journey included stops at Division III Nazareth, Division II LeMoyne, Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia, and finally Michigan. He’s always left programs in better shape when he left compared to when he arrived. During his last seven seasons at Michigan, Beilein has taken the Wolverines to the Sweet 16 five times and was the national runner-up twice.
Of course, jumping to the NBA means a new challenge for Beilein, especially in Cleveland. In their first season in the second post-LeBron James era, the Cavs were 19-63. Only the New York Knicks won fewer games this past season. Needless to say, Beilein has a big rebuilding job ahead of him.
However, both Beilein and Cleveland appear optimistic. Collin Sexton could be a blossoming star after an impressive rookie season. Cleveland also has a good chance to win the top overall pick in the draft at Tuesday’s draft lottery. The Cavaliers will almost certainly have a top-5 pick, giving them another centerpiece to build around alongside Sexton.
“I love the position the team is in to build and grow and this was something I felt was the perfect fit for me,” said Beilein. “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.”
Obviously, both sides are taking a risk with this decision. Beilein is leaving a comfortable situation and established college program for one of the worst teams in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are trusting their franchise to a coach who has an impressive resume but has never coached pro players.
Of course, only time will tell if it was the right move for both parties. But Beilein is betting on himself and 40 years of coaching experience. For Cleveland, a coach with Beilein’s credentials, albeit outside the NBA, seems like a good bet.