John Beilein is the next great college coach to make the jump from the NCAA to the NBA, following the likes of Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan and, formerly, Rick Pitino.
A big difference with Beilein, however, is the length of time he spent in the collegiate ranks. He started out in the late ’70s coaching a community college team, moved to bigger schools throughout the ’80s and landed his first big coaching stint with the Richmond Spiders in 1997.
From there he went to West Virginia, then finally Michigan – where he was the head coach from 2007 until this last season. He has one NIT Championship under his belt, as well as two Big Ten Tournament championships and two trips to the Final Four.
Beilein has proven throughout his career that he is capable of winning basketball games and leading strong teams, but will that success translate in the NBA?
The jump from college to pros for coaches has always been met with mixed success. While certain guys seemed to work out, like the names mentioned above, others failed to meet their lofty expectations set forth by solid college campaigns. Fred Hoiberg and Tim Floyd – oddly enough two coaches that went from Iowa State to the Chicago Bulls – seem to stick out.
Despite mixed results, Beilein is heading into the season with a young roster that certainly has enough raw potential to be a legitimate Eastern Conference player a few years down the road. Riddled with early lottery picks and fortified in the paint by Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, Cleveland has enough weapons to at least give solid teams fits on a nightly basis.
Love and Thompson will likely be thrown around the trade rumor mill throughout the season, but if the NBA news cycle has given us any indication, it’s that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Basketball Insiders had the chance to catch up with John after his first official NBA game during the Summer League series held in Salt Lake City.
Responding to a question about how Summer League can be a learning curve to new players, he answered it for himself.
“Yeah, it’s a baseline for me, seriously, for me to understand a couple things. Second-quarter I thought there was going to be another jump ball, right? Because they play quarters [in the NBA],” Beilein said.
Beilein saw it fit to use the experience as a great way for him to become acclimated. His answer was indeed jovial, but he brought up a great point. Although basketball is basically the same between college and pros, there are quite a few differences. The court is bigger in the NBA, they play four quarters as opposed to two halves, and the game is played at a much more controlled pace.
“We are all learning from a baseline of going up,” said Beilein when discussing the loss they just incurred. “We are all going to grow mentally from it.”
A new rule for the 2019 NBA Summer League series was to allow coaches challenges, more-or-less similar to how they do it in the NFL. This rule has been in place for the last two season in the G League, but has been put in place as a trial run for the 2019-20 season. Beilein exercised his coaching challenge, and, unfortunately for him and his team, lost.
“It was perfect timing, I only had two more seconds to do it,” Beilein said. “It could have went either way, I think it was 50-50, still, they shouldn’t change it if it’s 50-50, it’s gotta be clear.” An NFL rules analyst couldn’t have said it any better.
In wrapping up, Basketball Insiders asked John about what these young players can do, specifically first-round draft choice Dylan Windler, to find more playing time on the court this upcoming season.
“You’re playing against men right now, that 205-pound body has got to be really strong,” Beilein said. “[Windler has] got to attack more…use that skill level to find open shooters.”
Beilein is right on the money. He’s no longer coaching young kids fresh out of high school. He’s coaching men – some still very young – who are embarking on a journey to be the best basketball player they can be.
Beilein always seemed to instill a strong sense of camaraderie among the many teams he had while at Michigan.
If he can bring that same feeling to the current Cavaliers locker room, there is a strong chance this professional coaching gig just might work out in his favor.
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