The Wolverine

August 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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82 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2018 I t was probably more seri- ous than we thought it was … much more serious. We're talking about Michi- gan head coach John Beilein's flirtation with the NBA's Detroit Pistons, which ended June 26 after two — maybe three — interviews and a whole lot of tooth gnashing and nail biting by a fan base that included many who had just started to appreciate what they had in the 65-year-old head coach. Several of those same fans were among the hoards that made it out to support the Wolverines in New York, Los Angeles and San Antonio for the postseason, and make no mistake — they traveled as well as any fan base in the country. Many of them were squawk- ing when Beilein's injury- riddled 2014-15 and 2015-16 teams struggled, and the 2016-17 squad was inconsistent before turn- ing it around for a fantastic postsea- son run. Beilein might not admit it, but he heard it. And as one former Wolverine close to the program at the time put it, "He should have told them to kiss his [butt]." This is the guy, after all, who put Michigan back on the map with an incredible three-year run, including two Big Ten titles and a berth in the NCAA championship game in 2013. Still, it took the perfect opportu- nity for Beilein to consider leaving Michigan. Much of his family (kids and grandkids) lives near him now, and leaving for an out-of-state job would have been tough. The Pis- tons, though, afforded him an op- portunity to stay put and potentially spend more time with his family. "I love coaching basketball a lot, and I'm watching the NBA playoffs and seeing what guys are doing and noticing, 'They're running stuff that we run,'" Beilein said. "I don't know if they watched us or I watched them. "[Boston Celtics coach] Brad Ste- vens kept telling me, 'I'm having a blast.' When you hear those words and your season's over, that was appealing." So, too, were thoughts of more laid-back summers. Beilein has never complained about recruiting, and in fact insists he really likes it, but more time at his lake house with the grandkids, etc. … that's appeal- ing, too. And though he's a guy with very little ego (he quipped he liked life better several years ago when peo- ple would call him "Jim" or "Coach Boeheim," mistaking him for the Syracuse head coach), he is a driven by success. Former NBA and West Virginia great Jerry West said before Beilein left West Virginia University for Michigan that he could be outstand- ing in the NBA. Stevens was among those who said it more recently. "He's done an incredible job. No doubt, he's one of the best coaches at any level in the world," Stevens said on the Dan Dakich Show on 1070 AM in Indianapolis. "Like any- body else, if he makes the move to the NBA, it's not about how good a coach he is; it's about how sup- ported he is." "Coach Beilein is an of- fensive genius, in my mind," Pistons senior adviser Ed Ste- fanski, added in speaking to The Detroit News. "I was mes- merized by how good he is on the offensive end. Obviously, he's been a fantastic coach at Michigan. "When looking for a coach a couple years ago, he was a guy we kept saying we prob- ably should interview, but we couldn't get him to think about Memphis." Beilein didn't bite when asked if the Pistons' interest was the first he'd received from an NBA team. It obvi- ously wasn't. There were rum- blings the Orlando Magic were even interested this year, but the situation had to be right on for Beilein even to consider it. Detroit's was, and he said it would have been "interesting" had the job been offered. Those who think there was "no chance" … "They don't know me very well," he said with a grin. "… The hope is, it'll assist us in a lot of ways — re- cruiting will be better, the credibility when kids come to our program will be better, the coaching staff will con- tinue to grow." Chances are they will. Michigan is now flirting with becoming one of college basketball's elite, one of the reasons we strongly believe Beilein probably would have said "no" to the Pistons even if offered. "While there are alluring things about just coaching basketball [in the pros], I like being around young kids that are developing. That's the primary reason I believe this is a great fit for me at Michigan," he said. About that there is no doubt. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Right Where He Belongs John Beilein interviewed with the NBA's Detroit Pistons, but ultimately opted to remain at U-M because he believes it is the best fit for him. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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