The Wolverine

February 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2018 T hey say you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Folks around Crisler Center are going to real- ize that fact someday, when John Beilein hangs up the whistle. He has another Michigan team steaming toward March Mad- ness, and it would be the eighth bid in his 11 years in Ann Arbor and seventh in the last eight. Mind you, the Wolver- ines didn't set foot on an NCAA Tournament court in the decade prior to his showing up. They'd endured days of great shame, on and off the basket- ball floor. Now, they're battling for higher seeds and planting a legacy of integrity that would make Bo Schem- bechler grin. No, Beilein hasn't won a national championship with the Wolverines. He came within 20 minutes of doing just that, against a program featuring purchased players and recruits of- fered a fast break by hookers. He's taken Michigan to that cham- pionship game, the Elite Eight, the Sweet 16, without the faintest hint of scandal. He's won a pair of Big Ten regular-season titles and made the incredible four-day run to the Big Ten Tournament championship last season. He's 8-7 against Michigan State af- ter establishing his program, includ- ing a road win against a team that began this year ranked No. 1. College basketball cringed when headlines exploded in the fall, re- garding a federal probe into mass corruption, bribery and wire fraud. Beilein self-reports if he accidentally goes a minute beyond his allotted time with a recruit's family. And he's winning. His assistant coaches talked about it before the season began. Defensive specialist Luke Yaklich marveled over the unmistakable tone Beilein sets inside Crisler Center. "Within three days, just being in the office, without ever being on the floor, you understand exactly what our program is all about — the integ- rity behind it," Yaklich said. "The ex- ample that Coach Beilein sets at the top is transferred all the way down to the players, managers and every- body in this program. "That's lived out every single day. A lot of the decisions and things we talk about in the office involve, 'Can we do that?' We're always on the up- and-up with that. "It's so comforting. Just coming here every day to work, being on the road and recruiting, knowing exactly what he expects — he expects the absolute best, which is the way it should be and the way everyone should be running a program." Yaklich, like most assistants, would love to someday get the chance to run his own program. Seeing his present boss work inspires him. "If I'm ever lucky enough to be a head coach one day, it's given me confidence, because it's who I am," Yaklich added. "I know you can do that for a long period of time and be successful, doing it the right way and with integrity as the guiding piece of your entire program." Big men coach Saddi Washington said it's no surprise his peers voted Beilein the cleanest coach in America. "Coach Beilein is built off of integ- rity," Washington said. "He's going to do the right thing, be- cause it's the right thing to do. People just know that and understand that. He's created an awesome culture, where we don't have to get in- volved with some of the shadiness that some of the profession is cloud- ing us with right now. "It's who he naturally is. It really should be an easy thing, because people should do the right thing. For him, it's not a hard choice. He's just a straight-up, genu- ine dude." After a couple of years of his program weath- ering devastating injuries, Beilein straight up had the Wolverines a play away from the Elite Eight last season. They hit the Big Ten's mid- way point this year 6-3 in the confer- ence, good for fourth place following a withering stretch of eight games in 23 days. "When you win a game like we did at Michigan State, such a big game for both teams, a letdown is inevitable," Beilein said. "We fought through the letdown in every situa- tion except Nebraska [the lone loss in the three games after MSU]. "If you have high-character kids who get it … you can still win." The Wolverines have won, and should continue to do so. They've got the three-point bombers, as al- ways, but at the midway point of the season they also featured the No. 3 scoring defense in the Big Ten (62.5 points allowed per game), less than half a point off the league lead. Beilein sports a top-10 recruiting class coming in next year, full of players seeking a scholarship and a block M that stands for Michigan, not Mercedes. Hail the wins, for sure. Hail even more heartily the path to piling them up. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Dancing Again — The Right Way John Beilein (right), along with assistants Luke Yaklich (center) and Saddi Washington, is looking to lead U-M to its eighth NCAA Tournament in 11 years. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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