This column appears on the Talk Basket website.
John Beilein’s lifetime commitment to coaching excellence pays off
By Ed Odeven
It’s nice to see the Cleveland Cavaliers take a gamble on John Beilein.
By all accounts, he was an unconventional hire.
For starters, he’s 66 years old. Which means he’s the oldest person to become a first-time bench boss (non-interim coach) in NBA history. A guy named Dave MacMillan, then 64, was appointed Tri-Cities Blackhawks coach in 1950 (he succeeded Red Auerbach), and in 1992 the San Antonio Spurs handed the reins to 61-year-old Jerry Tarkanian.
And he’s never coached a game in the NBA, not even as an assistant.
But know this: Beilein has impeccable coaching credentials. All he’s ever done is win.
Since 1975, he’s been a head coach. He’s always called the shots, always been the one held accountable.
He started out at Newfane (New York) High School, running the boys team from 1975-78. He moved on to Erie (New York) Community College (1978-82) and NCAA Division III Nazareth (New York) College for a year before a move to Le Moyne (New York) College, a D-II school, from 1983-92.
In stints at Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan, Beilein’s coaching acumen become visible to a broader audience, especially in Ann Arbor. He guided the Michigan Wolverines from 2007-19 and piloted the university to NCAA Tournament runner-up finishes in 2013 and 2018. He amassed a 754-425 record on the university level since taking over at Nazareth during Ronald Reagan’s first term as U.S. president.
And starting at Erie, he was named conference coach of the year at every one of his college coaching stops except West Virginia.
Winning was the hallmark of Beilein’s 37-season college coaching career. He led Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan to NCAA Tournament appearances. He went 26-13 in NCAA tourney games.