MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— Some 53 games into his head coaching career, Patrick Beilien has West Virginia Wesleyan College winning games by utilizing his dad’s team-building principles.
“He rubbed off on me,” said Beilein, the son of Michigan coach John Beilein and a 1,000-point scorer while playing for his father at West Virginia. “That’s all I know and that’s how I learned growing up.”
After a 12-15 campaign in his first year, Beilein has Wesleyan off to a 17-9 start this season. Appearing on “Statewide Sportsline,” he likened his development as a first-time head coach to that of a freshman point guard, saying he “can see the game slowing down” his second time around.
“We suffered through some lumps that first year, and as a coach I learned more things of what not to do than to do,” he said. “The first thing is the most important—which is coming from my dad—is culture. Team chemistry, that can take you so far, so I worked on that in the preseason.”
Beilein also brought in his former West Virginia teammate Frank Young as an assistant coach. The two were crucial components to the Mountaineers reaching the Elite Eight in 2005 and the Sweet 16 in 2006.
“(Young) was my first call when I had an assistant job opening this past summer,” Beilein said. “Great offensive mind and really understood the game. I remember him as a freshman (at WVU)—he picked up the offensive just as well as Johannes Herber did, so he’s been great for our forwards and guards. If I have to leave practice and go out recruiting, I can trust that he knows what I want offensively.
“Now defense, that’s a different story—he never guarded anybody,” Beilein joked.
As he aims to build Wesleyan into a program that can rival Division II powerhouse West Liberty, Beilein has banned the in-season use of social media as a means of keeping players focused on basketball and school. Still, he admitted encountering difficulties.
“We forget at times that they’re 18- to 22-year-olds,” he said. “I’ve gone out of more huddles and kids have just spaced out on you. Keeping kids focused, it’s hard, especially now in the dog days of the season in late February.
“But the biggest thing that surprised me as a coach is you have no control over the ball. You can call the plays and they can be wide open—they shoot and miss it and you can deal with that. But it’s when they don’t listen to the little things … that can be frustrating.”