In recounting the career fork he faced in April 2007, John Beilein said the challenge of revamping Michigan’s storied program was more enticing than maintaining the success he established at West Virginia.
“I love rebuilding programs and hoped I could do one more, and the University of Michigan ended up being that choice,” Beilein said. “There was an opportunity to go to the University of Michigan, but I also cherished what I had at West Virginia, and sometimes you can’t have both. So you have to make those decisions.”
Now, two months shy of his 60th birthday, Beilein is in Year 6 at Michigan after staying only five years at each of his previous Division I stops (Canisius, Richmond and WVU). While Michigan has posted only two NCAA tournament wins during Beilein’s tenure, this year’s Wolverines are 10-0, enjoying the school’s best start in 23 years, with a roster from which seven of the top 10 minute producers are freshmen or sophomores.
SATURDAY: West Virginia (4-4) vs. No. 3 Michigan (10-0)
TIME: 8 p.m. Eastern TELEVISION: ESPN
RADIO: MetroNews coverage begins at 7 p.m. Eastern
Signed through 2016 and scheduled to earn $1.8 million this season, Beilein insinuated this week plans to close his career in Ann Arbor instead of leaving for yet another remodeling project.
“There is no other one,” Beilein said. “It’s been a great journey so far to be a bit of a nomadic coach — and Coach Huggins has climbed the ladder like many coaches have to do. But there is a time when you say, ‘OK I really want to stay with this one and make the most of it.’”
Still, Beilein fondly recalls the 104-60 record his WVU teams produced and experiences flashbacks to Morgantown, including mixing up players’ names. Last season Beilein said he constantly referred to Michigan guard Zack Novac as Johannes Herber or Alex Ruoff. “And you don’t know how many times I tell Trey Burke what a tough son of a gun J.D. Collins was or how Darris Nichols used to play,” he said.
SON & ALUM
Patrick Beilein faces a competing-interests dilemma on Saturday night: Root for his WVU alma mater or pull for his father’s No. 3-ranked Michigan team?
“I’m just glad they’re playing during the regular season,” Patrick said. “I always thought they would have to meet in the NCAA tournament.”
Patrick, a valuable sixth man while playing for his father John Beilein for four seasons at West Virginia, is in his first year as the head coach at Division II West Virginia Wesleyan. Because the Bobcats are in a tournament this weekend, Patrick might be coaching his own team while the WVU-Michigan matchup unfolds at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“After my game, I’ll have my phone close at hand,” he said.
Now that Patrick’s a coach himself, he typically places three calls each week to his dad seeking input on topics ranging from program management to X’s and O’s. And dad always takes time to counsel, even if it means stepping out of a meeting or delaying his trip home after the Wolverines’ evening practice.
“He’s got bigger issues, because obviously he’s running a major-college program,” Patrick said, “but he’s always available.”
Much of the buildup to the Brooklyn Hoops Festival has centered on the diverse coaching reputations of John Beilein (chin sets, 1-3-1 zone, finesse players) and Bob Huggins (man defense, rebounding, physical play). And, of course, there’s the noted difference in sideline temperaments.
“Coach Huggins is more of a you’re-going-to-do-it-my-way coach or you’re coming out of the game,” Patrick said. “But his style works obviously, with all those career wins and Final Fours.
“My dad is more a teacher of the game. He’ll pull you aside versus pulling you out of the game.”
Based on genetics and the environment in which he grew up, Patrick said he more closely mimics his dad’s personality.
“We have a different way of coaching without necessary raising our voices,” he said. “Maybe after the third time the kid doesn’t listen or doesn’t do what’s he told, then you have to jump him. But it’s rare for me. When I yell, the kid knows it.”