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From Big Blue to Wine & Gold, John Beilein Brings Winning Resume to Cleveland
We’ll get to the finer points of John Beilein’s resume in a bit. But there’s one inarguable fact that summarizes his body of work – and Cavs GM Koby Altman stated it plainly as Cleveland announced its new head coach: The man wins everywhere he goes.
The Wine & Gold are in a unique phase as a franchise. They’re entering their 50th season of existence with a gym that’s undergone state-of-the-art renovations and a name-change. In just over 24 hours, the team will discover where they’ll be picking a top-tier player in June’s NBA Draft – joining a group of young talent that includes an established frontline and one of the league’s most dynamic rookies from a season ago.
All the Cavaliers were missing was a head coach to shepherd the squad into the future.
That void was filled on Monday with the announcement of John Beilein as the 22nd Head Coach in team history.
The move might have surprised some who didn’t expect the Cavaliers to look to the college ranks. But the 66-year-old Beilein, who’s taken four different schools to the NCAA Tournament, is ready to make the leap. "I love the position the team is in to build and grow," said the Burt, New York native. "And this was something I felt was the perfect fit for me.
"Cleveland is a great city with amazing fans and I am really looking forward to calling Cleveland home for years to come."
The numbers don’t say everything about the man, but they say a lot.
Beilein has won 64 percent of his career contests at the college level – piling up 829 victories to rank in the top 10 among Division I head coaches. He’s posted 23 seasons of at least 20 wins and a winning record in 35 collegiate campaigns.
"John is one of the most accomplished and innovative basketball minds and leaders in the entire game," praised Altman. "He has a unique ability to create an outstanding culture that will promote the development of young players and provide a solid structure to the entire program; not to mention the fact that John Beilein wins everywhere he goes."
The father of four (and grandfather of four) got his start with Nazareth College, spent nine seasons with Division II Le Moyne and five more at Canisius – taking the Golden Griffins to the NCAA Tournament in 1996. Beilein reached 100 wins faster than any coach in school history in his tenure at Richmond from 1997-2002.
He won another 100-plus games in his five seasons with West Virginia – earning four postseason nods, including back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in 2005 and ’06 and taking the NIT Championship in his final season in Morgantown.
Beilein coached Cavaliers Assistant General Manager Mike Gansey in West Virginia. He also has a connection to the current Cavaliers roster in Nik Stauskas, whom he coached in the Wolverines’ wild run to the title game in 2013.
Last season, when asked what sets Beilein apart from other NCAA coaches, he replied: “Just his attention to detail. He just watches so much film. I remember being there and re-watching all of our practices – like after we finished practice, we'd go in the film room and break down the whole practice.
"So, it was time consuming at the time and sometimes it was a little bit boring, but through doing that, you get such a deeper understanding of his offense and what he's trying to do, when to make the right reads. And I think, over time, you just buy into that constant studying and that constant learning and just being willing to grow."
Stauskas was there for two of Beilein’s nine Tournament appearances with Michigan, which reached the Big Dance in 2009, '11, '12, '13, '14, '16, '17, '18 and ’19 – including the Final Four and the National Championship Game in both 2013 and 2018. He leaves as the winningest coach in school history.
Beilein’s been winning for decades at the college level, but he’s also had his teams surging recently. Purdue, Gonzaga and Kentucky and Michigan are the only four schools to have reached the Sweet 16 in each of the past three years.
"(Beilein) defines the words class, integrity and character. He is a tireless worker who obsesses about finding better ways and the inches that will help his team and the organization grow."
Cavaliers Chairman Dan Gilbert
The Wine & Gold won just 19 games last year in the first season following four straight trips to the Finals. The organization made a coaching change six games into the season and was beset by injuries all year long. Larry Drew did an admirable job guiding the club through some choppy waters.
But a new era of Cavaliers basketball is about to unfold. And Cleveland will turn to a man who’s done it all at the collegiate level and is ready to helm a professional squad.
"(Beilein) defines the words class, integrity and character," concluded Cavaliers Chairman Dan Gilbert. "He is a tireless worker who obsesses about finding better ways and the inches that will help his team and the organization grow. John is a brilliant basketball mind and last but not least, John Beilein is a winner.
"I can’t wait for next season to begin."