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John Beilein isn’t concerned with the Cavaliers of last season. He’s not focused on the 19-63 record or the fact the Cavs failed to land a top-three pick in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery.
“We’re in position to be in position,” Beilein told reporters in Chicago. “In other words, we’ve got good young talent, got a great front office and now you just combine everything with what I sense is really good teammates on this team and now we all go together.
“And I’m gonna lean on a lot of people for experience and we’re gonna make it happen.”
Beilein, 66, agreed to a multi-year deal with the Cavs after 12 seasons at the University of Michigan and three decades coaching college basketball overall. He has never before coached in the NBA in any fashion. His deal with the Cavs is believed to be for five years.
Highlights at Michigan included two trips to the NCAA national championship game (2013 and 2018). He also took West Virginia to the Elite Eight in 2005.
With the Cavs, still needs to hire a staff, and knuckle down with general manager Koby Altman and the rest of the basketball side to decide what to do with the No. 5 overall pick. (The Cavs have the 26th overall selection.)
“I think this is a pretty good draft, the whole first round,” Beilein said. “We’re gonna get two good players. I’ve gone down the list and I’ve (coached) against many of those guys, or watched them on TV or saw them in AAU. So it’s really exciting to be in that opportunity, to have the fifth pick in the draft and hopefully the only way we’re there again is because we traded and got that pick from somebody else. But we’re gonna take advantage of it now.”
As for the current roster of Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, Cedi Osman and others … well, Beilein has already done his homework. He has spoken with every member of the team.
“This is really great to be a part of this,” he said. “We’ve got the fifth pick in the draft. We’ve got the 26th pick in the draft. We’re in great shape. Good returning players. We’re in good shape.”
Now, he joins Boston’s Brad Stevens and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan as current coaches who have made the leap from college to become first-time coaches in the pros.
“Brad Stevens told me, ‘The NBA just got better today,’” Beilein said. “Just really complimentary things from guys that have been in college and the pros. They said I’m gonna love it; love just coaching basketball.”
Beilein reportedly wanted to stay in the Midwest. While he never said as much, it’s been reported the Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons would be the only places in the NBA he would’ve coached. He interviewed for the Pistons’ vacancy last summer (it went to Dwane Casey), and said he liked what the Cavs had to offer and the direction they intend to take.
“I think this was an opportunity that has so much potential it was too difficult to pass up,” Beilein said. “It was the right thing to do.”