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The Cavaliers wanted a coach who can win in the event no super, duper-star arrives anytime soon.
They wanted a coach who runs a system predicated on outside shooting, ball movement and constant motion. They wanted a coach who overachieved and has shown he can win consistently and will be respected by the players on his first day.
That is why the team chose John Beilein.
It didn’t matter that Beilein has never coached in the NBA, that he spent his previous 12 years at Michigan with college kids.
They liked Beilein’s philosophy and they liked him as a person.
While they spent time interviewing a bunch of NBA assistants — assistants they really liked — their eyes were always focused on Beilein. But convincing a college coach at a winning program to leave for the pros isn’t easy. Beilein removed himself from consideration for the Detroit Pistons’ vacancy just last summer.
In the end, general manager Koby Altman got his man.
Here’s the best news for the Cavs — Beilein implements a fun system that has proven to work. It is basketball as it’s described on Wikipedia, a throwback game that is predicated on the pass.
His team’s have a tendency to overachieve because they play “the right way.” He took Michigan to the NCAA championship game in 2013 and 2018.
Another great achievement was taking West Virginia to the Elite Eight in 2005. That team upset Chris Paul and Wake Forest in double overtime in the second round. It also featured Olmsted Falls product Mike Gansey as a key member of the team. Gansey currently works on Altman’s basketball staff and is the former GM of the Canton Charge.
So Altman, Gansey and the rest at least know Beilein well.
Beilein is as laid-back and polite as they come, more Mr. Everyman than big-time coach. He has always had strong relationships with those around him and is viewed as someone who the players actually want to play for. There is never any drama on Beilein-coached teams.
Back in 2004, I was a sportswriter in West Virginia. It gave me an opportunity to get to know Beilein a little bit. He couldn’t be more of a regular guy who loves the game and loves people. It was almost fitting that West Virginia also knocked out Bobby Knight and Texas Tech in 2005.
It showed that good guys don’t actually finish last.
And now, Beilein is bringing his approach to the Cavs. It will be a little different than what Cavs fans are used to seeing. There won’t be anymore “isolation, superstar-type” basketball that worked so well when the Cavs had LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
But James and Irving are gone, never to return, and the Cavs will now play a style that doesn’t require superstars. Ideally, it will be a system that makes superstars. Similar to how Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green became champions after the Golden State Warriors hired Steve Kerr.
That’s not to say Beilein, 66, is the next Kerr or the Cavs are on their way to multiple titles. But Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Altman clearly believe a team that is a team in the truest sense will give the Cavs the best chance moving forward. Again, the Cavs wanted a coach who carried a philosophy that works even if the talent isn’t equal to the opponent.
Don’t misunderstand. The Cavs intend to be talented — but they want someone who can lead them until they are whole.
No matter who’s on the roster, the Cavs believe Beilein runs a system that will eventually succeed.
That is why they chose Beilein and why they believe he is the best possible fit.