CLEVELAND – The Cavaliers went back to college to get a coach.
John Beilein has left Michigan following a successful 12-year run and will take his shot in the NBA, signing a five-year contract with Cleveland on Monday.
The 66-year-old Beilein wasn’t thought to be on the team’s radar, but the Cavs are confident he’s the right choice to continue their rebuild and get them back to relevance following a 19-63 season.
“John is one of the most accomplished and innovative basketball minds and leaders in the entire game,” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said in a statement. “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.
“We are excited coach Beilein is joining our organization as we continue to build the foundation that any enterprise needs to be successful and competitive year in and year out.”
The deal with Beilein came together quickly in the past 24 hours and was finalized Sunday after the Cavs had spent the weekend in Denver interviewing several NBA assistants.
While Beilein lacks pro experience, he’s long been regarded as one of college hoops’ best minds and has shown an ability to develop young players. His hiring is a bit of a surprise since it was expected the Cavs would hire a younger coach for their growing team. Cleveland is expected to surround Beilein with an experienced staff.
“We could not be more thrilled to name John Beilein as the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” said owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan State alum who plucked his new coach from his alma mater’s rival. “First, John is a great human being. He cares deeply about his players and others who work for him and around him. … John is a brilliant basketball mind and last but not least, John Beilein is a winner.”
The Cavs were able to lure Beilein away from Michigan, where he was the winningest coach in school history with a 278-150 record in 12 seasons. He had talks with the Detroit Pistons last year when they were in the market for a new coach, but Beilein said he was never offered that job.
Beilein called Cleveland’s job “the perfect fit for me.”
“With hard work and dedication by all of us, we will grow this team day by day and reinforce a culture of success that sustains itself with strong core values,” Beilein said. “Cleveland is a great city with amazing fans and I am really looking forward to calling Cleveland home for years to come.”
The Cavs are rebuilding following a stormy season that followed the departure of LeBron James. Cleveland fired coach Tyronn Lue after six games and then mutually parted ways with Larry Drew after the season.
Beilein inherits a young Cleveland team that includes All-Star forward Kevin Love and point guard Collin Sexton, who had a strong rookie season. Cleveland’s roster should get an upgrade in the draft and the Cavs are hoping for some more luck in Tuesday’s lottery, where the winner will have a shot at Duke All-American Zion Williamson.
Cleveland will have a 14 percent chance at getting the No. 1 overall pick.
Altman said he wanted a “culture-driving” coach when he began his search last month for the team’s sixth coach since 2013. The team spoke with numerous NBA assistants before sitting down last week in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with Beilein. The team has long been impressed with Beilein as an offensive tactician, and they had a connection with him as he coached Cavs assistant general manager Mike Gansey at West Virginia.
When Beilein arrived at Michigan, long known for its strong football program, for the 2007-08 season, the Wolverines hadn’t made the NCAAs since 1998. He led them to nine appearances, reaching the Sweet 16 five times and the Final Four in 2013 and 2018. Michigan lost in the title game to Louisville and Villanova, respectively.
Beilein also had health issues last year, undergoing a double-bypass operation in August.
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