John Beilein’s Coaching Path

beileinExcerpts from the article: There are few things that John Beilein doesn’t have nowadays. He has 741 wins over 39 years, climbing from a JV coaching job at Newfane to the head job at the University of Michigan. He has a basketball program that is among the nation’s elite and a contract paying him more money than anyone in Newfane could imagine. He has a wife, four kids, two grandchildren, 44 nieces and nephews and fond memories of his parents.

983 — Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
948 — Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
740 — Bob Huggins, West Virginia
724 — Roy Williams, North Carolina
704 — Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
701 — John Beilein, Michigan

* Active Division I coaches only

But this isn’t about the here and now. This isn’t about Beilein having the sixth-most wins among active Division I coaches despite never working as an assistant. This is about how it all happened — how youth and maturation and happenstance led to an ordinary guy going extraordinary places.

In 1975, after a few games coaching JV basketball at Newfane, John found his fire. The games, mostly meaningless, meant the world to him. Losses crushed him. Wins lifted him. The teaching invigorated him. He continued to dole out social studies lessons and began taking Master’s classes at Niagara University, but John Beilein knew he was meant to coach.

Art Beilein didn’t want John to take the job at Erie Community College. Too risky, he thought. Why would someone leave a stable teaching job to coach at some junior college in Buffalo?

John ignored the logic. He had met and married a young woman, Kathleen, and had grown infatuated with not only her, but with being a big-time coach. On a date one summer night, he told Kathleen he’d coach on television against Indiana’s Bob Knight someday.

Living in a small home in the Eastwood section of Syracuse, John Beilein learned the realities of the coaching life. Being a father, a husband and a college coach is like juggling an apple, an orange and an elephant. Nights on the road are spent travelling to games and chasing recruits. Nights at home are spent watching film and calling recruits.

At Le Moyne, he went from being a former high school coach to a future Division I coach. His now famed two-guard offense was born from a meeting with Uncle Tommy, the AD. When Beilein complained he didn’t have good enough point guard play, the old coach in Tommy responded, “Oh, really? Well why don’t we just pack it up and fold the whole damn program.” Instead of doing that, Beilein decided to change his system.

Having spent time watching various offenses based on spacing, cutting and flow, Beilein realized the power of film study. Seana would dart around the family living room as her father sat, knees pressed together a VCR on his lap, thumbs manning the PLAY and REWIND buttons.

“These things just don’t happen to people to put them in this position,” he says. “It just doesn’t happen. It’s not an accident. There’s another word for it.”

He is tempted to call it divine intervention. “I’d like to think that, but others may not think that.”

John Beilein reflects for a long second, lowering his eyebrows.

“It just takes … coincidental circumstances. Maybe that’s just it.”

John Beilein Article

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