Beilein lasted less than a season as Cleveland’s coach.
But one of his former players at Michigan is sticking up for him.
Sam Amico of Sports Illustrated:
One former Michigan player in NBA tells me: “John Beilein’s system would work in NBA. He’s an excellent coach; they should’ve loved playing for him. But you have to have players who value winning, winning players, and they don’t.” #Cavs
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) February 20, 2020
Even under the cloak of anonymity, that’s a harsh way for an NBA player to talk about fellow NBA players.
Who said it? There are nine suspects:
Duncan Robinson (Heat)
Tim Hardaway (Mavericks)
Moritz Wagner (Wizards)
Glenn Robinson (76ers)
Whoever he is, that player lacks full context.
None of those players were on a clear NBA track when arriving in Ann Arbor. They all developed under Beilein’s tutelage. Beilein’s message lands differently when you’re already in the NBA – especially when you’re a proven player like Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson. As I said when Beilein was hired, there was going to be a race between Beilein convincing his players he could help them and them believing they could walk all over him. He lost the race. In Ann Arbor, in part because of his power over his less-heralded players, Beilein repeatedly earned buy-in first.
None of those players were on Beilein’s first Michigan team, which went 10-22. Beilein has typically come into a new job preaching fundamentals. That sets a foundation for future winning. But in the short term, the lack of focus on games can lead to plenty of losing. Beilein’s first season with the Wolverines was exhausting, and the end was a welcome respite. Everyone returned for year two better prepared, and Michigan took off. But the NBA season is far longer. The Cavs already endured 54 games under Beilein’s first-year approach. Another 28 was asking a lot.
Maybe Cavaliers players would have been better off in the long run if they accepted Beilein’s teaching. But it’s on Beilein to earn their trust, and he never did.