The Cleveland Cavaliers have found their next coach in John Beilein.
The former University of Michigan coach was officially announced as the Cavs’ new coach today, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Beilein agreed to a five-year deal with the team.
Talks with Beilein and the Cavs escalated over the weekend, Wojnarowski reports, and a deal was reached on Sunday. The Athletic’s Joe Vardon reports the Cavs’ interviewing of Beilein was one of the few candidates not disclosed to the media. Per Vardon, Cavs GM Koby Altman had interviewed nearly 10 NBA assistants for the Cavs’ vacancy.
“Following the end of those interviews, it became clear to us that Coach Beilein was the right choice and best fit for our franchise,” Altman said in a statement released by the team. “John is one of the most accomplished and innovative basketball minds and leaders in the entire game. 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.”
Shortly after the reported deal became known, the Twitter account for Michigan basketball seemed to bid farewell to Beilein with a tweet highlighting his many accomplishments at the school.
Beilein acknowledged the university in a tweet from his account Monday that read: “Thanks to everyone at the Univ of Michigan for their incredible support these last 12 years. Our fans, alums, leaders, players and students are AMAZING It has been a heck of a ride and I hope you enjoyed our teams and staff as much as I did! Go Blue Forever! #GoBlue”
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was fond of Beilein’s character and work ethic, two points he touched on in his statement about the hiring.
“First, John is a great human being. He cares deeply about his players and others who work for him and around him,” Gilbert said. “He defines the words class, integrity and character. He is a tireless worker who obsesses about finding better ways and the inches that will help his team and the organization grow. John is a brilliant basketball mind and last but not least, John Beilein is a winner.”
The 65-year-old Beilein has been at Michigan for 12 seasons, guiding the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament nine times in that span. He is 799-461 in 39 seasons as a college coach and 278-150 at Michigan. He led the Wolverines to the NCAA championship game in 2018, the second time in six years he’d accomplished that. Michigan lost to Louisville in 2013 and Villanova in 2018. In addition to his two Final Four appearances, Beilein has won Big Ten titles at Michigan in 2012 and 2014, and he won the Big Ten Tournament in 2017 and 2018.
He replaces Larry Drew, who steered the team through countless injuries and other challenges as the Cavs finished 19-63. The 2018-19 season marked their first season since LeBron James left for a second time and it ended on a 10-game losing streak.
Last year, Beilein was among those who interviewed for the Detroit Pistons’ coaching vacancy. Per Wojnarowski, the Cavs have been internally using the term “culture driver” when speaking of the possibility of hiring Beilein. He quickly climbed the ranks of basketball, winning consistently in Division I stops at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia. His college coaching career began in 1978 at Erie Community College, going from there to Nazareth and then Le Moyne.
Beilein is expected to join the front office and ownership in Chicago for tomorrow night’s NBA Draft lottery as well as the Draft combine there this week, Wojnarowski reports. Additionally, the Cavs are expected to round out Belein’s staff with experienced NBA assistants, ESPN reports.
Altman had been intrigued by Beilein and Cavs assistant GM Mike Gansey played under Beilein at West Virginia. Per Wojnarowski, Beilein has been reassured by owner Dan Gilbert that his value system will be installed with the Cavs.
Drew oversaw the development of point guard Collin Sexton, who didn’t miss a game and joined Larry Bird and Stephen Curry as the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 16 points while shooting better than 40% on 3-pointers and 80% from the foul line. Star forward Kevin Love underwent foot surgery in November, effectively ending any thought the Cavaliers entertained of competing for a playoff spot.
Cleveland finished tied with Phoenix for the league’s second-worst record behind New York. Those three teams will have a 14 percent chance of picking first, but depending on how things play out, there’s the possibility of falling as far as sixth and missing out on Duke star Zion Williamson, his Blue Devils teammate RJ Barrett or Ja Morant, Murray State’s electrifying guard who already has the Cavaliers’ attention.
“Everybody will be anxious,” Love said in April. “Obviously we hope we get the best player.”
Hope seemed lost for the Cavaliers when James bolted last summer, devastating a team — and city — he treated to a title and four straight Finals appearances. But despite starting over, and despite untold injuries, Cleveland emerged from a rough season excited about the future.
“Would have been easy to kind of fold and whatever, just get steamrolled the last however many games and nobody learned anything, chucked shots and played pick-up basketball, but I don’t think we did that,” Cavs forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “We improved in a lot of different areas and a lot of individual areas.”