John Beilein on leaving Michigan for NBA: 'It was the right thing to do'
CHICAGO, Ill. — The image might take some time getting used to.
John Beilein wore a suit to the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night in downtown Chicago. And with it, he sported a maroon bowtie — the color of his new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Beilein, the former head coach of Michigan basketball, left for the same position with the Cavaliers on Monday morning, ending his 12-year tenure with the Wolverines.
Beilein said there was "a lot of consideration" that went into his decision. He also believes that "there’s never a good time to leave."
But ultimately, this decision didn't take too long to make.
"I think this was an opportunity that has so much potential," Beilein said from the NBA draft lottery. "It was too difficult to pass up. It was the right thing to do.”
Beilein, who spent 12 years coaching Michigan, watched Tuesday night as his new team received the No. 5 overall pick in the NBA draft. He was asked about whether aspects of college basketball such as transfers and recruiting influenced his decision to leave, and declined to answer in full. Instead, he made clear that the promise of a young, rebuilding team with two picks in the first round — the Cavaliers also have the No. 26 pick — appealed greatly when it came to his decision.
“I watched a lot of film," Beilein said. "They have great young talent. And then meeting the support staff. Meeting Dan Gilbert. Made a tough decision much easier.”
Beilein left Michigan as the winningest coach in program history, posting a 278-150 record while leading the team to two national title appearances, two Big Ten regular-season titles and two Big Ten Tournament championships. He has spent his entire career moving up the coaching ladder, and has been a college basketball coach since 1978.
Naturally, there will be some transition as Beilein acclimates to the NBA. He believes the biggest adjustment will be having "to learn quickly."
"I’m going to have to learn the NBA language," Beilein said. "And obviously begin this relationship with these players, build this culture that is rock solid.”
Since news of Beilein's departure only broke Monday morning, he has been busy getting to know his new players. He spoke to five-time All-Star Kevin Love on Tuesday, along with the rest of the team, and says he feels "a good karma right now." Beilein also heard from several NBA coaches, including Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen, both of whom previously coached collegiately.
“I got great advice today from one former NBA coach today," Beilein recalled. "He said, ‘My advice is don’t get too much advice.' I have quite a few contacts in the NBA, head coaches that I know fairly well, and they all reached out. ‘You’re going to love it.’
"Brad Stevens said the NBA just got better today. Really complimentary things. Guys that have been in college, Jimmy Boylen, Brad, that have been in the pros, love this — coaching basketball.”
At the draft lottery, Beilein sat in the front row as he awaited news of where Cleveland's lottery pick would fall. Two seats to his left was owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan State graduate. Of Gilbert, Beilein said he "didn't know him at all." But both men "hit it off right away" upon meeting.
While Beilein touched upon his decision to leave Michigan, he preferred mostly to discuss his future instead of the past. But while he's no longer a college coach, the same habits — watching film, developing relationships and simply coaching — appear to have followed him to the next level. And he's excited about his NBA future.
“We’re in position to be in position," Beilein said. "We’ve got good young talent. We’ve got a great front office. And now you just combine everything with what I sense is really good teammates on this team and now we’re just going to grow all together. And I’m going to lean a lot on other people for experience, but we’re going to make this happen.”