Cavaliers agree to hire Michigan's John Beilein as coach

Tribune News Service • May 13, 2019 at 1:20 PM

Since he entered coaching in 1975, John Beilein has never served as an assistant.

During 12 seasons at the University of Michigan, Beilein demonstrated his skills as a teacher while mentoring nine NBA draft choices.

As his path ascended, Beilein developed a reputation as one of the best tactical offensive minds in the nation.

While the Cavaliers took a month to interview some of the brightest young talent in the NBA, they stunned the basketball world Monday with the hiring of Beilein. A league source confirmed a report by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Beilein agreed to a five-year contract to succeed Larry Drew. The Cavs and Drew mutually parted ways on April 11 after a 19-63 season.

At about 10:30 a.m., Beilein tweeted, "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."

A league source confirmed multiple reports that the Cavs interviewed Beilein in Ann Arbor, Mich., early last week, then owner Dan Gilbert spoke to him Friday. The deal was reportedly finalized Sunday night, with Beilein informing Michigan officials Monday morning.

Those talks went unreported, adding to the bombshell nature of the hire.

While some questioned the timing of Beilein's move, the Cavs, Knicks and Suns hold an equal 14 percent chance of securing the top pick in Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery. If the Cavs come out of it with No. 1 and the opportunity to select Duke star Zion Williamson, other college coaches might have expressed interest in the Cavs' job.

The Cavs interviewed at least nine league assistants along with former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff. They flew to Denver to speak with the Nuggets' Jordi Fernandez and Wes Unseld Jr., the Magic's Steve Hetzel and the Trail Blazers' David Vanterpool over the weekend, with talks beginning with Fernandez on Friday. Other candidates the Cavs met with included assistants Jamahl Mosley of the Mavericks, Alex Jensen of the Jazz, Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina of the Spurs and Juwan Howard of the Heat.

A league source said it's possible one of those assistants could be named associate head coach under Beilein. That would set up a possible succession plan when Beilein, 66, decides to retire.

Beilein interviewed with the Pistons last summer and according to Wojnarowski also talked to the Magic.

While the Cavs' candidate list included three men -- Jensen, Fernandez and Hetzel -- who had coached their G League affiliate, the Canton Charge, Beilein has a Cleveland connection. Cavs assistant general manager Mike Gansey played for Beilein at West Virginia University and reached the Elite Eight in 2005, Gansey's junior year. It was the highest appearance by the school in 42 years and the first in Beilein's career. The Wolverines reached the NCAA Finals in 2013 and '18 under Beilein.

Beilein is one of 14 coaches to have taken four different schools to the NCAA Tournament. That list includes Canisius (1996), Richmond (1998), West Virginia (2005, '06) and Michigan (2009, '11-'14, '16-'19). In 41 college seasons, Beilein has compiled an 829-468 record (.639) with 23 20-win seasons and winning records in 35 seasons. He ranked in the top 10 for career victories among active Division I coaches.

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