John Beilein nearly didn’t get a stress test.
He skipped it the first time — he had to go recruiting. He didn’t want to get on the treadmill, and he certainly didn’t intend to come back to the doctor’s office after leaving that day.
“Sort of the way I live my life,” Beilein said. “I was in the middle of it, and I had the first part of my physical — I always do it at the end of the year — and they said, ‘Well, it’s time for the stress test.’ I said, ‘Well, I only got 30 minutes, I gotta catch a flight.’
“So they said, ‘Well, let’s do it later,’ and I actually wasn’t going to do it.”
He did, and the test showed he needed a double-bypass surgery. He underwent a successful procedure on Aug. 6, missing the Michigan men’s basketball team’s trip to Spain as a result.
So, when Beilein sat at the podium Tuesday afternoon, let out a smile and said, “It’s great to be here,” it felt like he meant it.
He joked about spending more time on Twitter, not participating in a simulated airplane crash, getting a lot of reading done, watching the Cardinals get hot. Still, he seems pretty active for someone who had his chest opened up less than two months ago.
Beilein said he was walking five miles a day with his wife, Kathleen, within a week of the surgery. He’s back in practices and plans to coach in both the Wolverines’ closed-door scrimmage at Toledo on Oct. 27 and their exhibition game against Northwood on Nov. 2. Ditto for the Nov. 6 season opener.
When the team returned from Spain, Beilein eased back into things. He met with the five-man freshman class on the first day back, according to junior point guard Zavier Simpson, then the rest of the team a couple days later.
“He actually wasn’t vocal at all, he was kinda just saying a few things and stepping out of the way,” Simpson said. “Not yelling, maybe one or two sentences, stepping out of the way.”
For five brief minutes, when Beilein was told he needed surgery, there was a discussion as to whether or not the team should go to Spain at all. Beilein was all for it, installing assistant coach Saddi Washington as the interim head coach and sending his team on its way.
Michigan ended up going 1-2 in three games against European competition, a worse result against far better competition than in Italy in 2014. Though Beilein missed time with the freshmen, it hasn’t been hard to catch up. He’s largely stayed in Ann Arbor instead of traveling to recruit and can spend four instead of two hours per week with the players.
Right now, ask around and the only tangible basketball impact of Beilein’s surgery is that he has taken a backseat in practices, unable to yell the way he might normally. The assistant coaches have picked up the slack in his stead.
“I feel like they all have a piece of their own pie — piece of the pizza,” Simpson said. “I feel like (DeAndre Haynes) is more of a player type of coach, that comes to you and compliments you or tells you things you could have done individually. And (Luke Yaklich) is extremely loud. He is extremely loud. Yak is definitely extremely loud.
“And Saddi’s just more the kind of mature one, that wraps up and summarizes everything. He’s the one who — he’s the one who’s kind of like the coach B when coach B isn’t there. He kind of takes over, he does — he’s not really a yeller, he’s not quiet. He’s just saying things to regroup us as a team, he’s just probably the most vocal one.”
Added Beilein: “I just stand in the middle and sort of talk, probably the way a lot of coaches do coach.”
By the time Beilein finished taking questions — having moved on from his own health to the progress of sophomore shooting guard Jordan Poole and comparing freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis to Scott Ungerer, a player he coached at Richmond from 1998-2002 — you could almost mistake it for a normal circumstance.
If Beilein has his way, come Nov. 6, it will be just that.