ROSEMONT, Ill. — At 8:15 this morning, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel was surprised — along with the rest of the country — to find out that Michigan coach John Beilein would be leaving the program after 12 years to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.  

And with that announcement, speculation commenced on who would lead the Wolverines next season. While Manuel was surprised by Beilein’s ultimate decision, he knew it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility — Beilein had informed the program of pending talks dating back to the beginning of the month.  

“(We) try to be (prepared),” Manuel said. “You hope to never have to do anything with it. You try to prepare and try to think about next steps — have conversations around what that would look like and who that may be, but wasn’t hoping to implement at any point.”

This wasn’t the first time Michigan has considered this possibility. Beilein entertained a move to the Detroit Pistons last summer, at which point Manuel put serious consideration into who could fill the role. While he wouldn’t mention any names, those candidates remain serious contenders this time around, he said. No one has been ruled out at this point in the search, even looking to the NBA for options. 

The timeframe will prove to be an added challenge for Michigan as they’ve already missed out on the typical window for movement: the middle of March to middle of April. 

“People have settled into their role and where they want to be,” Manuel said. “Some coaches that’ve had success and moved to other programs at this time, this will weigh on them, their families and the institutions that they’re at.”

But there’s no rush. 

“The timeline is ‘I want to get it right,’ ” Manuel said. “While I’d like to get it done ASAP, I’m also going to take the time to make sure we find the right person for Michigan and the right person to step in and to continue to drive the success we’ve had in the last five or six years.”

With the possible loss of three starters, Michigan will be looking for a coach who can build talent — a strength of Beilein’s. That isn’t the only thing on the Wolverines wish-list. 

“I want somebody who wants to coach and teach young men, to drive success on the court and off of the court,” Manuel said. “If I can get a proven coach — someone who has a track record as a head coach — that’s what I’d like to see. I want somebody who can coach. John has established that you can win with integrity and do things the right way. Given some of the issues that have popped up in this sport, I want to assure that whoever leads our program understands that and has that in their background.” 

While that’ll be a tall order, Manuel isn’t worried about finding the right fit. He’s already fielded countless calls from interested parties. 

Speculation has been rampant, but at least for now, there’s no clear frontrunner for who will be at the helm next season. 

“I have my sense of who I’d like to be interested,” Manuel said. “People have to absorb the information that there’s a change and think about it — talk to their close advisors, talk to their friends and spouses to think about if this is something they want to do. I’ve been around long enough to know that in the first 12 hours, you don’t jump at every candidate that throws their hand up. You wait and allow people to think about it.”

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