CLEVELAND –– This is normally enemy territory for John Beilein.
The former Michigan men’s basketball coach shared a laugh with the media at his introductory press conference after calling Michigan “the greatest university in the world.”
“Some of you Ohio State people may not agree with that,” Beilein said.
Though his new role as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers may garner him an “Ohio man” by some, Beilein spoke candidly about his 12 years in Ann Arbor and the impact the support of the students had on his time with the program. For Beilein, the admiration between himself and the students was mutual.
“One thing I wish, I wish that I was able to get to know even more of the students during that time,” Beilein said after his introductory press conference. “I wish I could have been with (the students) sometimes when (they) were watching some of our games. I hope (they) realize they are at the greatest university in the world and it’s this unique blend between athletics and students, brilliant students, that is like no other.”
Throughout his press conference, he often referred to Michigan as “we” and “the greatest university in the world” signifying that his time at the university left an indelible mark on his experience as a coach.
Beilein was arguably the most beloved coach in program history. Immediate reactions from students to him leaving were a mixture of sadness and frustration, but the success and passion he brought forth for the program was rarely in question.
Beilein made it crystal clear at his press conference that the decision to leave the Wolverines was one of the most difficult he’s ever had to make as a coach –– and perhaps the last job change he will have to make.
“I hated leaving a great place like the University of Michigan,” Beilein said. “It could only be for something special like this.”
The opportunity was one he could not pass on, though, and he knew once he made the decision to leave, it would be a hard pill to swallow for fans and the program, alike.
“The timing was really bad, but there’s never going to be a good time,” Beilein said. “I just don’t know how you end coaching college basketball if you’re successful with the timing right. It’s impossible.”
Added Beilein: “I said I’m going to do it and hopefully all of the good things that you accomplished at Michigan will be what you’ll be remembered by.”
Though his new home court now resides 167 miles away from the Crisler Center, Beilein emphasized that the impact that the Michigan community had on him is one he will always cherish.