Since first-year men’s basketball head coach John Beilein came to Ann Arbor last year, Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson has offered him his keys – to his house and to victory.

Brian Merlos
Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has received valuable support and advice from hockey coach Red Berenson. (RODRIGO GAYA/Daily)

Beilein was hired in mid-April, just before Berenson left Ann Arbor on vacation. Knowing Beilein would otherwise need to rent a hotel room, Berenson offered Beilein the use of his home.

“I did not take him up on it,” Beilein said. “I didn’t want to move again out of the hotel, but he was just all of a sudden very helpful.”

And Berenson hasn’t stopped trying to help Beilein find success at Michigan.

When Beilein took over as Michigan’s men’s basketball coach last spring, he knew restoring Michigan basketball to glory would be a monumental task.

And Berenson knows all about returning a once-great program to prominence. In 1984, he took over a program that hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in eight years or won a conference championship in twenty.

Berenson realized the program didn’t just need a coaching change. It required a complete change of culture – different players, more support and better commitment.

It took three years for Berenson’s teams to get above .500 and six for the Wolverines to reach the NCAA Tournament. He hasn’t missed those standards since.

“There’s a lot of things that go into winning,” Berenson said. “But it starts with the coach and his vision.”

Berenson has given the same advice to Beilein. After a 5-15 start, few would question Beilein if he altered his coaching philosophy – many have even suggested it. Few except Berenson, that is.

In conversations with Beilein, Berenson has stressed the importance of sticking with what has worked.

“‘You do the things that got you here,” Berenson said. “You’ve been successful somewhere else by coaching basketball the way you coach it. Then do it here. That’s why we brought you here.”

A few weeks ago, Berenson watched a Beilein-led practice at Crisler Arena. Even though the native of Regina, Saskatchewan grew up on the ponds and not the parquet, lessons of effort and teamwork translate between sports. He left Crisler Arena impressed with Beilein’s intensity.

Berenson called Beilein the next day and offered thoughts on how the coach could harness that energy for an entire game.

“Just take minutes in the game and say, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to do,’ ” Berenson said. ” ‘We’re going to win this minute or five minutes or whatever it is. And let’s build on that.’ Because they can do it.”

Beilein has already passed the message on to his team.

The hockey coach isn’t the only Michigan head coach who has opened up to Beilein. After almost every other game, retired football coach Lloyd Carr calls Beilein with encouragement. And during Beilein’s track workouts in the fall, track coach Ron Warhurst established a bond with the new coach.

The three coaches combined have 71 years of combined head-coaching experience at Michigan.

All of them have told Beilein the same thing: do it your way.

“Don’t lose sight of how you think it should be when you get it going because there is going to be a lot of turmoil in between,” Berenson said. “It’s not going to be a perfect season.”

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