“I think he’s definitely in the top five (coaches in the country), and I think he’s the best teacher. He and Bobby Knight are right up there as the best teachers in the country.”
That quote might be a little partisan. After all, it’s from Patrick Beilein, the son and former player of new Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein.
But the son’s opinion, while admittedly biased, certainly isn’t unique.
Howard Garfinkel, co-founder of the Five-Star Basketball camp that produced coaches like Rick Pitino, Hubie Brown and John Calipari, told the Roanoake Times “(Beilein is) the best coach in America today, except for maybe Coach K and Pitino. He’s definitely in the top five.”
New Jersey Nets general manager Rod Thorn echoed that sentiment.
“He could coach anywhere and do really, really well,” Thorn told Yahoo Sports. “He’s one of the best coaches in all of basketball.”
After his team played West Virginia this season, Georgetown coach John Thompson III explained that if you couldn’t appreciate the way the Mountaineers played basketball, you didn’t know anything about the game.
George Washington coach Karl Hobbs has referred to Beilein as the best coach in the country.
Athletic Director Bill Martin was aware of all this recognition, and when he consulted other coaches about Beilein, he received similar reactions.
“We love learning from him,” one said.
“I look at a lot of his tape to see how he does stuff,” another told Martin.
But Beilein doesn’t need any of these compliments. His record speaks for itself.
He’s succeeded at every level, posting winning records in 26 of his 29 seasons as a head coach, including stops at Erie Community College and Nazareth. He took Canisius (who?) to the NCAA Tournament in 1996 (it hadn’t been advanced to the second round with Richmond in 1998.
Beilein took over at West Virginia after a 2001-02 season in which the Mountaineers finished 1-15 in the Big East. Within just three years, he had them in the Elite Eight and followed that with a trip to the Sweet 16.
Before this past season, West Virginia lost four starters and 83 percent of its scoring. The team was picked by many to finish last or second-to-last in the 16-team Big East.
“I’m only putting West Virginia this high – i.e., next to last – because of Beilein,” Gary Parrish of CBSSportsline.com wrote. “This team, quite simply, is going to be terrible. The only question is whether things will be down for one year, two years or longer?”
Beilein then led his team a 9-7 conference record, good enough for seventh in the conference. West Virginia defeated then-No. 2 UCLA in February – the Bruins stomped Michigan by 37 points two months earlier – and went on to win the NIT Championship.
In my most recent column, I enumerated the reasons former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker should be fired. I specifically pointed to X’s-and-O’s, results and player development, declaring that Amaker fell short in all three areas.
Beilein is widely considered one of the best X’s-and-O’s guys in college basketball. Other coaches respect him for it. For an example, look no further than the NIT semifinal, where, trailing by two with two seconds left, he designed a play that freed Darris Nichols for a game-winning 3-pointer. It looked a little different than Amaker’s “lob-the-ball-to-Jerret-Smith-at-halfcourt-and-start-the-offense-with-10-seconds-left-on-the-shot-clock” play.
In terms of results, Beilein’s teams have averaged 25 wins the past three seasons and have been to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in that time, in addition to winning an NIT championship this year.
“An awful lot of teams have been watching us play at the end of the year the past few years,” Beilein said.
That’s you Michigan, don’t be shy.
Beilein hasn’t had the chance to coach any stars – not a single player of his has ever played in the NBA. But he turned unknowns Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle into household names and crucial contributors on an Elite Eight team.
At Michigan, Beilein will finally have a talent pool from which to recruit potential stars. The results are still to come, but for many, they don’t seem too far off.
“I think he saw this as the elite level,” Patrick Beilein said. “He did all he could at West Virginia. (Michigan) is a program that he can take to Final Fours, and that really intrigued him.”
His father opened yesterday’s press conference by calling his arrival in Ann Arbor a “thrilling day.”
Coach Beilein, Michigan’s more than thrilled to have you.
– Bromwich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.