There was no such thing as the Monday morning blahs for college basketball this Monday, not with the jarring news that John Beilein is leaving Michigan to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That would be the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. The 66-year-old Beilein is leaving the hallowed halls of Ann Arbor for a Cleveland team that went 19-63 this past season without LeBron James, and for an owner in Dan Gilbert, who is actually a big Michigan State supporter.
What gives? Surely Beilein was ready for another challenge. After all, he has coached at every level from high school to Division III to Division II to Division I and now, yes, the NBA. After 12 years at Michigan, perhaps he thought the time was right to take a stab at the pro game.
You also wonder how much Beilein was tired of the ruthless, backstabbing, underhanded, sleazy and, in some cases, criminal world of college basketball recruiting, a world laid somewhat bare by recent FBI college basketball corruption trials. Just last week, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins were found guilty of conspiracy to commit bribery.
Beilein had taken the Wolverines to the national title game in both 2013 and 2018, losing first to Louisville and then Villanova. And there’s a precedent to consider.
After reaching the national championship game in back-to-back years, Brad Stevens left Butler to become head coach of the Boston Celtics in 2013. After two national titles and four trips to the Final Four, Billy Donovan left Florida to be head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015. Both craved new challenges.
Donovan’s name has already popped up as a possible target for Michigan AD Warde Manuel. After all, the Thunder has been knocked out of the playoffs three straight years under Donovan.
One possible candidate, new Alabama coach Nate Oats, a former high school coach in Michigan, issued a tweet Monday saying he’s very happy in Tuscaloosa.
One to watch: Texas Tech coach Chris Beard.
The more important issue is what Beilein’s departure says about the current state of college basketball.
From ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who naturally broke the news of Beilein’s move to Cleveland: Beilein had “become increasingly frustrated with the nature of college basketball recruiting and the retention of top players. The impending loss of Michigan freshman Ignas Brazdeikis, senior Charles Matthews and sophomore Jordan Poole to the NBA Draft dented what might have been a national championship contender.”
ESPN’s Paul Biancardi tweeted Monday: “Had coffee with John Beilein in Atlanta during the live period. He loved Michigan, but was frustrated with the new NBA Draft rules. Roster continuity was an issue with his good players. The FBI situation also had him questioning much about the college game.”