Basketball

Cavaliers agree to hire Michigan’s John Beilein as coach

Since he entered coaching in 1975, John Beilein has never served as an assistant.

In 41 years in college, he recorded 35 winning seasons and posted totals above .500 at all seven stops, which include Erie Community College, Nazareth, Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia.

During 12 seasons at the University of Michigan, Beilein demonstrated his skills as a teacher while mentoring nine NBA draft choices.

As his path ascended, he developed a reputation as one of the best tactical offensive minds in the nation.

Yet after the Cavaliers took a month to interview some of the brightest young coaching talent in the NBA, they shocked the basketball world with Monday's hiring of Beilein. A league source confirmed that Beilein, 66, agreed to a five-year contract to succeed Larry Drew, who mutually parted ways with the Cavs on April 11 after a 19-63 season.

"We could not be more thrilled to name John Beilein as the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers," Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said in a statement. "First, John is a great human being. He cares deeply about his players and others who work for him and around him. He defines the words class, integrity and character. He is a tireless worker who obsesses about finding better ways and the inches that will help his team and the organization grow. John is a brilliant basketball mind and last but not least, John Beilein is a winner.

"I also want to thank (general manager) Koby (Altman) and his hardworking staff for turning over every rock while relentlessly searching for our new head coach since the minute this past season ended. It is no surprise that Koby and his team landed on John Beilein as great cultures attract others who hold the same values as the foundation for everything they do. I can't wait for next season to begin."

A league source confirmed multiple reports that the Cavs interviewed Beilein in Ann Arbor, Mich., early last week, then Gilbert spoke to him Friday. Those talks were kept quiet, adding to the bombshell report by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal was reportedly finalized Sunday night, with Beilein informing Michigan officials Monday morning.

"I want to thank the University of Michigan for what has been a truly special home and remarkable place for my family and I for the last 12 years," Beilein said in a statement. "We have achieved great success together and we could not have done it without the incredible support of our administration, coaches, players, staff, students, fans and the entire university community. We shared some of the best moments of my life together and I will always be grateful for that.

"At the same time, I felt very strongly about this new and exciting opportunity with the Cavaliers. I am very thankful to Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman and honored to be the head coach of the Cavaliers. I love the position the team is in to build and grow and this was something I felt was the perfect fit for me. With hard work and dedication by all of us, we will grow this team day by day and reinforce a culture of success that sustains itself with strong core values. Cleveland is a great city with amazing fans and I am really looking forward to calling Cleveland home for years to come."

While some questioned the timing of Beilein's move, the Cavs, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns hold an equal 14 percent chance of securing the top pick in Tuesday night's NBA draft lottery. If the Cavs come out of it with No. 1 and the opportunity to select Duke star Zion Williamson, other college coaches might have expressed interest in the job with the Cavs job. The Cavs can pick no lower than sixth in the June 20 draft.

It's possible that Beilein, who interviewed with the Detroit Pistons last summer, has become disillusioned with the rampant cheating in the college game and understands the NBA will soon change its age limit, making even one-and-done a thing of the past.

The Cavs interviewed at least nine league assistants along with former Memphis Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff. They flew to Denver to speak with the Nuggets' Jordi Fernandez and Wes Unseld Jr., the Orlando Magic's Steve Hetzel and the Portland Trail Blazers' David Vanterpool over the weekend, with talks beginning with Fernandez on Friday.

Other candidates the Cavs met with included assistants Jamahl Mosley of the Dallas Mavericks, Alex Jensen of the Utah Jazz, Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina of the San Antonio Spurs and Juwan Howard of the Miami Heat.

A league source said one of those assistants could be named associate head coach under Beilein. That would set up a possible succession plan when Beilein decides to retire.

"We conducted a deep and thorough search to find the best possible candidate for the next head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. We interviewed several strong and talented candidates who, no doubt, will get an opportunity to become an NBA head coach somewhere down the line," Altman said in a statement. "Following the end of those interviews, it became clear to us that Coach Beilein was the right choice and best fit for our franchise.

"John is one of the most accomplished and innovative basketball minds and leaders in the entire game. He has a unique ability to create an outstanding culture that will promote the development of young players and provide a solid structure to the entire program; not to mention the fact that John Beilein wins everywhere he goes. We are excited Coach Beilein is joining our organization as we continue to build the foundation that any enterprise needs to be successful and competitive year in and year out."

While the Cavs' candidate list included three men – Jensen, Fernandez and Hetzel – who had coached their G League affiliate, the Canton Charge, Beilein has a Cleveland connection. Cavs assistant general manager Mike Gansey played for Beilein at West Virginia University and reached the Elite Eight in 2005, Gansey's junior year. It was the highest NCAA appearance by the school in 42 years and the first in Beilein's career. At Michigan, Beilein also coached Nik Stauskas, a Cavs guard about to become a free agent.

Beilein is one of 14 coaches to have taken four different schools to the NCAA Tournament. That list includes Canisius (1996), Richmond (1998), West Virginia (2005, '06) and Michigan (2009, '11-'14, '16-'19). The Wolverines reached the NCAA Finals in 2013 and '18.

Beilein has compiled an 829-468 record (.639) in college with 23 20-win seasons. He ranked in the top 10 for career victories among active Division I coaches.

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