The Detroit Pistons’ search for a new head coach appears to be a vast net, cast far and wide from college coaches to NBA assistant coaches to TV broadcasters.
This week, the Pistons reportedly have shown interest in Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard, a former member of the Fab Five at Michigan, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, among others.
On Friday, another interesting name joined the fray: Michigan coach John Beilein. A source confirmed to The Detroit News that Beilein has interviewed for the Pistons’ job as head coach. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report Beilein’s interview with the Pistons.
It’s pretty easy to see why the Pistons would have interest in Beilein, who has led Michigan to a pair of appearances in the national championship game in the past six seasons. Since taking the job in 2007, Beilein has helped bring stability to a struggling program and has become the program’s all-time winningest coach.
But why would he be interested in the Pistons' job?
Beilein, 65, is regarded for his play-calling and skill development of his players, two of the biggest areas of need for the Pistons, who finished 39-43 this season and missed the playoffs. They parted ways with Stan Van Gundy, who was the head coach and team president, last month. Two of the Pistons’ shortcomings under Van Gundy were the lack of skill enhancement of young players such as Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson, and in their execution.
Beilein could help with that.
In his time at Michigan, Beilein has helped bring out the best in unheralded recruits, including players on the 2013 team that went to the NCAA title game. That group included Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas — and all of those players went on to become first-round picks in the NBA draft.
D.J. Wilson was another first-round selection, going to the Milwaukee Bucks last year, and Moritz Wagner, who helped the Wolverines to the championship game this season, also is projected to go in the first round.
It just makes sense from a development perspective. Beilein has taken three- and four-star recruits and turned them into star players, ready to enter the draft and find their way onto NBA rosters.
If he were to join the Pistons, it would be taking a big step, toward the edge of the matrix, in dealing with NBA personalities — something that he didn’t have to deal with as much in his autonomous position at Michigan.
And that’s where it might not work.
Beilein has three more years remaining on his contract — and was working on an extension with athletic director Warde Manuel. It’s unlikely that the allure of bigger contracts could pry Beilein from Michigan, but the challenge of seeing if his success can extend to the NBA could be something that Beilein wants to pursue.
After 11 seasons in Ann Arbor, it would be shocking to see Beilein bolt for the NBA. He’s established a clear legacy for himself for as long as he wants to stay at Michigan, without having to worry about job security or other issues swirling around the NCAA.
Following another appearance in the NCAA title game last season, Beilein has assembled another good recruiting class. That doesn’t preclude him from at least listening to the Pistons’ overtures — as he reportedly did in 2014 when the Pistons were looking for a head coach.
It would seem out of character for Beilein simply to be looking for leverage in trying to get more money out of Manuel and Michigan, which would have no difficulty in finding the funds to satisfy Beilein’s financial needs.
Maybe it’s all bluster. Maybe Beilein is just doing his due diligence to figure out what the Pistons’ true interest is. Either way, it makes for an interesting few weeks ahead — for both the Pistons and the Michigan faithful.