Beilein, Williams share ideas, finally share showdown
Ann Arbor — Michigan’s John Beilein and North Carolina’s Roy Williams have coached 1,730 games at the Division I level since 1992.
Over that time, Beilein has had coaching stints at Canisius (five seasons), Richmond (five), West Virginia (five) and Michigan (11), while Williams has had stops at Kansas (11) and North Carolina (15).
Their head-to-head record? It doesn’t exist because — incredibly — the two longtime coaches never have faced one another.
That streak will finally come to an end Wednesday night when Beilein’s Wolverines and Williams’ Tar Heels tussle for the first time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Dean Smith Center.
In fact, Beilein has only coached against North Carolina once in his coaching career, during his first year at Richmond in 1997. It was the Spiders’ second game of the season and the result was an 84-65 loss.
“Bill Guthridge was the coach because Dean (Smith) had just stepped down,” Beilein recalled Tuesday. “We actually had a home game with Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter. It was a good game, they beat us. It was a fairly good game. It wasn’t close, but that’s it.
“It seems like we’ve been in several (NCAA Tournament) regionals where they’re playing somebody and we end up playing Duke or something. I think twice that might’ve happened where they were in the same regional as we were. It’s probably good news. You wouldn’t be talking about my o-fer record against North Carolina right now.”
While the duo hasn’t shared the court together, Williams and Beilein are cordial and have shared a mutual respect. Williams said he’s tried to copy the 1-3-1 zone that Beilein has used, while Beilein called him for his input before Michigan switched over to the Jordan brand a few years ago.
The two have even swapped shooting drills in the past after a conversation turned to how Williams’ players were taking bad shots and he was trying to find a remedy.
“(Beilein) gave me one and we competed through our players the entire season,” Williams said. “I’d call him, ‘My guy did this. My guy did that.’ And I did the same thing the last couple years with (Oklahoma coach) Lon Kruger and one of the ones that we’re competing with Lon’s guys was a drill that I got from John.”
Williams added his and Beilein’s team had a heated competition during the 2012-13 season, the year Michigan reached the national final. According to Williams, his players — Dexter Strickland, Marcus Paige and Detroit Pistons wing Reggie Bullock — were making 58-60 shots in one drill while Beilein’s were sinking 75-77.
“I walked in the locker room and overheard them complaining, ‘Well, they must use two balls. They got two guys rebounding.’ And I ripped their rear ends,” Williams said. “The next day Marcus made 70. So, we got it up there pretty close, but that one team he had with (Nik) Stauskas they had like three guys making more than 75.”
Beilein said he and Williams talk occasionally and have stayed in contact over the years. But come Wednesday, the two will meet face-to-face on the hardwood for the first time in a long time.
“Every couple months somehow our paths will cross,” Beilein said, “and I really enjoy the company whenever I have the time to spend time with him.”
Michigan junior center Moritz Wagner has been looking forward to Wednesday’s matchup against North Carolina the moment it was announced.
And not just because it’s a chance to take down a top-tier program. There’s also bragging rights at stake between Wagner and his German national team coach Henrik Rodl, who was a senior on the Tar Heels team that beat Michigan in the 1993 national championship game.
“I sent him a screen shot right away. I was very excited,” Wagner said. “Unfortunately, he can’t be there. But to play North Carolina just because of that, we’ve been talking trash ever since then.”
Wagner said Rodl, who is currently coaching the nationalal team in Germany, didn’t give him any sort of advice or sense of what to expect playing at the Dean Smith Center.
“He and I are really close, but he’s not going to tell me how to beat his old team,” Wagner said with a smile.