Michigan coach talks about his team taking on Norfolk State to open the 2018-19 season. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t one to reminisce.
He’ll make an exception — for a minute or, maybe, two — when the Wolverines raise their Final Four and Big Ten tournament title banners to commemorate last season’s postseason run before Tuesday night’s regular-season opener against Norfolk State.
"I've only thought about the banners going up when (a reporter) said that and there was one time earlier (Monday) when somebody asked me about it,” Beilein said Monday. “I never live in past very much unless it really haunts me where I'm remembering a guarantee game we lost to New Jersey Tech or something.
“I don't remember all the success very well and I probably should. I'm so focused on this year, but I'm sure when that banner is going up I'll be very proud.”
Beilein added he’ll “have to meditate on it” to have that moment of reflection work during the pregame ceremony because he’ll be thinking about something else, like whether he’s calling the right first play or if he and his coaching staff have prepared his team enough.
Then again, Beilein has already been through this several times, hanging banners for Michigan’s Big Ten regular-season titles in 2012 and 2014 and Final Four appearance in 2013. Most of the Wolverines also watched a banner get raised to the rafters last season for the team’s Big Ten tournament championship in 2017.
But for Michigan’s five freshmen — Ignas Brazdeikis, Brandon Johns Jr., David DeJulius, Colin Castleton and Adrien Nunez — this will be an entirely new experience.
“For our young guys, it's part of the reason they came here,” Beilein said. “Most of them would've committed after our (Big Ten tournament) championship in 2017 down in D.C. so they know this a little bit. They believe we can win here, we can win championships here, so this is more credibility to it.
“The biggest thing is to tell them this didn't happen easily. It was simple. We just worked hard every day and we focused on what we can control, but that's not easy given all the distractions you could have."
Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers and sophomore guard Jordan Poole have been on both sides — coming in and watching players revel in their past accomplishments to being part of those who will bask in the celebration.
Unlike Beilein, Livers and Poole won’t say anything to the freshmen in the moment because it’s an experience that will either fire them up or make them content.
“I hope it's like silent motivation, just work hard, play as a team,” Livers said. “We didn't get there without being a team, so it's got to be a team-first mentality. I hope that's the message they get from it.
“(As freshmen) me, Jordan, Eli (Brooks) and Naji (Ozeir) we were all thinking about, 'Man we got to get that.' After we won the Big Ten championship I told them, 'Look, now when next year comes around we're going to have banners going up for ourselves.' It was something cool and it motivated us all offseason that we were here.”
Beilein said he’s also going to challenge Livers, Poole and Brooks because with a program-record 33 wins in their first season, they have a head start on the players and class that hold the all-time mark.
That should be a goal, just like proving last season’s success wasn’t an aberration and more could be in store.
"Man, I was thinking about that (Sunday) night,” Livers said. “I was talking with Jordan in the room and I was like, 'Man, we're going to have two banners go up — Big Ten (tournament) champions and Final Four. That's just big.’
“We always talked about how there could've been three going up, but you got to learn from your mistakes and keep pushing.”