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It wasn't just the fans and the pundits who were floored by John Beilein's decision to make the jump to the NBA.

His former players — even though they've heard him talk in recent years about his desire to one day test himself at the highest level of basketball — were stunned, too.

"I literally yelled in the office this morning," said Andrew Dakich, a former point guard for Michigan who spent his final season of eligibility at Ohio State and who was working in the arena offices in Columbus on Monday morning. "I'm like, 'Holy cow.'

"A bunch of my Michigan friends are in a group thread, and we're all talking about who the next coach is going to be. It's funny to see.

"But I'm really happy for Coach Beilein."

Beilein coached a whole bunch of players during 12 years at Michigan, and many of them went on to become stars and first-round NBA Draft picks and so on.

Dakich wasn't one of those players. He took a walk-on spot, and never really played a whole bunch at Michigan. But his time in Ann Arbor forever will be memorable.

And that's because of Beilein.

"I think I'm forever indebted to him, to be honest," said Dakich, 25. "The guy took a chance on me, and powerful coaches, they're not looking at walk-ons like, 'You'll contribute,' at all. I've seen walk-ons literally carry the stools during media timeouts. That wasn't me at all. I'm telling you, those practices, it was the greatest time for me personally. We were always in the drills, always playing the first time.

"It was never us sitting out and essentially being a manager."

In the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Beilein will be reunited, either for or against, a whole lot of the players he coached during a wildly successful run at Michigan — among them, the Los Angeles Lakers' Moritz Wagner, "who was in a state of disbelief" judging by the text chain of former players, Dakich said.

Then there's forward Glenn Robinson III, a second-round pick in 2014 who's now with the Detroit Pistons — the team Beilein flirted with last offseason before he eventually withdrew from consideration, knowing the Pistons were sold on Dwane Casey.

"I'm excited for him," said Robinson, 25. "I think it's a great opportunity for him to showcase his coaching ability at the highest level.

"It's definitely a great grab by the Cavs."

CLOSE

After 12 seasons at Michigan, basketball coach John Beilein is leaving for the NBA, to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News

Beilein turned a whole bunch of players from unknowns into known commodities.

And there was a steady stream of assistant coaches, too, like Billy Donlon, who had lost his job as head coach at Wright State before joining Beilein's staff for the 2016-17 season. Donlon, brought in to toughen up the defense, spent just one season at Michigan before he went home to join the staff at Northwestern, but it was more than enough time to appreciate just what he got to work with in Ann Arbor.

“Happy for him," said Donlon, who is a head coach again, at UMKC, hired in March. "He deserves only the best, and if this is a challenge that he wants to take on, awesome. His integrity, character, work ethic and knowledge of his craft — as good as there has ever been. The definition of a lifelong learner and teacher.”

Beilein's coaching tree also includes those who went from an assistant under him to eventually head coach elsewhere.

That includes LaVall Jordan, first at Milwaukee and now at Butler and a popular name to get a call from Michigan AD Warde Manuel in the coming weeks.

Bacari Alexander also spent six years on staff at Michigan before landing the head coaching job at Detroit Mercy, where he spent two seasons.

Alexander hasn't granted interviews since his firing at Detroit Mercy, but he is active on social media, and took to Twitter to praise Beilein on Monday.

"What’s most important to reflect on regarding John Beilein’s tenure at The University of Michigan is HOW HE DID IT," Alexander said on Twitter. "Character counts and integrity and ethics matter. He took the stairs to where he is and I lived every lesson learned under him. #Salute #uconscious"

Dakich has visions of getting into coaching and just finished a master's degree in sports coaching at Ohio State, and he's got quite a mentor in Beilein.

It was Beilein who was super supportive when Dakich wanted to finish his playing career with an increased role at Ohio State, Michigan's chief rival.

Dakich said Beilein "couldn't have been a better guy or mentor" during the transfer process.

"It's always been a great relationship," Dakich said. "He's done a phenomenal job, and he wants to challenge himself. He's literally gone from every possible level, JUCO, Division III, and now the pinnacle.

"That's the kind of competitor inside of him."

Rod Beard contributed to this report.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

 

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