'Perfect fit': Michigan basketball coach John Beilein to take Cleveland Cavaliers job

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan coach John Beilein thought about making a jump to the NBA last year.

This time around, Beilein is actually taking the leap.

Beilein, Michigan basketball’s all-time winningest coach, has agreed to become the next head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Michigan head coach John Beilein speaks during a news conference.

The news was first reported Monday by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who reported that Beilein, 66, agreed to a five-year deal over the weekend. A University of Michigan athletics spokesman confirmed Beilein's departure before the Cavaliers made the hiring official.

"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 released by the Cavaliers. "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 (owner) Dan Gilbert and (general manager) 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.”

Beilein's exit brings an end to an impressive 12-year run where he guided Michigan to nine 20-plus win seasons, nine NCAA Tournament appearances, two Big Ten regular-season championships, two conference tournament titles, and two national championship game appearances.

Known for his ability to develop talent, Beilein has had nine Wolverines selected in the NBA Draft since 2011 — Darius Morris, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner — with seven being first-round picks.

Beilein, who was 278-150 at Michigan, is the only coach in program history to record back-to-back seasons with at least 30 wins and holds the program mark for wins in a single season (33 in 2017-18). He also owns an 829-468 career record in his 41 seasons at the college level, which includes previous stops at Nazareth, Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia.

After guiding the Wolverines to the national title game in 2018, Beilein led Michigan to a 30-win season in 2018-19, and a berth in the Sweet Sixteen for the fifth time in seven years, where it fell to eventual national runner-up Texas Tech.

The Wolverines appeared poised to return the majority of their top players from that team, but Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole announced shortly after the season they would test the NBA waters. Matthews and Poole since have said they will remain in the NBA Draft and won't return to Michigan, while Brazdeikis — the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year — hasn't announced whether he'll return.

Beilein flirted with an opportunity in the NBA last summer, interviewing for the head-coaching vacancy with the Detroit Pistons, before removing his name from consideration and opting to remain in Ann Arbor. He was never offered the job.

At the time, Beilein said he found the Pistons situation appealing for several reasons, including the proximity to his family and the fact NBA coaches actually have downtime in the offseason. The biggest draw, though, was the challenge and the chance to prove he can succeed at the highest level.

"Tell me I can't do something and I'm about to do it," Beilein said at the time. "I had a very good college coach come up to me when I came to Michigan and say, 'Are you crazy? Why are you going to a train wreck like Michigan?’ I said, 'That's exactly why I came to Michigan.' That's what we like to do. So, those things sometimes are motivating.”

Following his talks with the Pistons, Beilein and Michigan agreed to a contract extension that would have kept him in Ann Arbor through the 2022-23 season. He was set to make $3.8 million annually through the length of his deal, which ranked No. 10 nationally this past season among men's college basketball coaches.

According to the contract details, if Beilein opted to leave Michigan anytime before April 15, 2023, he was required to provide "reasonable advance written notice of the termination of his employment." He won't be required to pay a buyout.

Starting on April 16, the contract automatically extended for an additional year, as it would each subsequent year April 16, absent notice otherwise from either side, meaning Beilein was to stay on until at least April 2024.

Prior to Beilein re-signing with Michigan, athletic director Warde Manuel had discussed offering Beilein a lifetime contract and had hoped Ann Arbor would be the final stop of his coaching career.

"I was saddened when John told me this morning of his decision to leave Michigan for a head coaching position in the NBA," Manuel said in a statement. "However, I am incredibly thankful for his 12 years of service to this university. Above and beyond being our all-time winningest coach, John is a tremendous role model for the game of college basketball.

"He is an outstanding educator, community member and a man of great integrity, and he and (wife) Kathleen will be missed. My priority now is to commence a full national search for our next basketball coach."

Beilein replaces Larry Drew, who finished last season as the head coach after Tyronn Lue was fired six games into the campaign, and will take over a Cavaliers team that went 19-63 following the free-agency departure of star LeBron James last offseason.

The Cavs are owned by Gilbert, a billionaire entrepreneur and Quicken Loans Inc. chairman, and Altman's assistant GM, Mike Gansey, played two seasons under Beilein at West Virginia.

Beilein is expected to be formally introduced as the Cavs' head coach sometime next week.

“We could not be more thrilled to name John Beilein as the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” 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."

Detroit News staff writer James David Dickson contributed.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins