Three months later, Michigan coach John Beilein still can’t help but wonder, “What if?”
What if the plane that was carrying the Michigan basketball team to the Big Ten Tournament on March 8 had gotten off the ground before aborting takeoff?
What if the plane didn’t stop short of the trees and ravine after skidding off the runway at Ypsilanti’s Willow Run Airport?
What if the pilot of the charter flight didn’t react as quickly as he did?
Aside from a few cuts and bruises, none of the players, team personnel and staff family members onboard were seriously injured in the accident.
The terrifying event captivated the college hoops world as the Wolverines pulled off a memorable postseason run, becoming the lowest seeded team to win the Big Ten Tournament title and coming within a shot of reaching the Elite Eight.
But the incident has forever changed Beilein’s outlook on life.
“What I think about right now is anybody that I meet or see anybody or my daughter (Seana) stops in to see us with the kids that God never promised you tomorrow. You may not see that person again,” Beilein said on 107.3 WBBL’s “The Huge Show” earlier this week. “I know that’s crazy to think of but God just never promised you tomorrow and you should seize the day.
“Getting off that plane was one thing and things could’ve turned out much differently and they didn’t. I can’t let that stop being in my brain what could’ve happened.”
Beilein said he’s learned to stay in the moment every day. He’s also embraced the old Latin phrase “carpe diem” as a reminder to enjoy the present and give little thought to the future.
However, that can be a bit tricky considering the hectic year-round schedule and daily duties of a Division I coach.
“It’s almost a laugh when people say, ‘Do you get any down time?’” Beilein said. “(Michigan State coach) Tom Izzo and I have no down time expect maybe the end of August when the kids are done with the summer session and waiting for September. We’ll get a couple of weeks to just relax but there’s never any down time anymore. We have to try and control that better and create your own down time and that’s what I’m going to do a better job of.”
And Beilein said he’s doing his best to live life with a renewed sense of appreciation and an attitude of gratitude.
“I’m trying to hang onto it every day. I don’t want to go back to where many coaches and businessmen get where you’re so caught in being successful in your career you never smell the roses,” Beilein said. “You just don’t pause in life to appreciate the little things that really are much more important than the next game.
“My thought is I will continue to trend to go back that way and I’ll have to fight it like crazy because that’s the creature that most have become.”