Beilein on Loyola: ‘They’re not Cinderella anymore’

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
John Beilein cuts down the net after the Wolverines' 58-54 victory against Florida State in the West Regional final.

For most people, reaching the Final Four would be the greatest moment of their week, year or life.

It wasn’t even the highlight of Michigan coach John Beilein’s weekend.

One day after Michigan beat Florida State, 58-54, Saturday at the Staples Center in the West Region final, John and his wife, Kathleen, received a gift that meant more than a trip to San Antonio.

Their son, Patrick, and daughter-in-law, Kristen, welcomed a new addition to the family — Thomas Patrick.

“That was better than (making the Final Four),” Beilein said Monday on a Final Four coaches teleconference call. “The next morning (on Sunday) we found out via text. We didn't even know they'd gone to the hospital yet, and all of a sudden the picture of Thomas Patrick was on the phone.

“That brought tears to our eyes. Getting to the Final Four did not bring tears to my eyes. That did.”

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It was just another memorable moment for the Beilein family in a month that has been filled with them.

Patrick led Le Moyne — the same school John coached at from 1983-92 — to its best season in program history, winning 27 games before falling in a NCAA Division II quarterfinal against West Texas A&M last week and giving his dad a run for his money for bragging rights as the family’s coach of the year.

Meanwhile, Beilein and the Wolverines are in the midst of a 13-game win streak — the longest since Michigan won its first 16 games to open the 2012-13 season — and have already set a program record with 32 wins this season.

He has also guided Michigan to its second straight Big Ten tournament title — becoming the third school to achieve the feat — and to its second Final Four appearance in six seasons, where the Wolverines (32-7) will take on No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago (32-5) in a national semifinal Saturday at the Alamodome.

More: Porter Moser keeps Loyola-Chicago's focus on the court

"It never has been the goal to be in the Final Four. It would be nice to get there,” Beilein said. “If the goal was to do your best every day and try to mentor and teach every kid and it led to the Final Four, then that's great. But it's never been the goal. Getting there one time — the way we did it with a last-second shot against Kansas to go into overtime (in the Sweet 16 in 2013) and then being able to go and have some success (was good).

“I knew that to get there you have to be very fortunate. There's great teams that don't get there, and it's not as much about coaching. It’s players. It’s like somebody like Jordan Poole throwing in a 35-foot shot (against Houston) with his legs spread. You're going to have those breaks some years…It's just great to be there, and we're just going to do the very best we can.”

All that stands between Michigan and a shot to take home the program’s first national title since 1989 is this season’s Cinderella team.

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The Ramblers ripped off three wins in three days to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and get a ticket to the Big Dance. Once inside, they have captivated the nation with Sister Jean and four straight upsets — including thrilling wins by a combined four points over No. 6 seed Miami (Fla.), No. 3 seed Tennessee and No. 7 seed Nevada — to become the fourth 11-seed among the last four standing since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

It’s a feel-good story that even Beilein appreciates. But he also knows America’s darling doesn’t just make it this far by accident.

“It's fantastic. I went to a Jesuit college, Wheeling Jesuit College, Wheeling Jesuit University. I spent 14 years at two Jesuit schools (Le Moyne and Canisius) and have a lot of admiration for the Jesuit education, and also for small colleges, small universities having this opportunity,” Beilein said. “I’ve seen the great stories of the so-called Cinderella teams. They're not Cinderella anymore. When you win 30 games, you're not a Cinderella team, you're really good, and this team is really, really, really — that's three reallys — good.

“Everybody knows it that has played them, and I know that will be our biggest thing, to make sure our kids know that…We've got our work cut out for us.”


Michigan vs. Loyola-Chicago

Tip-off: Saturday, 6:09 p.m., Alamodome, San Antonio

TV/radio: TBS/950 AM

Records: No. 3 seed Michigan 32-7; No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago 32-5

Up next: Winner advances to Monday’s national championship game against Villanova-Kansas winner.