Reports: Ex-Michigan man John Beilein on his way out as Cavs coach

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

John Beilein said he would've kicked himself not ever knowing how he'd fare as an NBA coach.

Now he knows, and he still might be kicking himself.

Beilein, the longtime Michigan coach who abruptly left after last season to take the job as head coach of Dan Gilbert's Cleveland Cavaliers, appears already to be on his way out, according to multiple reports Sunday night.

Cavaliers coach John Beilein guided the Wolverines to the championship game twice in his 12-year tenure at Michigan.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Beilein and the Cavaliers were talking about a possible split, with a decision expected in the coming days. The Athletic then quickly followed up with a report that Beilein isn't expected to coach beyond this season.

Beilein, 67, signed a five-year contract in May, a deal that's believed to pay him more than $5 million a year.

But he was stepping into a dire situation in Cleveland, with no LeBron James, and coaching for a franchise that'd hired and fired five of them since 2010.

Predictably, things have gone sour, with the Cavaliers — who recently traded for Pistons big man Andre Drummond — 14-40, second-worst in the NBA, and worst in the Eastern Conference.

Beilein also made headlines for the wrong reasons this season, when word leaked that he had used the word "thugs" in addressing his players. He said he meant to use the word "slugs."

"I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving," Beilein told ESPN at the time. "We weren't playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That's what I was trying to say. I've already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand."

There also was a lengthy report in The Athletic that detailed players' displeasure with Beilein, anonymously.

Beilein was Michigan's coach from 2007-19, turning a moribund program back into a national power, twice making the national championship game and nine times making the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan was his latest stop on what is now a 41-year run in college coaching, from the junior-college ranks, to West Virginia, and eventually to Michigan, with a couple other stops along the way.

But the game had changed greatly, with recruiting getting tougher and requiring long hours, and college football and basketball seemingly heading toward a free-agent system with players.

Beilein, in short, was tired, and had health issues to consider, too, having had heart surgery in August 2018.

So he made the leap.

But the NBA long has been a tough transition for lifelong college coaches, with a coach's X's and O's acumen — and few can claim a better basketball IQ than Beilein — often falling on deaf ears among the NBA's giant egos, and it appears as if the league has chewed up and spit out another legendary coach. Michigan State's Tom Izzo flirted with the Cavaliers a decade ago, but stayed put.

It remains to be seen if Beilein wants to get back into the college game — he instantly would become easily the most sought-after coach on the market — or if he decides he has had enough, like the NBA seems to have decided with him.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984