In an out-of-nowhere bit of NBA coaching news that I have at this point quintuple-checked to make sure it’s not coming from a Fake Woj account, University of Michigan head coach John Beilein is leaving Ann Arbor to try and save the sinking ship that is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two-time national runner-up, two-time Big Ten champion, and two-time Big Ten tournament champion will sign a five-year deal worth an unspecified amount of money to take over a 19-63 Cavaliers team in desperate need of a draft pick like Zion Williamson to lift them out of the trash can.
Before the Pistons hired Dwane Casey last offseason, there were plenty of reports that Beilein was considering that jump to the NBA to coach in Detroit, but there was dead silence ahead of this Cleveland hiring. According to Woj, the Cavs like Beilein because he’s a “culture driver” and because assistant GM Mike Gansey made an Elite Eight with him as a player at West Virginia. The organization itself, under the capricious ownership of Dan Gilbert, also couldn’t have been a very attractive spot for a coach with NBA experience to land; taking a chance on an outsider might have been their only option.
Beilein is jumping from the Big Ten at the right time, even if his new job’s attractiveness requires some hope that the Cavs hit their 14 percent shot at the first overall pick in the draft (as well as a tremendous amount of faith that Collin Sexton will develop into an NBA point guard). The coach who in 12 seasons rebuilt Michigan into a basketball school and just made the Sweet 16 with his most talented squad since 2013 would have faced a thankless challenge in the upcoming year, with as many as three of his five starters leaving early for the NBA and his other two entering their senior years. Frustration with recruiting and quick roster turnover, ESPN says, is what prompted Beilein’s move. If his owner has patience, the 66-year-old is certainly inheriting a lengthy and difficult project where he won’t feel pressured to produce postseason results for at least another few years. But at least it’s a franchise with better prospects than Detroit.