The following is a short history of how John Beilein changed the culture of the Michigan Basketball program. In six seasons he has completely revitalized Michigan Basketball and firmly established himself as one of the best coaches in school history.
In 2007, John Beilein inherited a Michigan Basketball program that was stuck in neutral, playing in a decaying arena with an underachieving roster. His first season at Michigan was a rocky one, the Wolverines finished with a 10-22 record and little reason for optimism, at least from those not close to the program. The next season, led by Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims and a pair of overachieving freshmen, Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, the Wolverines rode a late season surge all the way into the NCAA Tournament. In a bit of a rebuilding mode, Michigan struggled the following season with a sub .500 record (15-17). From that point on, with Beilein methodically changing the culture of the program, Michigan Basketball has been on a steady rise back to the top of the college basketball heap.
The Douglass and Novak era was in full swing during Beilein’s fourth season at Michigan. They ensured the Wolverines would play good, hard team basketball. The emergence of point guard Darius Morris and his excellence in the open court, helped propel the Wolverines to a 21-14 record. They thrashed Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and nearly advanced to the Sweet 16, before ultimately losing to Duke, when Morris’ potential game-tying shot bounced off the rim at the buzzer. Morris decided to jump to the NBA after the season and their was great concern about the point guard position. However, Beilein’s keen recruiting eye had already found the answer in the form of 3-star point guard Trey Burke from, of all places, Columbus, Ohio.
Trey Burke was a revelation at point guard for Michigan and a key factor in the Wolverines claiming their first Big Ten championship in 26 years. The season fizzled out with an opening round loss to Ohio in the NCAA Tournament. It marked the end of the Douglass/Novak era and it nearly marked the end of the Trey Burke era, but the fabulous freshman eventually decided to return to school and let his NBA dream wait for one more year. It turned out to be a brilliant decision for Burke and a stroke of great fortune for Michigan Basketball.
The first sign that this was going to be a special season was when Michigan coasted to a relatively easy pre-season NIT championship. They wound up reeling of 16 straight victories to start the season, which tied a school record for most consecutive wins to start a season. The hot-start launched Michigan to the top of the polls before they eventually lost their first game of the season. The Wolverines closed out the regular season at home against Indiana with a share of their second consecutive Big Ten title on the line. The game ended in heartache when Jordan Morgan’s potential game-winning shot inexplicably rolled off the rim. The season, however, was far from over for the Wolverines.
Michigan opened the NCAA Tournament with an easy victory over South Dakota State. They were a popular pick to be upset in the round of 32 by VCU, instead Michigan thrashed the Rams and Mitch McGary’s star began to rise. In a Sweet 16 match up with #1 seed Kansas, Michigan fell behind by 14 late in the second half and it appeared that the season might be over. That’s when Trey Burke went to work and ignited an improbable comeback that was capped by a Burke triple from way beyond the arc that sent the game into OT. In the extra session, Michigan powered past the Jayhawks and into the Elite 8. Behind a Nik Stauskas shooting barrage Michigan ambushed Florida in the regional final and marched on to their first Final Four in 20 years.
They were matched up with another #1 seed, Syracuse, in a national semi-final. It was a hard fought game, but Michigan was able to pull away from the Orange and Jordan Morgan capped the victory with a thunderous breakaway slam at the buzzer. In the national championship game, U-M was matched up with yet another #1 seed, Louisville. Things were looking promising in the first half when Spike Albrecht went bananas, scoring 17 points, including 4-5 from three-point range. Powered by Albrecht’s breakout performance, the Wolverines opened up a 12 point lead. Unfortunately, Luke Hancock went on a three-point barrage of his own to pull the Cardinals back within striking distance. In what was one of the most entertaining national finals in recent memory, Michigan fell short in an 82-76 classic.
Since the turn of the century, Michigan had a grand total of three players selected in the NBA Draft; Jamal Crawford (2000), Bernard Robinson Jr (2004) and Darius Morris (2011). One of the knocks on John Beilein was, that during his long coaching career, he had not developed NBA players. Well, that became a moot point after the historic 2012-13 season, as Michigan had 4 players contemplating leaving early for the NBA Draft. In the end Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr both decided to declare for the draft. Meanwhile freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III were being assured of their first round status, but both players decided to return to Michigan.
[Michigan Basketball and the NBA Draft: A History]
Burke was selected #9 overall by Minnesota and was later traded to the Utah Jazz. Tim Hardaway Jr was scooped up in the first round by the New York Knicks at #24. Early projections for the 2014 NBA Draft have McGary and Robinson both going in the first round of a deep and talented draft pool. Michigan’s roster is now littered with future NBA players and more are on their way, all three of Michigan’s incoming freshmen are top 100 recruits.
John Beilein’s excellence
Beilein has achieved a rapidly growing list of impressive accomplishments in his six seasons at Michigan. Here are just a few of them:
Has led Michigan to the NCAA Tournament in four of his six seasons, including three consecutive appearances.
During the 2008-09 season, he directed the largest single season turnaround in school history.
In just six seasons in Ann Arbor, Beilein has won 122 games, putting him fourth on Michigan’s all-time wins list.
During the 2011-12 season, Beilein led Michigan to its first Big Ten regular season championship in 26 years.
During the 2012-13 season, Beilein took Michigan to the Final Four for the first time in 20 years.
Three of John Beilein’s Wolverines have been drafted to the NBA.
Michigan’s 31 wins in 2012-13 tied a school record for the most wins in a season.
The upcoming season is full of promise for Michigan. John Beilein has a very talented roster to work with and as talented as the roster is, the players are equally impressive off the court. They are easy to root for and a joy to watch play the game of basketball.
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