John Beilein admits he regrets pointing out the Cleveland Cavaliers were no longer playing “like a bunch of thugs” during a team meeting on Wednesday.
Per a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Beilen claims to have mistakenly used the racially inflammatory term while reviewing game tape during an off-day film session. Instead, the Cavaliers coach insists he meant to use the term “slugs,” and he later acknowledged the gravity of his gaffe.
“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein told ESPN on Wednesday night.
“I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. 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.”
Players reportedly were left stunned by Beilein’s use of the term and became more disturbed as the situation was processed, according to league sources.
The incident created such a stir that Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman was alerted and later reached out to Beilein to clarify what transpired. Altman is said to still be gathering information.
There were some questions whether Beilein’s style, developed during a lengthy collegiate coaching career that culminated in a successful 12-year stint with the Michigan Wolverines, would translate to the NBA, specifically how it would resonate with players.
Beyond this current controversy, there have been other problems in Cleveland for first-year NBA head coach. These include reported issues with Kevin Love, not to mention an apparent disconnect with some of the younger players on the roster.
It remains to be seen whether there will be further fallout from Beilein erroneously using a term with such overt racial connotations. With the Cavaliers near the cellar in the Eastern Conference with a 10-27 record, such an off-the-court distraction is obviously the last thing the Cavaliers needed.