Did a Woj-bomb keep college basketball from losing John Beilein to the NBA?
According to the man himself, yes.
Brendan Quinn, the Michigan beat writer over at the athletic, sat down with Beilein after the Michigan head coach announced that he would be pulling his name out of the running for the Detroit Pistons job and said as much. He didn’t want his candidacy to become a long, drawn-out story.
“I didn’t want this be one of these things: ‘Hey, the NBA called me,’” Beilein said, mock-pounding his chest, King Kong-style. “I didn’t want it to be that way. I wanted it to be, ‘Hey, let’s talk, let’s listen. If it’s a good match, great. If it’s not, it’s not.’ But then I hated the drama. I hated the attention on myself.”
That sounds about right. Beilein has never been the most media friendly coach, a stark contrast from his counterpart in East Lansing.
The cynic in me wonders if Beilein saw the writing on the wall, if he knew he was the second option for the Pistons brass behind Dwayne Casey and if he knew his best shot at getting the job was if someone else said no. A weeks-long chase of a job he doesn’t get is a really easy way to fall behind in recruiting and convince the players on your roster that you don’t actually want to be on campus.
And personally, I have my doubts about how well Beilein would have fit in an NBA locker room. The x’s-and-o’s wouldn’t be a problem — a pick-and-roll heavy offense contingent on creating mismatches and floor-spacing is the modern NBA — but the way he’s wired could be. What makes coaches like Steve Kerr, Brad Stevens and Ty Lue successful is their ability to relinquish control and let their stars be stars, egos and all. Stevens walked into Boston with that midwest charm and a humility that said he doesn’t know everything even if he probably does. Kerr had no issue being called “rookie” when he took his first head coaching gig. Lue knows his job is to essentially be a sounding board for LeBron, someone that finds a way to make the things LeBron wants to do work.
Beilein ceding control of his defense this season makes me wonder if this is, in fact, a bad take, but after speaking with coaches around the country, that — and Beilein’s legendarily strange terminology — seemed to be what his contemporaries thought would be the biggest obstacle.
But none of that matters now.
Beilein is back in Ann Arbor.
And Wolverines fans have Woj to thank.