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John Beilein’s NBA fit isn’t as perfect as you think

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The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the college basketball world on Monday morning, as they officially hired Michigan head coach John Beilein, a 66-year old that began his coaching career with Newfane High School in 1975, to a five-year deal to become their newest head coach.

It’s the ultimate rags-to-riches story, as Beilein went through every level of the sport — from high school, to junior college, to Division III then Division II and then from Canisius to Richmond and West Virginia before arriving in Ann Arbor in 2007 — before landing an NBA gig.

And in theory, he is a perfect fit at the NBA level.

In practice, however, I am not convinced that this is going to be a great fit.

Let’s start with the good: If there are any coaches at the college level that are better suited to coach offense in the NBA than John Beilein, you can probably count them on one hand.

He wants to space the floor. He wants to shoot plenty of threes. In the last seven or eight seasons, he’s turned his program into one that relies as heavily on ball-screens as anyone. And he’s done this to great success. Beilein’s Michigan teams have reached the national title game in 2013 and 2018. He advanced to the Elite Eight in 2014. He won the 2017 and 2018 Big Ten tournament titles. He won the league’s regular season title in 2012 and 2014, finished a game out of first place this past season and, four times in the last seven years, he had a team that ranked in the top 12 nationally, according to KenPom.

He’s also adaptable. Back when he was at Richmond and West Virginia, and even in the early days of his tenure at Michigan, the offense he ran was essentially the cross-breeding of the Princeton and Motion. Backcuts, plenty of screens, bigs that could shoot and guards that could post. But as the game changed and the talent in his program started to look more modern, Beilein changed. He put Trey Burke in roughly 10 million ball-screens during his Player of the Year season in 2013. He did the same with Nik Stauskas, and Caris LeVert, and Zavier Simpson. He found a way to make the pieces work, and it led to plenty of wins — and plenty of NBA players — despite the fact that Michigan wasn’t recruiting surefire pros.

Since Beilein arrived at Michigan in 2007, 13 of his players have reached the NBA. Ten of those 13 have come in the last six years, and just four of the 13 were top-40 prospects, according to Rivals. Glenn Robinson III is the only player Beilein has sent to the league that was a surefire pro regardless of where he spent his college days.

Tim Hardaway Jr. was a three-star recruit that Beilein helped turn into a guy that averaged 18.1 points in the NBA this past season. Burke was a borderline top 100 player from Columbus, Ohio, that Ohio State passed over. LeVert was committed to Ohio before going to Michigan. Hell, he turned Division III transfer Duncan Robinson into an NBA player.

“He’s always tinkering with his stuff on the day-to-day,” Robinson told me last year. “Within a season, as the year goes along, he gets a much better understanding of who he has on his team. That’s why they always play their best basketball at the end of the season. He figures out what exactly he has at his disposal.”

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Even as he hit his mid-60s, Beilein was not averse to change. He recognized the issues that he had on the defensive end of the floor, so he went out and hired Luke Yaklich to be his defensive coordinator, and that led to a national title run in 2018 and last year’s finish as a top ten team in the country.

Strictly from a basketball perspective, Beilein should be a great NBA coach.

But it’s not quite that simple.

For starters, he’s something of a micro-manager when it comes to what he wants to run. Where someone like Jay Wright or Roy Williams doesn’t really run set plays, Beilein is meticulous in calling out sets offensively. He wants his players to do exactly what he thinks up on every possession, and that’s not the way it works in the NBA. It’s a player’s league, and it’s fair to wonder how a 66-year old that has spent the last four decades working at a level where the head coach has all the power will adjust to the NBA, where the players have control. How will he handle guys talking back in practice? How will he handle players not practicing everyday? There’s going to be a big adjustment there for him.

“Can he embrace being a rookie?” one former NBA player said of his biggest concern with Beilein in the NBA. “Steve Kerr, with all his NBA experience, embraced his players calling him a rook. Brad Stevens embraced that he didn’t know [all he needed to know]. David Blatt fought it. Will John Beilein fight it?”

And that’s before we get into the whole terminology deal.

In the NBA, the language is more or less universal. Every coach essentially speaks the same language in regards to every action, every set and every call defensively. Whether you’re with the Knicks or the Warriors or whoever, it’s the same, because everyone in the NBA is learning from someone already in the NBA.

Beilein’s terminology is completely off the wall, and that’s because he invented his own basketball system. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his career is that in 44 years in the profession, he’s never been an assistant coach. He didn’t learn directly from anyone. He built it from the ground up himself, adding layers each year he’s been on the job.

“He comes up with a phrase that makes sense to him,” Jeff Neubauer, Fordham’s head coach who spent eight seasons on Beilein’s staff, told me in October. “If there was something he was trying to name and anyone would recommend a name for it, it probably wouldn’t fly. It had to be something that made sense to him.

“The classic one that he’s had in his vernacular forever is a play that’s called ‘Harry’. The reason it’s called ‘Harry’ is because the person that catches the ball at the top of the key holds the ball, and the word ‘hold’ starts with H and ‘Harry’ starts with H. So 30 years ago, ‘hold’ became ‘Harry’. Everything has a name that, in his brain, makes sense.

“It’s coded. His is exactly the opposite of what anyone in basketball would call it, and that’s the way he likes it.”

Beilein has made adjustments before, and they’ve worked out incredibly well.

He has been successful everywhere he has been in his career, and I hesitate to bet against someone that has found a way to make it work at every stop over the course of four decades.

I just think that Beilein’s move to the NBA is going to be more difficult that some will lead you to believe.

Because, at the end of the day, coaching an NBA team is about more than simply being able to scheme up new ways to get Kevin Love open.

Wife, daughter of Wisconsin assistant Howard Moore killed in car accident

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The Wisconsin basketball program officially confirmed an awful piece of news on Sunday morning: Assistant coach Howard Moore was involved in a tragic accident early on Saturday morning that claimed the life of his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Jaidyn.

Howard and his son, Jerell, were both injured in the accident but are expected to recover.

“There are no words to describe how devastated we are for Howard and his family,” head coach Greg Gard said in a statement. “Our basketball program is an extremely close family and we are all grieving for the Moore and Barnes families. Howard is so much more than a colleague and coach. He and Jen and their children are dear friends to everyone they meet. Their positivity and energy lift up those around them. We will miss Jen and Jaidyn dearly and we will put our arms around Howard and Jerell and the entire family, giving them love and support during this unspeakable time.”

According to Michigan state police, the Moore family was driving on a highway in Ann Arbor, Mich., at about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning when they were struck head-on by a car driven by a 23-year old woman going the wrong way on the highway. The woman driving the other car died at the scene.

“I’ve known Howard ever since he was a student-athlete at Wisconsin and gotten to know his wonderful family through the years,” director of athletics Barry Alvarez said. “He has always been an incredible representative of our athletic department and a positive influence on everyone around him. We are truly heart-broken for his family and will be doing everything possible to help him through this tragic time. Our prayers, love and support go out to the Moore and Barnes family.”

NCAA reverses ruling on Silvio De Sousa, clears him for 2019-20 season

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Silvio De Sousa’s appeal has been approved.

On Friday afternoon, the NCAA announced that they will be reversing their original decision, allowing the Kansas center to be eligible to play during the 2019-20 season. He was suspended for the entirety of the 2018-19 season.

“Kansas appealed the NCAA staff decision of a two-season withholding to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, which determined additional relief was appropriate,” the NCAA said in a statement.

This decision came just hours after De Sousa’s final appeal formal appeal and not a moment too soon; Wednesday marks the final day that players that have declared for the NBA draft can withdraw and return to school. It is unlikely that De Sousa would get drafted should he be forced to leave his name in the draft.

The NCAA originally determined in February that De Sousa would have to sit out the remainder of the 2018-19 season and the entire 2019-20 season after allegations arose that his guardian, Fenny Falmagne, had accepted at least $20,000 in order to steer De Sousa to Kansas. These allegations arose as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

De Sousa was a freshman during the 2017-18 season, averaging 4.0 points and 3.7 boards as Kansas made a run to the Final Four. He will join Udoka Azubuike and David McCormick in the Jayhawks oversized frontline.

NCAA president Mark Emmert made $2.9 million in 2017

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Mark Emmert holds the top job of a major organization. It oversees thousands of people and generates billions in revenue. It’s not surprising the guy makes a lot of money.

It always just looks silly, though, as Emmert is the president of the NCAA, which does not allow its athletes compensation beyond the scholarships schools give them. So, we’ll take a minute to highlight that silliness here.

Emmert, who has led the NCAA since 2010, made $2.9 million in net compensation in 2017, USA TODAY reports after examining the organization’s tax filing.

The 66-year-old was credited with $3.9 million in total compensation, but $1 million of a deferred $1.4 million payment had been reported in prior years, according to USA TODAY.

Three other NCAA executives cleared $1 million in salary in 2017.

Again, given the scope, size and profitability of college sports, it’s not surprising that Emmert and his execs are well compensated, but it’s always worth pointing out that finances in college athletics – from administrative and coaching salaries to facilities to travel – are all inflated because athletes are prohibited from taking part in the profit-taking.

With news coming that athletes could be in line to profit off their name and likeness sometime in the near future and the NBA signaling the end of the one-and-done era, there is progress in player compensation, but during that time, there are a lot of checks getting cashed without players’ names on them.

Seven returning collegians among Team USA U19 invites

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USA Basketball is welcoming seven sophomores among its 34 total invitees to training camp next month ahead of the FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece.

Incoming freshmen and Class of 2020 will vie for 12 roster spots with Kansas State coach Bruce Weber helming the team and being assisted by Washington’s Mike Hopkins and North Carolina Central’s LaVelle Moton.

The returning college players garnering invites are Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine), Tyrse Haliburton (Iowa State), Kira Lewis (Alabama), Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State), Trevion Williams (Purdue) and Bryce Willis (Stanford), along with Jayden Scrubb from the junior college ranks.

“The committee is excited at the level of talent that will be at training camp for the USA U19 World Cup team, and we expect to have a difficult decision trying to narrow down the group to 12 team members,” Matt Painter, Purdue coach and cahr of the junior national team committee, said in a statement.

R.J. Hampton, Samuell Williamson, Scottie Barnes and Jalen Suggs are some of the headliners from the group of players without college experience.

Sophomores

Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine/Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)

Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State/Oshkosh, Wis.)

Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama/Meridianville, Ala.)

Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State/Mansfield, Texas)

Jayden Scrubb (John A. Logan College/Louisville, Ky.)

Trevion Williams (Purdue/Chicago, Ill.)

Bryce Wills (Stanford/White Plains, N.Y.).

Incoming freshmen

Eric Dixon (Abington H.S./William Grove, Pa.)

Dajuan Gordon (Curie H.S./Chicago, Ill.)

R.J. Hampton (Little Elm H.S./Little Elm, Texas)

Justin Moore(DeMatha Catholic H.S./Accokeek, Md.)

Casey Morsell (St. John’s College H.S./Washington, D.C.)

Zeke Nnaji (Hopkins H.S./Hopkins, Minn.)

Isaac Okoro (McEachern H.S./Powder Springs, Ga.)

Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills H.S./Chino, Calif.)

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (IMG Academy, FL/Overland Park, Kan.)

Isaiah Stewart (La Lumiere School, IN/Rochester, N.Y.)

Anton Watson (Gonzaga Prep/Spokane, Wash.)

Mark Watts Jr. (SPIRE Institute/Pontiac, Mich.)

Romeo Weems (New Haven H.S./Chesterfield, Mich.)

Samuell Williamson (Rockwall H.S./Rockwall, Texas).

Class of 2020

Scottie Barnes (University School/West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Nimari Burnett (Prolific Prep, Calif./Chicago, Ill.)

Joshua Christopher (Mayfair H.S./Lakewood, Calif.)

Sharife Cooper (McEachern H.S./Powder Springs, Ga.)

Cade Cunningham (Montverde Academy, Fla./Arlington, Texas)

Hunter Dickinson (DeMatha Catholic H.S., Md./Alexandria, Va.)

Jalen Green(Prolific Prep/Fresno, Calif.)

Walker Kessler (Woodward Academy/Newnan, Ga.)

Caleb Love (Christian Brothers College H.S./St. Louis, Mo.)

Evan Mobley (Rancho Christian School/Temecula, Calif.)

Ethan Morton (Butler H.S./Butler, Pa.)

Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy/Minneapolis, Minn.)

Ziaire Williams (Notre Dame H.S./Sherman Oaks, Calif.).

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey: Transferring players need ‘deterrent’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The NCAA is granting too many waivers allowing players who transfer to compete immediately, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said Wednesday, calling the requirement that players sit out a year a useful “deterrent” to players switching schools.

Brey made his comments at a meeting of the Knight Commission, a nonprofit that pushes for reform in college sports. While the commission has not taken a position on transfer waivers, it often advocates for players being given more freedom to pursue their professional ambitions.

“As coaches we’re concerned about the number of waivers, to the point where the NCAA has given too much of a blueprint on how to get a waiver,” Brey said. “Kids feel they can go and, you know, bring up enough of a case to get eligible right away. So they’re more apt to want to go.”

In April 2018, the NCAA relaxed its waiver requirements, allowing a transferring player to suit up immediately if there are “documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete.”

During the 2018-19 academic year, 79 men’s basketball players requested waivers and 44 were granted, a 56% success rate, according to NCAA data. Men’s basketball accounted for 33% of all waiver requests, the NCAA said.

Commission co-chairman Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education, declined to comment on waivers but lauded the “transparency” of the NCAA’s transfer portal, in which players submit their names if they want to switch schools.

Brey said he believes players should be free to transfer and that it’s up to coaches to make their players want to stay, but he said sitting out a year can be beneficial and prevents players from transferring for immature or capricious reasons.

“It’s a bit of a deterrent for a kid. The year in residency saves kids from themselves sometimes,” Brey said. “I’ve seen some kids then come back, stick it out, and now they’re in the lineup and they come back five years later and go, ‘I was an idiot.’ Because every kid thinks about (transferring) when he’s not playing.”

ROADBLOCKS TO REFORM

Brey’s comments were one of a few examples from Wednesday’s meeting of the basketball establishment pushing back against reforms that would give players more autonomy or promote transparency about the way schools profit from college athletics.

The Knight Commission is pushing the NCAA to release to the public the financial details of contracts between athletic departments and shoe and apparel companies, a proposal that has not gained much traction. In the past, the commission has persuaded the NCAA to release graduation rates and other financial data, including compensation for coaches.

“The shoe companies, there has to be agreement across the board, that there has to be willingness and openness to share all those records. Candidly, I think more work needs to be done,” said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president for Division I governance. “We don’t control all the third parties and their ability to cooperate with us. More conversation needs to continue to occur within the NCAA and between the NCAA and the third parties if we want to move the ball.”

Two NBA executives told the commission the league is in talks with the players’ union about lowering the NBA’s minimum age to 18, prompted largely by a recommendation by the Commission on College Basketball to rid the sport of the “one-and-done rule.”

But even that proposal is meeting some resistance in the NBA. David Krichavsky, the league’s senior vice president and head of youth basketball development, said some in the league would rather raise the age limit than lower it.

“Many teams and general managers would still be in favor of going to 20, given the additional scouting information you receive on players, seeing them compete at the NCAA level for two years after high school,” Krichavsky said, “but at the same time we recognize that the world has changed and will continue to change.”

COACHES BEHAVING BADLY

Brey, the president of the board of directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said he’d like to see coaches reach a consensus about how to police their own behavior.

An ongoing federal investigation into illicit payments made to players during the recruiting process led Louisville to fire longtime coach Rick Pitino, but some other coaches implicated in the probe have held onto their jobs. Brey said schools ought to move more aggressively to fire coaches for cause when they violate NCAA rules.

“We all have clauses in our contracts about NCAA rules and behavior, all of us. If those are violated, doesn’t that start on the campuses?” Brey said. “And no question the NABC could make a stronger stand. We have not maybe been as vocal about some of the things that have gone on.”