John Beilein took the podium this afternoon with his starting line up, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas. Michigan’s players stuck around for 30 minutes while John Beilein was on the podium for an hour. Read the full transcript of the press conference below.
Q. Curious about in your career, as you started to get better players, more talented guys, were you tempted at all to maybe change your approach in terms of how to handle guys who maybe wanted to accelerate the process a little faster?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, no. Always thought that whatever we do, when I was coaching at the lower levels with really good players, said that if I could ever get to the point where I could recruit these five guys, that we would do a lot of the same things, but we just do ’em better.
As far as after that, we think we’re preparing kids for everything in life, whatever comes their way. We want them to be more skilled players. If their dreams are to play at a professional level afterwards, we study what people do at that level like crazy. Not as much to say, certainly it’s preparing them, but we want to win. So the better they can become, the better we’re going to be.
These young men have some really unlimited potential, and that’s why we’re coaching. But we don’t ever have the idea, We’re coaching these guys, we’re going to keep telling them they’re going to be great pros.
No, we’re saying, Let’s win at Michigan. Unpack your suitcase, and let’s win at Michigan, then the rest will take care of itself. Just like during the year, if we just take care of each game, you can be in the championship game one day. If all you talk about is the championship game, you might never get there.
Q. Coach and Mitch, Rick Pitino said when he watches Michigan on film, he has a lot of fun. Do you have fun watching Louisville on tape?
COACH BEILEIN: I started at 5:45 this morning watching them on film. Those two hours, I didn’t think they were fun because they give you so many different looks. With a one‑day prep, it’s almost impossible to get ready for all those things.
What you’re hoping is that you’ve been getting ready for that since October 15th. You don’t know whether you are, but just you got to dribble it strong, you got to pivot well, pass well, play with your eyes up. Those are things these guys have been working on all year long.
MITCH McGARY: I’m going to have fun no matter what, watching film, practicing. It’s what we love to do. We have a chance to play for a national championship against Louisville, a great team. Just going to go out and have fun.
Q. Tim and Trey, point guards and shooting guard scorers often have a delicate relationship. The point guard’s job is to get the ball to the right guy, and the scorer sometimes is having an off‑shooting night. Can you explain your relationship, how that has evolved over time. Sometimes it’s a delicate thing.
TREY BURKE: Well, me and Tim, we have a certain bond out there on the court. We know when one guy’s shot’s not falling. We just know how to attack different ways.
My shot wasn’t really falling yesterday and Tim’s wasn’t falling yesterday. We just try to find different ways to contribute, not only on offense, but on the defensive end which would give the team more of a spark.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: It all just plays out playing with each other in the summer on the same team, different team, knowing each other’s tendencies while playing with each other or against each other.
That just evolves onto the basketball court during the season, throughout the season. Like he said, we read each other really well out there. We had an off game yesterday. But we just try to do the best we can to distribute and contribute for our team and just find guys that were getting good looks and getting good shots.
Q. Do you think it’s harder for young coaches now to follow the path you took in your career? Do you think young coaches are patient enough?
COACH BEILEIN: As much as this has been a very fortuitous path, an interesting path, it’s been very fortuitous. My wife and I talked about this the other day because my son Patrick is a Division II coach. Whether people would ever trust a Division II coach to go to Division I. They should, but they probably don’t.
Things fell together at different times to allow me, with no Division I experience, my son played and been at two places at Division I, I had none. As a result, I believe that if you can coach, you can coach. But there’s a perception that you got to have a pedigree. You have to come up a certain tree in order to know how to coach.
There’s an awful lot of guys, I hope I’m holding some type of flag right now for all those Division II, Division III, NAIA, junior college coaches, who really were some of the best coaches I ever coached against, knowing that they could be here too right now if they had the same breaks I had.
Q. I think I read somewhere you were coming off the bench at Brewster last year. Can you talk about how much your game has developed in the last year since then? Coach, can you address how much Mitch’s game has elevated in the last year.
MITCH McGARY: You know, just being poised with the ball. A lot of confidence throughout the whole year, maturing, growing on and off the court has helped throughout the whole season. Just credit my teammate for the growth in my skill level. They’ve helped me a lot, pushed me through practices every day, just helped me throughout the whole season.
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, what we’ve seen from Mitch, he knows it well, is he’s got so much potential and so much talent that, I have a thing, that sometimes your strength can be your weakness.
So, you know, he’s so skilled, he sees so many things, maybe sometimes tries to do so much. We have a saying, Let’s be good before you’re great. In this tournament he’s played good. He’s made a good team, a great team, because he’s played that way.
His practice habits, his overall focus on the game continues to evolve. It was never bad. But it’s at a point where he realizes, Boy, this stuff works. He knows that, but he’s young. He continues to learn just like all my guys are young.
This guy, I have a feeling his performance in this last month of the season is going to propel him to even bigger and better things down the road.
Q. Trey and coach, Trey, you’re the leader of this team and won a lot of the big awards. Can you go back to your first practice at Michigan or your first game, what you thought of yourself then, what you expected for yourself that first day, and, John, what you thought.
TREY BURKE: Just tried to do what was best for the team. You know, when I came in as a freshman, I didn’t know what my role was going to be. But I was thrown right into the fire. Going to certain tournaments such as the Maui Invitational, playing in certain games, that’s allowed me to grow as a player. I think that definitely helped my development, as well as following behind leaders like Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. I had an opportunity to learn leadership skills from them my first year and allowed me to become the leader I am today.
COACH BEILEIN: What we saw with Trey coming in, we really loved his talent, and I could see it, especially in high school. I could see it in AAU. I saw a winner in high school. Really when he came in with Darius Morris, we had no idea he would be going to the NBA after that following year. So he was saying ‑ Darius was 6’5″‑ We could play with both guards together. You can also backup Darius.
You can recruit a point guard every two years, and he was that every other year. When Darius left to go to the Lakers, to go to the draft, we’re sitting with this freshman point guard. I’m saying, This is going to be a heck of a year for us to win with a freshman. After that Maui invitational, I had no doubt he was going to fill in beautifully, and he has ever since.
Q. Coach, everybody knows that the kids get excited about playing for the national championship. What is it like for a coach getting a team to a national championship game? Would you also reflect on coaching against Rick for a national title.
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I probably sound so boring about getting a team ready. This will be a normal prep. The only thing that’s not normal is things like this. We’ll be doing what we do. We’ll try to duplicate what we did before we ended up playing VCU, before we ended up playing Florida, that 48‑hour window where you’re trying to get your team ready and rest them.
They’ve been through this 38, 39 times. I want it to stay as normal for them as possible.
Rick Pitino and I are about the same age. He came through a different path than I, somewhat similar, starting out at Boston University, moving through the coaching ranks that way. I’ve watched his teams for a long time, bought his tapes back in the day when he was first putting out all those great tapes. He’s a guy I admire for the way he has always coached. He’s been a guy that’s not afraid to take on challenges.
It’s going to be thrilling to play on this night with these guys, putting Michigan back in this Final Four environment. Louisville happens to be an opponent, and a darn good one.
Q. Trey, does Louisville’s pressure defense remind you of anybody you played this year, and in what way?
TREY BURKE: It’s definitely similar to VCU’s pressure, Florida’s pressure. But I think it’s different because I think they rotate a lot of guys, keep guys fresh.
Then they have two really dynamic guards in Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. Me and the whole backcourt, our job is to try to limit our turnovers, attack their pressure as much as possible.
Q. John, going back to your unique path, even then did you ever think you would end up here in the Final Four playing for the national title in Division I? If you did, when did that start becoming part of your thoughts?
COACH BEILEIN: No, I probably never even thought about it, really. So much in mind with the task at hand. I always have worried about the next game when the next game came. The only time I ever ended up a season with a win was the NIT championship six years ago.
You just keep coaching. It’s really an eerie feeling when you get done, when you’re coaching a practice, you know that might be your last practice if you don’t play well, when your back is to the wall.
This is really strange to be in a situation where we know today is the last regular practice. Their film sessions are limited right now. You’re saying, Okay, this is it. There’s two teams playing, and it’s us and Louisville.
But I really never thought about that. I think I dreamed of getting teams and rebuilding teams to get in the NCAA tournament. I always thought if we just did our job, we would need breaks to go our way to get to this point. Breaks have gone our way. I have some of the greatest young talent and players I’ve ever been associated with. That’s helped more than all the breaks and all the coaching.
Q. What attracted you to Spike Albrecht and in what ways has he been an asset for this team?
COACH BEILEIN: As we went through the season last year, we could see this young man here needed some help, and Stu Douglass would give him a little help. He was playing 36, 38 minutes, maybe 40. We just wanted one guy who we could really trust, was going to come in and give him enough backup and would understand that role as well.
I watched Spike. I think at one time I had like 300 clips of him back to Crown Point, Mount Hermon, and I would watch them over and over again. People were going to think I’m crazy for taking this young man. At the same time we said this is exactly what we need in today’s age, a four‑year player that’s just going to work his tail off and loves the Big Ten and is going to challenge Trey Burke every day.
Little did we know we were going to get a kid that was going to make two threes last night. That was the first foul shot he missed last night. That we would get a young man that would continue to improve once he got here.
Q. You mentioned recruiting a point guard once every two years and Darius Morris leaving, somewhat of a surprise. Did that change the way you approached looking at a roster from year to year, knowing you may have guys who may make decisions that maybe you don’t have as much input in?
COACH BEILEIN: Would it change how we recruit? Here is my stance on the whole idea with the NBA when you’re coaching young men. I think if a kid is going to be a guarantee, one‑and‑doner, we’re only recruiting that kid if that kid’s dream is to go to Michigan, he wants to go there, he’s still going to go to study hall, class, be a great teammate, we’re not going to turn that kid down.
At the same point, young men we’ve recruited right now may have opportunities like that in the future. Those guys didn’t come in with that MO for the most part. They’ve developed where they’re great prospects.
You don’t know which way to go sometimes. I’m just going to continue to do the same thing: recruit young men who are going to unpack their bags and say Michigan is not a stopover, the University of Michigan is a destination. They’re going to make the most of every opportunity at that destination. If things work out for them that they have better opportunities, I’m all for it.
Q. John, I don’t know if you were at the ’89 Final Four championship game, but just curious your thoughts on if you watched it, what you thought about that game.
COACH BEILEIN: I was at the Final Four. I do not believe I stayed for the championship game. I might have come home early on that one.
Just watching that game, of course we all remember the foul called late when Rumeal went to the foul line. Every game that I’ve watched, it’s always thrilling to have a game where it goes down like the two games last night.
When I watch games, I probably don’t root for either team. What I do is look at what is that coach thinking right now, whether I’m watching NBA or current college games, what’s going on behind the scenes.
It takes away from the enjoyment of the game a little bit, but at the same time, in that game in Seattle, between that and the conventions, that was a very exciting time for me to go. I was a Division II coach. I think we were expecting maybe our fourth child. She might have made that trip with us. It was a great getaway for us to go to the Final Four, see all the big‑time coaches, watch great basketball.
I do remember this very vividly: I heard the victors, I heard the best fight song in the world. Kathleen and I looked at each other and said, That is the best fight song I have ever heard. That’s why it’s so eerie when I hear it today, that it ended up being my destination.
Q. John, can you reflect back on what your reaction was or how you reacted when Mitch first committed to you given he had offers from every place in the country, what your immediate thoughts were about how that may change your program.
COACH BEILEIN: As you know, Mitch, when he transferred to Brewster, where he had had a good career at Chesterton, it was a great influence on his life as well. As we went through the process, we had a young man named Zach Novak who was from Chesterton. He had told us so much about Mitch, about Mitch’s potential, that we felt we were in good shape with the recruiting process, but you don’t know. I’ve had my heartbroken several times.
I think when Mitch called us, we said we have a real chance right now to be real special because we had some really talented players lined up. Having a 6’10” player with his skill level, it can be a difference maker with teams. As he’s evolved this year, we’ve all seen how that’s happened.
Q. Nik, your thoughts on the thought you have been able to pick each other up. What has the coaching staff instilled that keeps you ready at a moment’s notice to step up in that circumstance?
NIK STAUSKAS: I think it speaks volumes about the kids Coach Beilein recruits. We have a lot of kids on this team that have sacrificed playing time all year long, games like yesterday where I didn’t shoot the ball well or Trey struggled a little bit, we have guys coming off the bench like Caris and Spike who hit big shots for us.
We’re at our best when this team is firing on all cylinders and we have guys coming off the bench and playing well.
COACH BEILEIN: That’s been a thing I think all year long. If you look at all five of these guys, Glenn Robinson has been terrific in so many ways off the floor. Probably, unless you’re a coach, you don’t understand what he does for this team.
I bristled a little bit last night when people say that Trey Burke had an off game. Trey Burke did so many things behind the scenes in that game that we don’t win without Trey Burke, don’t come close, or Tim Hardaway. What you all have to understand, it’s more than just that box score, how many points. How many good screens did he set? How many times did he pass right to a shooter when we needed it? Stop looking at the final box score and how many points.
If you understand all the nuances of the game, it’s a huge difference of whether we win or lose, some of the intangibles that happen in a game that you never see in a stat. I think most of you know that. But if you watch the complete game, how they defend people, oh, my goodness, it’s huge in determining whether we win or not.
Q. Can each of you remember what you knew about coach before he started recruiting you, and a short phrase to describe him now that you’ve played for him a little bit.
COACH BEILEIN: Be very careful, we still have one more practice (smiling).
TREY BURKE: I knew I was coming into a really good program, was going to play for a really good coach. My senior year, it came down to Cincinnati and Michigan. Michigan came onto the scene for me late in my recruiting process.
You know, I really didn’t know what to expect when they first started calling me. When I got the chance to meet Coach B, get to campus, meet the players, things like that, I definitely felt like this was the place for me to be.
Coach Beilein, he’s always been a players’ coach. He’s the type of coach that allows you to play. He tells you, Play within the system, but don’t be mechanical, robotic, be a player. I definitely think that’s important for this team because we had those type of players that can make plays, but at the same time run an offense and definitely get good looks.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah, I knew I was coming to a great place when Coach Beilein, the first question he asked was, How are you academically? How you doing in school? When I was getting recruited, no other coach talked to me about that. It was great just to see how important academics was to that coach.
He knew if you wasn’t going to do well in school, you wasn’t going to see any playing time on court. So I knew right then and there I had his trust going to the school, just getting a great education here.
MITCH McGARY: During the recruiting process, I had other big‑time schools that offered. I just felt Coach Beilein and his staff, I respected them a lot. They stayed true to me. They were real classy with it. They didn’t give me the normal car salesman pitch like every other coach did. They told me what I wanted to hear, told me I have to earn everything when I get there.
Just going off this year how Coach Beilein lets us play throughout his system, it’s just a blessing for us players. We have guys, like Trey said, who can score at any moment. Just for him to let us play within his offense, be players, it’s just an honor.
GLENN ROBINSON III: I heard a lot about Coach B coming into Michigan, our recruiting trips, how good of a coach he was. Something that really caught my eye and my attention about coming to Michigan was about how he was a great coach, he was so family oriented.
We all get along like family. He really values each and every one of us, wants to gain a relationship. He’s not just a coach to us. He believed in myself and the rest of these guys up here in stages of our life when we probably weren’t this good and we didn’t have all offers. That’s something I really respect about Coach B, and thank him for that.
NIK STAUSKAS: During the recruiting process, the thing that stuck out to me was the interest that Coach B took into my personal life and my family. Most of the other coaches that recruited me, every time I talked to them, it was just about basketball, what things were going to be like when I got there.
Coach Beilein took the time to talk to me about anything that was going on in my life. I appreciated that. The other thing he stressed was skill development. He said he was looking forward to improving my game, getting me better. That’s something that meant a lot to me because I’m always looking to get better on the court.
Q. Can you name the 1989 starting five for Michigan that won a national championship?
TREY BURKE: Rumeal Robinson. Glen Rice. Those are the only two that comes to mind right now.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Same.
MITCH McGARY: Same.
GLENN ROBINSON III: I remember those two.
NIK STAUSKAS: Me, too.
Q. Terry Mills, Mike Griffin, Loy Vaught.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll allow the student‑athletes to head to the break‑outs and continue with questions for Coach Beilein.
Q. Curious about where your fascination with the offensive concepts comes from.
COACH BEILEIN: This story has been told, but I’ll tell it again. I was coming out of college. All I wanted to do was be a coach. I just wanted the keys to the gym. My uncles all had the keys to the gym and my dad worked in a paper mill. I just wanted the keys to the gym one day.
When I began to coach, I probably was trying to find who I would be. We were flex for a while. Then I started running set plays. We had a team at LeMoyne that was not great with set plays. We just couldn’t do it.
One of my uncles, Tom Niland, coach at LeMoyne before I was coach there, talked me into a two‑guard front, play sort of like the old‑time days. We did it to increase the spacing on our floor so our lack of athleticism wouldn’t be exposed.
I said, if we could get to this point where I have athletes one day, we’re going to play the same things, because it will really work when we get athletes, much like you see the Princeton system, variations running in the NBA today.
Now it’s taken off, taken on all shapes and forms. We added the ball screen like crazy to it. I’m fascinated probably because, you know, I enjoy that. My staff, all my staffs, have been very helpful with that, improving our defense. Whether we went 1‑3‑1 zone back in the zone, 2‑3 zone, and now primarily man‑to‑man.
Q. Coming into the tournament, Mitch McGary only started a couple games, now started all five. What did you see in him coming into the tournament that gave you confidence that he could be that guy that could start and play a lot of minutes for you?
COACH BEILEIN: Going into the tournament, he was coming in at the 17‑minute mark. I’ve always had an idea that I love having enthusiastic, energy players coming off the bench. He was very comfortable with that.
There were a couple times he deserved to start by his play, but I also am very loyal to some of my upperclassmen, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan, who had been injured. He said, Let Jordan start, I’m fine coming off the bench.
There came a point that I didn’t want to get off to bad starts, he was really getting so many of the things that are really important to his success, these incremental steps he’s been making over the last month. We saw enough of them to say, Let’s not worry about who comes off the bench as much right now because he’s ready to help us from the get‑go.
And we might even win a jump ball to start the game one time, which at that point, we were probably 0‑30.
Q. I saw you listen to all those guys talk about what it was like when you recruited them. You were smiling a little bit. You always say how you’ve changed. How has this team changed you as a coach?
COACH BEILEIN: I don’t think it’s changed me. What it’s done, it’s encouraged me to know that some things don’t change: your values, getting kids to work hard, getting them to play together. All our core values are stronger than ever. At the same time, it reinforces the idea that you must change to your team. You can’t say, This is how we play.
For example, here is the thing. We went into the season. The first week of the season, we were throwing lob dunks to each other. We were like 0‑20. I realized it was part of what we needed to do to get easier points. I can see it more and more, how it’s effective, especially in the pick’n roll and the fast break. We began practicing lob dunks, did more and more of it throughout the season in practice. All of a sudden, we’ve become very good at it.
So that’s a big change.
Now, throwing a lob dunk to Zack Novak or Stu Douglass probably wasn’t the best play. But when you have Glenn running in, Mitch running in, you know, again, change to your talent. What do you have? Don’t say you have to get a better point guard, like we did with the two‑guard system. No, change how you play so it more fits that particular team.
Q. You’ve been around long enough to remember when you recruited a guy, you could count on him being there for four years. Now it’s most likely you’re going to have a two‑year relationship. Can you talk about how you have to sort of adjust emotionally when you know somebody might be around just that short period are time. Specific to Trey Burke, the first time you met him, what you thought of him.
COACH BEILEIN: Let’s just talk about every coach right now at this level. You’re recruiting. In the back of your mind is, I always got to be ready for a couple of things: a guy that is going to go to the NBA early or a guy that is going to leave early because he wants more. This is an issue we’re all trying to deal with, but it’s life as well.
We’re always ready. We’re always thinking and keeping fires warm, the coals warm, where there could be another recruit you’re working on in the future.
One of the reasons I disliked junior college was every two years I was changing the team. Just to get them to play like you want the end of their sophomore year, then they’re gone. Even at Nazareth, four years, this is going to be great, LeMoyne.
It’s sort of the idea that we love that, but it’s a fact now. Not just NBA, they’re going to leave and find somewhere else if it’s not the perfect situation for them. While we try and get people to be, we’re going to miss Blake McLimans, and Matt Vogrich, and Eso Akunne Corey and Jeff so much because they stuck in there, even though it didn’t work.
Trey and our relationship, here is a great story that I love to tell. I went down to see him play after we signed him. This told a lot about what you’re asking about. I was walking through a gym at the AAU. We were saying after watching the recruits we had coming in, after finishing Darius Morris’s first year, we said, We need to have somebody in case Darius goes down.
We watched some summer recruits. I said, We need another point guard. I walked through a gym in Orlando at that time. We knew a lot about Trey Burke, I knew him as a junior, then I backed off thinking we had what we wanted in the backcourt. I watched him a couple games. If we needed a point guard, that would be a great one to get.
He was still available. He liked Cincinnati. I think he wanted to play in the Big Ten. I think if any school in the Big Ten would have offered him, besides Penn State, because he already reneged on that one, he would have gone to a Big Ten school.
Q. Obviously big boost from Spike and Caris. Louisville got a big boost from their walk‑on. What does it say about this Final Four, these teams, maybe the star players are taking a backseat to some of these guys?
COACH BEILEIN: I think that’s why we had 70‑some thousand people here. College basketball, we continue to have, as Mitch is talking about, people going pro or transferring as I was talking about, and there’s 75,000 people at this game. We lost a pro two years ago and three guys transferred out. It is that mystery of the young kid, the altar boy, the choir boy like Spike, the 18‑year‑old kid that hasn’t played well coming in and making big baskets that makes this game so great.
The program is so much about stars, the college game is so much about the team. 75,000, I bet some people couldn’t tell whether the ball went in or not, but they wanted to be at an event where they could see the shining moments of Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Jordan’s charge. It’s incredible what the little guy has meant to college basketball, how it keeps it being so exciting.
Q. My understanding is there’s a pretty good group of guys that came down from Lockport. Can you talk about what that means to you and what your connection is to Western New York at this point.
COACH BEILEIN: I have eight brothers and sisters, big family. I was fortunate enough to go to a pretty good high school. The bonds that were formed between those guys and my family, all my 44 nieces and nephews, 22 just on my side, with those nine kids. So many people that have followed this career, whether they went to West Virginia games, Richmond games. Every year there’s been a bus, except last year. They must have got out of hand two years ago. But 45 people from Lockport, from Danny Sheehan’s Steakhouse would come to a game every year. We only lost one time, and that was to Syracuse.
It’s what I love about what I do. Because of a game, maybe it’s free tickets sometimes, but we can bring people together, family together, that doesn’t see each other except at a family reunion, or high school reunion.
I love that we won because they paid a lot of money to come. Especially from Buffalo to come down to Atlanta, especially in this nice weather now, for four days.
Q. Your guys have gone through four of arguably the best defenses in the country to get to this point. Now you have to go through what might be the toughest. Is that a preparation thing? Is the planning detailed for teams like this? Is it just your guys can handle it?
COACH BEILEIN: As I say, you’re exactly right, the 40 is the watermark that I look for. If a team has a defensive field goal percentage of under 40, I know they really guard people. I wish ours was under 40. I didn’t look at the Louisville stats until the bus going out of here last night. I said, Please be like 41 or 42. There I’m looking at 39 again.
While I think a prep in one day has some effect, it’s not as significant as what you’ve been prepping for all year long. Like I said before, play with your eyes up. Pivot strong, pass strong, space the floor, really hit the open man, play as a team. Those things we’ve been stressing from the beginning. Maybe that’s why we’ve been able to be successful offensively through this tournament so far.
What’s really unique is everyone has been very different, even though they’re all good defensive teams. VCU is an animal of its own with the way they continue to apply pressure to you. It’s different than Florida’s.
I hope we can do one more, just one more game where we can put 60 to 70 points up there in these games. We could have a W if we can put up those number of points.
Q. You talked about adjusting to your team. In the past you were known for the 1‑3‑1 zone. What was it about this team that you decided that you would prefer man‑to‑man?
COACH BEILEIN: Great question. I ask myself sometimes the same question. Because the 1‑3‑1 was so good at Richmond. At Richmond it was really good. Then at West Virginia, we had it going there for two or three years, even our last year.
1‑3‑1 takes a lot to teach, a lot. When I found when I got to the Big Ten, because Northwestern played it a lot, it was a unique defense, nobody else was playing it in the Big East or Atlantic‑10. When we came to the Big Ten, I thought everybody seemed to have Rick Mount like all over the place in the Big Ten. Some 6’4″ shooter that could jump out of the gym and put it in. The other leagues were more dribble leagues, put their heads down, get themselves into traps.
Our personnel, you need to somehow get lucky, teach it like crazy or have five guys that learn it easily. For some reason we haven’t had enough time to teach it or have the personnel. Gansey and Tyrone Sally, Tony Dobbins at Richmond were exceptional on the top. We haven’t found that exceptional guy on top yet.
We could practice it, but we haven’t chosen to do that. With this young team, we felt they couldn’t be good at two things. Teach them man, and maybe next year be able to teach them more zone.
Q. You talked after the VCU game in particular about having a very high IQ team, they can pick things up quickly. Is that the type of thing you can anticipate in recruiting?
COACH BEILEIN: I want to make it very clear the SAT score does not necessarily represent the basketball IQ. There’s all kinds of young men that come in with different academic credentials that their learning curve is different in basketball.
I’ve had some young men that were 1390, they knew our offense in one week. I’ve also had some young men who did not have those academic grades, they could learn our offense and defense very quickly. Also have very bright young men that are still trying to figure out what we were doing.
It’s a thing that we try to recruit from a standpoint by talking with them, watching them play. In AAU it’s tough to see that sometimes. That’s why we like to see practices, we like to know their coach a little bit. Have they been coached before? Thankfully most of our guys have really good high school coaches, and that helps us determine what they can handle from us.
Q. What would you tell your son if he wanted to get to this level from Division II? What is the best path?
COACH BEILEIN: What I told Patrick is be the best coach you can right now and it will take care of itself. He does have the Division I experience. He does have a name. I mean, he was a young man that played the game at a cerebral level that was much higher than some other players. That’s what got him on the court, not ’cause he was my son. He saw the game in slow motion.
I think people respected him for that. So he’s got a name out there. He’s got to find out how to coach by those sleepless nights you’re going to have when you’re a Division II coach, you’re calling every shot. You’re going to be more prepared when you do get a shot.
I would encourage him after he learns more about being a head coach to take an assistant coaching job if there was the right one available, then that could promote him into the next level of being a head coach.
I also know that if more ADs would look into this, there are very successful Division II and Division III coaches that could handle what we do for a living very easily and transcend into that position very easily.
I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I can’t affect the ADs. Patrick can control what he can control, learn to be a better coach, build relationships with players.
Q. With underclassmen taking up so many minutes these days, especially with Mitch in the starting lineup, how challenging has that been for you to negotiate the relationship with them and the upperclassmen on the team, specifically the transition that Jordan has allowed in the NCAA tournament?
COACH BEILEIN: We have two things, the Jordan Morgan issue and we have five seniors on this team, three of them have been walk‑ons at different times. Then Blake McLimans and Matt Vogrich, I call them my investment committee. Their jerseys will never hang up in the rafters, but their banners will. They’ve won a Big Ten championship, now they’re in the Final Four. That has been a key for us.
Jordan Morgan, it’s been tough on him at times. He’s a starter, and he had a bad injury that he didn’t come back from. He’s getting closer to it. In the meantime, all of a sudden Wally Pipp takes a day off and Lou Gehrig comes in.
He’s got to fight through that and do just what he did last night. Those two charges he took last night, embrace what he can bring to us in that way. Jordan Morgan is an engineering major that will graduate in four years from the University of Michigan. If he can embrace that as much, all the dirty work he does, he’s going to be a superstar in Michigan history one day.
That’s what he has to grasp right now. He’s going to have other shining moments, as well.
Q. Rick was up there earlier talking about how fun it was to watch your team play. Does the same apply to you and Louisville?
COACH BEILEIN: ‘Fun’ is not the word I would use there. I think the game is fun and winning is a lot of fun. I’m more of looking at it from a standpoint of what they do, how we can stop it, just taking in as much information as I can in a brief amount of time.
I didn’t do anything last night. Haven’t watched a lick of them all year long. I don’t watch college basketball, I watch Big Ten basketball on my computer. That’s the only thing I watch. And I watch it endlessly.
I had 6:00 a.m. the computer was delivered. I watched from 6:00 to 8:00. I’ll watch it the rest of the day. He has changed. Good coaches do. Actually faced his team at Kentucky, the championship team, when I was at Canisius. Faced him three times at West Virginia with two overtime losses and a win.
He continues to change. That’s what I’m trying to measure right now is what he’s doing the best right now. And he does everything well.
Q. I understand that your mother’s cousins are the family from the saving Private Ryan story. Can you talk about that and what that means to you.
COACH BEILEIN: Obviously this is Steven Spielberg directed and produced the movie and everything, but there’s reports that this is the story of my mother’s cousins that inspired the movie.
He was reading Band of Brothers where my uncle, who hired me at LeMoyne, was in the 101st with a couple of his cousins, and it was documented in there how when the two of them were lost on D‑Day, my mother’s other cousin was shot down in Burma the exact same week. He was discovered alive over a year later. Her other cousin did come home. There wasn’t the drama that we see in Saving Private Ryan, but he did come home.
I was born in ’53. That happened in the early ’40s. I grew up with that story and didn’t think much about it until I watched the movie, until I had children of my own, and could only imagine what that family went through.
Why my parents been talking about it more, you realize there were so many deaths in so many different ways in that family. One of my mother’s brothers was killed in the steel mill the day my uncle Tom came home on V‑E Day. There were so many tragedies in those post Depression era, depression era families with children dying, crib deaths. My uncle hit by a car at the age of five. They had so much tragedy in their life. They were so resilient, we didn’t talk about it.
Now it hits me of how unique that was and what great stock we all come from.
Q. What does it mean to you that players who were not affiliated with Michigan are coming and how tough was it to beat Wake Forest and Chris Paul when you couldn’t talk that day?
COACH BEILEIN: I could not talk (laughter). We have several players here. Two LeMoyne players are here. I’ve heard from Eerie Community College players, Canisius players, respected players, and several West Virginia. It really means a lot for them to attend and be here.
Mike Gansey, my son Patrick is arguably his best friend. I also got a technical in one of those games because the doctors had given me steroids to take care of this terrible cold I had. I lost my voice in the second half. Jeff Neubauer, really successful, really talented coach of Eastern Kentucky, basically I’d whisper to him the best I could what we wanted to run, he’d yell it to the team.
I think Mike got the message because he had 18 points in the two overtimes. Chris Paul, I think he fouled out in the first one. I don’t think at that time Wake Forest ever thought that he’d be leaving for the NBA that quickly. As it turned out, it was a great decision for him. I don’t think anybody thought that was his last game.
Q. You mentioned you picked up the two‑guard front at LeMoyne. Can you name something else strategically that you learned about coaching along the line, Nazareth, Eerie, LeMoyne as you were coming up?
COACH BEILEIN: There’s so much that I’ve learned from not having a mentor, then just talking back. I’ve been going to clinics for a long time. I’ll sit with anybody at any time and talk basketball.
When you coach every day, against different opponents, you’ll find these philosophies saying, I never thought of that in my life. I talk with some guys that have been head coaches like myself for a long time. Several really good friends. We talk all the time like this is stuff we never thought about 20 years ago.
It’s incredible how the game won’t stop evolving. If you don’t evolve, you’re going to get beat. That’s one thing I’ve learned watching.
So I come to Michigan, we’ve had successful careers. When I brought this coaching staff together, Bacari Alexander who had strong Detroit roots had also been down at Ohio U and Western. Then we bring in LaVall Jordan who had been at Butler, knew how they did things at Butler. Then Jeff Meyer had been at Winthrop with Gregg Marshall. He had been at Missouri, been at Butler.
All of a sudden the chemistry we have from exchanging ideas. I do a practice, I used to do a practice, meet with the staff, and that was the practice. It was an hour meeting. Now I have a practice meeting about two hours before the practice meeting to go over the practice I want to run, then we tweak it, then I finish it.
We meet probably up to an hour and a half to two hours a day just on every minute of that practice. That’s how you learn, by exchanging ideas. Sometimes I’ll say to them, you know, I’ve tried that several times, that does not work. But then sometimes I’ll say, I never thought of that before in my life. Then you try it and it works.
I think solving that puzzle is why I love coaching. I love putting the puzzle together.
Q. So you were at LeMoyne. 200 people in the stands maybe. Last night you have 75,000. There had to have been a point yesterday when you looked around and said, Oh, my God. Now that you’re a Michigan man, have you thrown over your St.Louis Cardinals for the Detroit Tigers?
COACH BEILEIN: When I came out last night, I gave the speech, 10‑foot baskets, 94‑foot courts. We just played in Cowboy Stadium. You don’t need to look up in the stands and see what’s up there.
Then I gave in, took a little peek. I might have said something I shouldn’t say on TV at that time, like, Holy Cow. It was amazing to see that. I wanted to see my team. I wanted them to see a poised coach that saw this as only another game.
Yes, I remain the biggest St.Louis Cardinal fan I contend anywhere. Mike Matheny is a Michigan graduate and also a Michigan basketball fan. I can continue to go to Cardinal games every year and listen to every game that I can listen to. If they play 162 games, I’m listening in some part to probably 100 to 120. I got it on my phone now. I don’t have to dial in and drive on top of a mountain anymore. I have the app on my phone. It’s my escape, the St.Louis Cardinals.