The Cavaliers’ new head coach is old, underwent double-bypass surgery in August and has no previous NBA experience, but he’s got a much longer resume than any of the other candidates the team interviewed.
The Cavs announced Monday that they had hired 66-year-old John Beilein, who had been at the University of Michigan for 12 seasons, as head coach. Terms weren’t announced, but Beilein will receive a five-year deal and be formally introduced at a press conference sometime this week.
“We interviewed several strong and talented candidates who, no doubt, will get an opportunity to become an NBA head coach somewhere down the line,” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said in a press release. “Following the end of those interviews, it became clear to us that Coach Beilein was the right choice and best fit for our franchise.”
An agreement was reached Sunday night and Beilein informed Michigan administrators, his staff and players, including Medina High product Jon Teske, a senior-to-be, on Monday morning.
“We shared some of the best moments of my life together and I will always be grateful for that,” Belein said in the press release.
Beilein, who received a clean bill of health following his bypass surgery, had been a college head coach for 41 seasons — he was never an assistant — and compiled an 829-468 record and 35 winning seasons in a career that also included stops at Erie Community College, Nazareth, Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia.
Cleveland previously had interviewed a lot of young NBA assistants, and there’s a chance one or two of those could end up on Beilein’s staff.
“We could not be more thrilled to name John Beilein as the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” said owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan native who graduated from Michigan State. “First, John is a great human being. He cares deeply about his players and others who work for him and around him. He defines the words class, integrity and character.
“He is a tireless worker who obsesses about finding better ways and the inches that will help his team and the organization grow. John is a brilliant basketball mind and, last but not least, John Beilein is a winner.”
Though Gilbert has strong ties to the state of Michigan — he previously tried to lure Tom Izzo to the Cavs from Michigan State — he went out of his way to credit Altman for the hiring of Beilein. Cavs assistant GM Mike Gansey played college ball for Beilein at West Virginia and also played a role.
“It is no surprise that Koby and his team landed on John Beilein, as great cultures attract others who hold the same values as the foundation for everything they do,” Gilbert said. “I can’t wait for next season to begin.”
The Cavs are coming off a 19-63 season, which tied the Phoenix Suns for the second-worst record in the NBA. They will have a 14 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, but could pick as low as sixth.
“I love the position the team is in to build and grow, and this was something I felt was the perfect fit for me,” Beilein said. “With hard work and dedication by all of us, we will grow this team day by day and reinforce a culture of success that sustains itself with strong core values. Cleveland is a great city with amazing fans and I am really looking forward to calling Cleveland home for years to come.”
Beilein, who will be the Cavs’ sixth head coach since 2013, is considered of the best offensive minds and teachers in basketball. He led Michigan to the NCAA championship game in 2013 and 2018, where the Wolverines lost to Louisville and Villanova, and is the winningest coach in school history (278-150).
When Beilein arrived at Michigan prior to the 2007-08 season, the Wolverines hadn’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. They made the NCAA Tournament nine times in his 12 seasons and in 2019 reached at least the Sweet Sixteen for the third straight year. Michigan also won two Big Ten regular-season titles and two tournament titles in his tenure.
Beilein previously had a contract with Michigan that ran through 2020-21 and paid him $3.37 million a year, but signed a five-year extension in July. He had discussions with the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons last offseason before deciding to stay with the Wolverines.
Unlike Orlando, the Cleveland job will allow Beilein and his wife of 40 years, Kathleen, to stay close to Michigan while also providing a roster with more salary cap flexibility than the Pistons.
A year after losing four-time league MVP LeBron James to free agency, the Cavs are centered around All-Star power forward Kevin Love, who signed a five-year contract extension last offseason, and 20-year-old point guard Collin Sexton.
Cleveland also has big man Larry Nance locked up and the ability to clear a ton of salary cap space following the 2019-20 season, meaning Beilein shouldn’t be under pressure to win big immediately.
In his college career, Beilein’s teams made 13 NCAA Tournament appearances in D-I and one in D-II. He is one of 14 coaches to take four schools to the D-I tournament.
In five years at West Virginia, Beilein went 104-60 and made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including two straight Sweet 16 berths and one Elite Eight qualification. The latter was the program’s first in 42 years.
In five seasons at Richmond (1997-2002), Beilein went 100-53, the second-highest winnings percentage (.654) in program history. Prior to that, he spent five years at Canisius, nine at D-II Le Moyne, one at D-III Nazareth and four at Erie CC.
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