Beilein & Beilein: coaches, not lawyers

John Beilein is now firmly entrenched as Michigan’s basketball coach. His Wolverine team has been in the Top 10 of the rankings for all of the current season. It’s his seventh season in Ann Arbor and the hard-to-please wearers of maize and blue seem satisfied with the way he has elevated their basketball team back to national prominance.

Patrick Beilein is the 29-year-old son of Coach John Beilein. Patrick played four years for his father at West Virginia University. During Beilein’s four-year career in Morgantown, the Mountaineers reached the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

When he graduated from WVU with a degree in coaching education in 2006, he went to Europe to play professionally for two years in The Netherlands and Ireland.

When the younger Beilein returned to America, he was hired by his father to be a part of the Michigan program while working toward a master’s degree.

Upon earning his master’s degree at Michigan, Patrick went to Hanover, New Hampshire and was an assistant coach at Dartmouth for a season. And then last year, he was in charge of basketball operations at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.

It was while still at Bradley that Patrick was hired for his first head coaching position. West Virginia Wesleyan of the sprawling WVIAC had lost its coach when Jim Boone departed for a job at Delta State despite having a 22-9 record in his one year in Buckhannon.

Beilein was hired in June. Trying to recruit for the 2012-13 school term that was coming in two months was all but impossible.

Beilein accepted the first-year players Jim Boone had recruited and readied for his first taste of West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference basketball.

He sought advice for his first season as a head coach.

He sought advice from his father, who just happened to be one of the only coaches in history to take four different schools (Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan) to the NCAA tournament.

John Beilein is in his 38th year of coaching college basketball. Before taking his first college job of any kind, he was a high school coach for three years (1975-78) in western New York state. The elder Beilein had actually played collegiately at Wheeling Jesuit College.

After three high school seasons, he was able to get his foot in the junior college coaching door in the Buffalo area.

From that first position at Erie CC, Beilein moved along to an NCAA Division III school, then LeMoyne College in western New York, and finally to NCAA Division I’s Canisius College in 1992.

Canisius was once a thriving basketball program, but was by Beilein’s first year with the Golden Griffins an all but forgotten team.

Beilein was able to reach the NCAA tournament at Canisius. And his cerebral style coupled with winning and the outward appearance of an underdog without any players headed to the NBA made him a favorite of athletic directors.

He went to Richmond where the Spiders had used brainy players to beat the likes of Indiana and Syracuse in the NCAA tournament.

From the underdog Golden Griffins to the underdog Spiders.

Nobody gave Richmond any chance to win a national championship, but only the most talented of teams wanted to see Beilein’s offense of continuous motion, a flow of back-door cuts, and five players at a time that could make three-point shots.

With a lead, Beilein’s team might use a 1-3-1 halfcourt defense that was tried by few others.

Opponents hadn’t been tested against what Beilein showed them. And before they could adequately adjust, the game was over and they had lost to his lovable underdogs.

John Beilein coached at WVU for five years. The year before he arrived the team record was 8-20. Turmoil and finger pointing marked the disintegrating program.

In his time in Morgantown, Beilein had a 104-60 record and sparked renewed interest with players Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey. His tenure was spiced by a 27-9 record season and a NIT championship.

When Michigan “recruited” Beilein away from West Virginia, it wasn’t long afterward when website messages flowed freely between Wolverine fans and those of the Mountaineers that said: “We have two of your coaches. You can have one of them (football’s Rich Rodriguez) back and we’ll keep the other one.”

At Michigan, Beilein inherited a team that had endured six straight seasons without an NCAA tournament bid. Tommy Amaker was fired. And Beilein was hired.

Two years ago, the Wolverines had no seniors, yet reached the NCAA tournament and thumped Tennessee by 30 points in the first round.

This season, Michigan was ranked No. 1 for a week and had only four losses before finding destruction at Penn State last week. The team will still receive at least a No. 3 seed in the national tournament.

This will be the fifth 20-win season in Beilein’s seven seasons at Michigan.

His son, Patrick, just completed a 12-15 season. Next year, he will have recruited some of his own players and his Bobcats will be in the newly-created Mountain East Conference for the first time.

Like most younger coaches with their first head coaching position, the younger Beilein has his sights on a Division I head coaching spot. Regarding that goal, John Beilein says: “Very few people go from small college head coach to become Division I head coaches. It’s very rare and it’s a lot of luck. But the best way to become both a head coach and a better assistant coach is to be a head coach at some point. Now, in these years that he spends at West Virgnia Wesleyan he’ll see the big picture, the intangibles.”

Father and son. Once father and son/player. Now, two head coaches — both with ties to the state of West Virginia, but one with a highly-financed program to maintain and the other with a Division II program to build.

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