|Michigan's Beilein is unassuming, his resume isn't|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 14 January 2009 12:20|
On the court, Michigan's coach sheds his suit coat and rolls up his sleeves, just another working man on the job.
His resume, though, spells out loud and clear just how good of a coach he has been in college basketball.
Beilein was a victory away from his 500th at a four-year college entering Michigan's game Wednesday night at Illinois.
He closed in on the milestone much quicker than anyone expected thanks to leading a remarkable turnaround for the 25th-ranked Wolverines, who lost a school-record 22 games last year in Beilein's debut season with them.
Michigan won three of its first four Big Ten games after winning just five of 18 last season, but Beilein tried to dodge praise.
``We just took advantage of a fortuitous early schedule in the conference,'' Beilein said. ``Last year, we started 0-3 against teams that ended up in the NCAA tournament.''
Well, was it fortuitous to beat two teams ranked No. 4 - Duke and UCLA - in a two-week stretch before the Big Ten season?
``We had a couple good games,'' Beilein acknowledged sheepishly.
Michigan, of course, has had more than just a two good games this season just as Beilein has had more than a couple solid seasons during a career that started in 1979 at Erie (N.Y.) Community College and hasn't included a day as an assistant coach.
His consistent run of success will put him in the 500-win club, an impressive list topped by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and his 800-plus wins with College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins just ahead of Beilein at the bottom.
Beilein insisted he didn't know how close he was to the milestone Sunday when a win over Iowa pulled him within on, then said it's hard for him to embrace the accomplishment because it ignores his 75 victories in Erie.
``You earn those wins,'' the native of Burt, N.Y., said with a smile, ``when you drive the vans, eat at Ponderosa and play against opponents - and their referees.''
Michigan's basketball program, which has almost always been overshadowed by college football's winningest team, was in shambles stemming from NCAA violations when Tommy Amaker was hired in 2001.
Amaker cleaned up the program on and off the court, but his six seasons included three NIT appearances and none in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan fired Amaker and hired Beilein two years ago, luring away a coach who helped West Virginia win five NCAA tournament games over two March runs during his five-season stay.
After loading up his wife and four children in moving trucks between jobs at Nazareth, LeMoyne, Canisius and Richmond, Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor in a private jet and signed a six-year contract that will pay him at least $1.3 million a season.
``Initially, I didn't know much about him other than he was at West Virginia,'' said former Michigan star Campy Russell, who led the school to a Big Ten title 35 years ago. Now, I know he's done an outstanding job of bringing this program back.''
Amaker is now coaching at Harvard, but two of his recruits - Harris and DeShawn Sims - have helped Beilein's second team at Michigan become one of the surprises in college basketball.
Harris and Sims are leading an interesting blend of players that includes transfers Laval Lucas-Perry and Zack Gibson, contributing freshmen Zack Novak and Stu Douglass and former walk-ons David Merritt and C.J. Lee.
Even though the Wolverines are on pace to earn an NCAA bid for the first time since 1998 and might have a shot at their first Big Ten title since 1986, Beilein doesn't want them to believe they have arrived as a legitimate team just yet.
``There are a lot of guys the Big Ten didn't recruit, so they should be playing with a chip on their shoulder, or there's guys like C.J. and David Merritt, who paid good money to go to this school,'' Beilein said. ``It's a great mix.''
The Wolverines have figured out how to excel within Beilein's unique schemes - launching 3-pointers in a free-flowing offense and confusing opponents with a 1-3-1 zone - after struggling to grasp his concepts last season.
Jimmy King, a member of Michigan's Fab Five teams in the early 1990s, expects the program to build upon the success its having early under Beilein.
``All players will want to play for him because his system is wide open, but it's structured,'' King said. ``It looks chaotic if you don't know what he's trying to do or you're playing against him.
``But there is a rhyme and a reason to what he's doing and it's helping Michigan be successful again.''