Those Who Stay: John Beilein Edition

Hello, Loyal Readers!

Before we get to this week’s Bacon Blog, I’ll be making my last stop of our mini-book tour for Best of Bacon: Select Cuts, 40 of my favorite stories from my first quarter-century of writing, on Tuesday, June 12, at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.

We’ve had great turn-outs at our first three stops — the Ann Arbor District Library, Chicago, and Traverse City — averaging about 120 folks per outing, with a great response. This has been nothing but fun, and I thank you for making it possible. Makes a great gift for Father’s Day!

I’ll also be in studio at WTKA Friday morning, 9-10, and will give out three copies of Best of Bacon to the callers who have the best / craziest games they played as kids, which is one of the pieces in the book.

Thanks to you all for allowing me to do what I love for a living!


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Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein has probably reached his greatest heights – which is saying something.

Since 2012 Beilein’s Wolverines have won four Big Ten titles and got to two NCAA finals, including one of each this spring. No Big Ten coach has done better over that stretch. What’s more impressive is how Beilein has done it: by recruiting genuine student-athletes, then coaching them up to beat teams loaded with stars. Beilein and his staff have pushed six of those underrated players to the first round of the NBA draft.

He also follows the rules, which is why his peers voted him the most honest college basketball coach in America. Now, you might say that’s like winning a race of turtles, but still better to win it, right?

When you take it all into consideration, John Beilein is simply the best basketball coach Michigan has ever had.

This spring the good news kept coming. Everyone but the graduates and star center Moe Wagner are coming back, and Beilein just added the 11th-ranked recruiting class – one of his best ever. Michigan will be playing for more Big Ten and NCAA tournament banners – the kind that won’t get taken down years from now due to investigations.

So it was surprising to hear last week that Beilein had met with the Detroit Pistons to discuss their job opening, after they fired yet another coach this spring. Since owner Bill Davidson died in 2009, the Pistons’ highest finish in their conference was eighth place. Self-made billionaire Tom Gores bought the team in 2011, and is already looking for his fifth coach in seven years – not exactly the sign of a healthy organization. They’re also looking for a new president and general manager, so it’s not clear whom the next coach will be working for.

There are a lot of reasons to say “no” to the Pistons — and only one reason to say yes: money. Michigan is already paying Beilein more than three million a year. The Pistons could double that, but I’ll never forget what Michigan State’s Tom Izzo told me, after turning down a big raise from the NBA himself: “I can only eat so many steaks.”

Former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler faced a similar dilemma back in 1982, when Texas A&M offered him four times more than Michigan was paying him, which would have made him the highest-paid coach in the country. Why did he turn them down? Because he couldn’t bring himself to tell the players he had promised he would be there for their entire college careers that he was breaking his word, and leaving for the money.

“If your men are not more important to you than your money, then you didn’t really care about them in the first place.”

12 years after Schembechler passed away, in front of Schembechler Hall you can find a large statue of the man himself. They don’t make statues for those who left.

So, after a week of publicly flirting with the Pistons, it was not too surprising when Beilein announced, “I love the University of Michigan and I am excited about coaching our Men’s Basketball Team next season and in the years to come ! Let’s go hang some more banners at ‘THE GREATEST UNIVERSITY IN THE WORLD.’”

Beilein’s accountant might disagree, but Bo would tell he made the right decision. Bo never regretted it, and Beilein won’t either.



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7 comments Leave a comment  

  • Scot Smith June 8, 2018 at 9:47 am

    Hey now John, I’m an accountant and fully concur with Mr. Beilein’s decision. Great article as usual.

  • Joel Eckel June 8, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Can’t wait to see the Beilein statue in front of the newly renamed Beilein Center in about 15 years. We arguably have the best coach in the country, AND the best person-as-coach in the country, AND the best player-developer-as-coach in the country. I honestly never thought I’d love a coach more than Bo.

  • Eric Tsai June 8, 2018 at 10:05 am

    I feel like Coach Beilein saw that there was interest and that he had options, and why not kick the tires? UM fans lost their minds (so what’s new?), but I can’t imagine there was much appeal for THAT job at that time, even if there was that window of opportunity for Beilein in his last-year contract. I’m thankful to have a good, honesty coach that is much sought after. And, even more thankful that Beilein is staying to continue building his program.

  • Ann/Sarasota June 8, 2018 at 10:24 am

    Congratulations on your successful book tour, John. Looking forward to reading “The Best of Bacon.”

    I’m so happy, and relieved, that Coach Beilein is sticking with the Maize and Blue. Good blog, John. Have a great weekend!

  • John W. Minton, Jr. June 8, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    As long as there is one quality coach left to turn down the money, there is hope for the student athlete. We will always have “one and done” universities or the football equivalent, while staying and graduating is a thing of the past. Those who stay will have their own success.


  • RTM June 9, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    Just got my copy of Best of Bacon … you can put the JB article right in there with the other bests !

  • George Clark June 10, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    There is little hope for the “student athlete” although JB does it the right way. To compete successfully in the Big Ten is remarkable. To do it with honest to goodness students is almost unprecedented. My favorite team is in the Ivy League where revenue does not drive the bus. As long as that’s the case in the D1 kids learn about hypocrisy while still teen agers.


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