Renaissance man: John Beilein doesn't view Cavs as a rebuild

The top takeaways from the introduction of Beilein Tuesday

Daryl Ruiter
May 21, 2019 - 1:42 pm

Daryl Ruiter - 92.3 The Fan

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Independence, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Over an hour before he was set to be introduced as the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, John Beilein was already on the floor working with Larry Nance Jr.

That’s Beilein.

And possibly a first – a coach coaching players before he’s even been introduced as their coach. Talk about making a first impression.

Beilein did that and more Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts and here are a few takeaways.

People person – Like Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, Beilein is a believer in connecting with his players. Immediately after being hired he spoke with the entire roster in some form or fashion. He’s a teacher and exactly what the Cavaliers were looking for in their next head coach in addition to a tactician and a visionary. General manager Koby Altman mentioned those four characteristics as essentials for the hire Tuesday.

“We wanted a cultural driver and leader,” Altman said. “We wanted a teacher, incredible communicator. And on top of that, we wanted someone that embraced analytics.”

Tone setter – Beilein struck all the right notes, and dare we say, ‘won the press conference’ easily in front of family, friends, media and select fans and corporate partners. The greatest quality Beilein wants to stress concerning the culture of his team is “integrity. You can’t cheat this game. You can’t cheat life. You can’t cheat this opportunity.”

That’s the easy part. Now the hard part – rebuilding and turning around the Cavs or as Beilein plans to refer to it as – a renaissance.

“Rebuild is not going to be a word we use here,” Beilein said. “It is a job that appealed to me. It’s so gratifying to turn a program around.

“Look at those banners up there. It’s been done before so why can’t it be done again?”

Young Bull – Beilein inherits last year’s eighth overall pick Collin Sexton, who was also in the gym Tuesday after flying into town from the Philippines. Teaching him to play the game the right way is atop the priority list.

“Not just for me, teach the players, teach Collin what efficiency looks like as a point guard,” Beilein said. “He thinks 22, three and three and three turnovers is a good game, but maybe 18 and eight was a winning game and two turnovers.”

But there’s no question with Sexton, who was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team Tuesday, that the talent is there. Beilein sees it too.

“I see this explosiveness that is incredible, whether it’s off the dribble or even off the catch,” Beilein said. “Even though he had a great year shooting 3s, getting it off the catch where he’s a triple-threat. [He’s] a terrific player with a high basketball IQ. Just looking for direction now. He’s 19 years old (20). Just wants to be a great player; has all the work habits to be a great player. Great guards drive this league.”

Trading the NCAA for NBA – Beilein insisted that the state of the college game did not impact his decision to leave Michigan for the NBA.

“I believe that college basketball is going through a transition right now and needs to evaluate itself and what’s best for the future of the sport,” Beilein said. “It’s had betting scandals in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Spencer Haywood lawsuit, ‘This is going to kill college basketball.’ The guys going right to the pros, the one-and-one, it always makes it. The people with the NCAA, they get it, they’re working on it. They’re in the process of getting things done. Sometimes it will take longer, but I see them seeing some of these issues. That’s not why I’m the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s about this opportunity right here to grow with these young men and coach in the great state of Ohio, I guess I can say that now, right?”

Family matters – Beilein is a family man. His wife, four children and four grandchildren were on hand for Tuesday’s press conference. One of the better moments of the introduction was when he told the audience that his grandson Johnny’s favorite team is the Golden State Warriors, which drew some playful boos and groans from the crowd.

“Here's the good news,” Beilein said. “Before we were hired here, Cavs were No. 20 on the list. Now he says we're all the way up to No. 2. So that's good.”

Stand-up comedy – With Beilein in place, it’s time for Dan Gilbert to step aside and allow his new coach the time and space to do his job. During his introduction Tuesday of Beilein, Gilbert treated the occasion like he was doing standup on late night television. It did not go well. He said Michigan was south of Ohio before quickly correcting himself, he forgot what colleges Beilein coached at, and then couldn't pronounce Canisius, before he fumbled through Beilein’s relatives’ names and said he needed his glasses. He also wondered if a video he wanted to play would work.

Over the course of Beilein’s coaching career he’s never been fired, which was mentioned during the press conference to which he responded, “that’s right.” Unfortunately, under Gilbert, the life expectancy of a head coach that works for him is about two years, which also came up and saw Beilein handle the inquiry with ease.

“Where’s Dan? Can Dan answer this question,” Beilein said. “Never looked at it one single time, not in any way. I met Koby several years ago, but Dan … I realize coaches, we don’t complain on paydays. That’s part of this job. You have to get it done and that’s part of it. I’ve been able to stay away from that and that’s the only plan here, we’re going to get this right and I’m going to coach as long as I can coach and I hope that’s a long time.”

Or as long as Gilbert’s patience with a rebuild, or as Beilein calls it, renaissance will allow.