​​​​​​​John Beilein on Cavs' rebuild: "That's why I came here"

The 66-year-old head coach is excited for the future of basketball in Cleveland

James Rapien
November 14, 2019 - 5:25 pm
Nov 8, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein reacts against the Washington Wizards during the first quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, OH – John Beilein met with the media before Thursday night’s matchup against the Heat in a jumpsuit, rather than his normal suit and tie.

The team had their pregame shootaround at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and he hadn’t had time to change into his game attire.

“You won’t see it very often,” Beilein said with a laugh.

He went on to praise the Heat, who are 7-3 this season.

“They’re just really a high-functioning team,” Beilein said. “That’s how we want to be day in, day out.”

The Cavs enter Thursday’s contest feeling good about how they’re playing as a team. They were a 1-point loss to the 76ers away from going 3-0 on a road trip that included wins over the Wizards and Knicks. They’re 4-6 on the season.

The Cavaliers were expected to be a doormat this year. National media questioned the direction of the franchise. They wondered why Kevin Love was still on the roster? Why would a college coach take the job in Cleveland? Heck, even some local media wondered if it was a good fit? The early returns are better than anyone could’ve expected.

Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are putting up All-Star numbers. Collin Sexton continues to improve and rookie Darius Garland is flashing his potential on a nightly basis.

Beilein deserves a ton of credit. He wants to build a solid foundation in Cleveland. Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman believe Beilein is the man to turn the organization around. Rebuilding the Cavs was appealing to the 66-year-old head coach during the hiring process.

“That’s why I came here,” Beilein said. “I felt this was another fresh start. You have the canvas, you got the paints and now here we go. We’re going to make the best out of it and I think we are thus far, but we can’t stop.”

That attitude is exactly what the Cavaliers’ organization desperately needed. They haven’t had a culture in years. Their culture since 2003 has been LeBron James. The whole operation revolved around one man. It all fell apart when he left in 2010, just for him to fly in and save the day in 2014.

James isn’t magically reappearing. If the Cavaliers are ever going to be winners again, then they need to follow the blueprint San Antonio, Toronto, Oklahoma City and other markets that aren’t considered top destinations have set in the past. They’ve all built and developed in the draft and had continuity in the front office and coaching staff. Once they were in position to sign a big-time free agent or needed to trade for a star, they had the assets to get it done. Cleveland hopes to be in that position one day.

The Cavaliers’ experiment is far from a sure thing. Love could get frustrated with the rebuild. Garland and Sexton may not end up working out. Gilbert may get impatient and alter the plan. Anything is possible, but the early returns have been great. Beilein’s system appears to translate to the NBA. Altman signed a contract extension and has made multiple deals that have helped improve the future of the organization.

The Cavaliers have exceeded expectations. It’s refreshing to see a young, hungry team that is going to work their tail off day in and day out. They’re far from a finished product. Even their coach acknowledges that it’s a full-blown rebuild.

“We’re trying to institute a culture,” Beilein said. “We’re trying to institute a system.”

The Cavaliers hope their new culture is exactly what they need to bring winning basketball back to Cleveland.