John Beilein’s tenure in Cleveland as the head coach of the Cavaliers was short lived for a number of reasons, but due to his success at Michigan, he seemed likely to end up back in basketball. And, as it happens, he’s sticking around in the NBA as opposed to heading back to college.
As first reported by the New York Times‘ Marc Stein (and confirmed by Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press), Beilein is joining the Detroit Pistons in a player development capacity. Officially, his title will be Director of Player Development.
The Pistons are hiring former Cavaliers and Michigan coach John Beilein as their director of player development, league sources say.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 2, 2021
There are two ways to look at this hire. On one hand, this is a smart investment by Pistons general manager Troy Weaver. Beilein had a long track record of developing players (Caris LeVert, Nik Stauskas, etc.) at Michigan and has a lot of knowledge he can offer a team. For a franchise like Detroit — which will likely struggle to be a marquee free agent destination and is currently building around young players like Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, and a forthcoming high Draft pick — player development has to be a focus if winning is going to happen.
On the other hand, Beilein left the Cavs in large part because he did not totally connect with NBA players in the way he did at Michigan. Some of his quirks — using colored pennies at practice, naming positions after animals, etx. — didn’t mesh with the NBA. There was also the “slugs” comment that precipitated his exit.
However, there’s a chance the 68-year-old Beilein will be a better fit in a teaching role vs. a head coaching role. In Cleveland, he didn’t totally adjust to the grind of an 82-game season as opposed to the two games of a week he had in college. If he’s working on player development, that feels like the best to utilize his basketball knowledge at the NBA level.