Glenn Robinson III knew what to expect of John Beilein during his four years at Michigan. Zak Irvin knows, too.
But when C.J. Lee lined up for his first practice of the season with the 2007 Michigan basketball team, the guard had no idea what to expect from Beilein, who had just replaced Tommy Amaker as head coach.
Beilein had the task of transforming the culture at Michigan — an NCAA power that had become a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten program. That included working with a new set of players.
“It was a complete change of philosophy,” said Lee, who is now an assistant coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “That’s going to happen when you make a change like that.”
In March 2009, Lee, Beilein and the Wolverines earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 1998.
Since then, Michigan has ascended. The seventh-seeded Wolverines (25-11) face second-seeded Louisville (25-8) in a second-round Midwest Region game at 12:10 p.m. ET Sunday in Indianapolis.
Beilein has brought stability and consistency to a program that was known for a famous group of five freshmen — and the sanctions levied by the NCAA in the wake of inappropriate benefits given to Michigan players in the early 1990s.
Michigan is in the midst of its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 seasons under Beilein, who is 214-134 at Michigan. Prior to 2009, Michigan went 11 seasons without making the tourney.
Michigan has won at least one tournament game in six of its seven appearances with Beilein as its coach.
The success correlates directly with Beilein, who was hired in April 2007 after leading West Virginia to two NCAA tournament appearances and the National Invitation Tournament championship in 2007.
“Sometimes, good things come to an end,” Beilein told reporters at West Virginia 10 years ago. “It’s time for me to do new things at a new university.”
John Beilein’s Michigan teams in the NCAA Tournament
|Season||NCAA Tournament results|
|2007-08||Did not qualify|
|2008-09||First round: Beat Clemson, 62-59 |
Second round: Lost to Oklahoma, 73-63
|2009-10||Did not qualify|
|2010-11||First round: Defeated Tennessee, 75-45 |
Second round: Lost to Duke, 73-71
|2011-12||First round: Lost to Ohio, 65-60|
|2012-13||First round: Defeated South Dakota State, 71-56 |
Second round: Defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 78-53
Sweet Sixteen: Defeated Kansas, 87-85
Elite Eight: Defeated Florida, 79-59
National semifinal: Defeated Syracuse, 61-56
National Championship: Lost to Louisville, 82-76
|2013-14||First round: Defeated Wofford, 57-40 |
Second round: Defeated Texas, 79-65
Sweet Sixteen: Defeated Tennessee, 73-71
Elite Eight: Lost to Kentucky, 75-72
|2014-15||Did not qualify|
|2015-16||First Four: Defeated Tulsa 67-62 |
First round: lost to Notre Dame, 70-63
|2016-17||First round: Defeated Oklahoma State 92-91|
In the fall of 2007, Michigan’s players, Lee said, were familiar with Beilein and the success he’d had as a college coach. However, that group of players and Beilein had to find middle ground.
“He was proven,” Lee said. “We had a group that was unproven.”
Beilein’s first season came with a learning curve for Michigan’s players. Some, Lee said, initially had trouble understanding the concepts Beilein and his staff attempted to implement.
“It took a few times, but we grasped the message that he and his staff sent, because we saw it in film sessions. We had conversations about it,” said Lee, who was on Beilein’s staff as Michigan’s director of program personnel and an administrative specialist from 2010 to 2014.
The growing pains were obvious in 2007-08. Michigan finished 10-22 and 5-13 in the Big Ten in Beilein’s first season.
When Michigan reached the 2009 NCAA Tournament, Lee and his teammates saw the impact — and the reward — of going through a drastic transition.
“Any time a player knows what’s expected of them and what is required of them, and the vision a coach has, that’s empowering to a young man and to a group,” Lee said. “The clarity we had from that first year allowed us to have a successful season. I give John Beilein so much credit for that. The program needed the stability of a leader, and it’s not a surprise to see the success the program had, because of that leader.”
Glenn Robinson III, who now plays for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, looks at the players Beilein has brought to Ann Arbor and has cultivated as part of the program’s success.
Robinson was part of a group Beilein developed and led to the NCAA championship game in 2013, where they lost to Louisville.
“Our five freshmen, and the class right before that with Trey (Burke), Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and those guys, he did a great job,” Robinson said. “The coaches at Michigan always did a great job with the players of getting them to play their roles and fill those roles.”
Michigan’s players are seeing that same effect as they continue in the NCAA Tournament.
“It all starts with Coach Beilein,” guard/forward Zak Irvin said. “He’s a heck of a coach, and look at the players he recruits. They build a one-game-at-a-time mentality and that’s huge, especially for us this past year.”
Land of 10 reporter Kevin Goheen contributed this report.