Skip to content

John Beilein, a throwback head coach in the Final Four

Apr 2, 2013, 5:26 PM EST

Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein celebrates after defeating the Florida Gators in their South Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Arlington

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino are living legends.

Boeheim is a hall of famer with more than 900 wins and a career that has spanned five decades, with Final Fours coming in four of them. Rick Pitino has taken three different programs to the Final Four, he’s won a national title and he put together arguably the best college basketball team of all-time.

Then you have Gregg Marshall, a coach that built a powerhouse at Winthrop, leaving to take over at Wichita State, where he has built the Shockers into the best program in the Missouri Valley that’s not leaving for the Big East next season. Oh, and despite his success, he not leaving, either. At least not for Minnesota or UCLA or USC or any of the other high-major jobs that were available this offseason.

And through all of that, would you believe that the most interesting head coach in this Final Four is, without a doubt, John Beilein?

Think about this: he began his coaching career at Erie CC and spent four years there. Then he went to Nazareth, a D-III school, where he got his big break, or so he thought, when he was offered the head coaching job at LeMoyne, which is better known as that random D-II team that knocked off Syracuse in an exhibition game a few years back. From there, it was to Canisius and Richmond before finally landing a job at a high-major program when he was hired by West Virginia. After leading the Mountaineers to an Elite 8 and a Sweet 16, Beilein was hired to rebuild Michigan, and he’s done just that.

On Sunday, the Wolverines blew out No. 3 Florida to advance to Beilein’s first career Final Four.

The man he out-coached to get there? Billy Donovan, who has two national titles to his name. That was after Beilein beat Bill Self, another national title winner and a coaching legend in the making. Just to get to the second weekend, Beilein had to beat Shaka Smart, who got to a Final Four at the age of 33. Beilein is 60.

In fact, Beilein made it out of a region that featured 10 Final Four coaches, five of whom — Self, Donovan, Tubby Smith, Roy Williams and Steve Fisher — have won a national title.

The best part? None of it seems to affect him.

“I said yesterday in the press conference, you know, it’s great to be in the Final Four, [but] if we had never made it, it’s not the reason that I’m coaching,” Beilein said on a teleconference on Monday. “The reason we’re coaching is about the student athletes, the relationships, the overall excitement we have of seeing young men grow in every way.”

He’s always going to be the same guy, the same ol’ ball coach running the same ol’ offense and using the same ol’ push mower to cut his own grass:

The guy still cuts his own lawn, with a humble mower, 40 minutes, back and forth making sure the lines are precise.

“Yes, he mows his own lawn on a push mower,” said son Patrick, who played for his dad at West Virginia, assisted him at Michigan and is now in the family business as the head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan. Well, John cuts it, unless Patrick or one of his brothers is home to do it. The coach is still there to monitor the process, of course.

“He’ll say, ‘Patrick, look at how your lines are,’ ” the son laughed. “That’s just how he was raised. He was taught to do things by himself.”

Beilein’s a throwback.

It’s something we all should appreciate.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Elite 2016 international big man could decide today between Kentucky, Texas and Villanova

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    (Basketball New Zealand) (Basketball New Zealand)

    One of the best big men in the 2016 class could decide between three powerhouse programs on Sunday.

  2. Pregame Shootaround: Coach K goes for win 1,000 against St. John’s; 11 ranked teams in action

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Mike Krzyzewski AP

    Coach K goes for win No. 1,000 against St. John’s and a fun battle of elite freshmen guards in the Big Ten are Sunday’s highlights.

  3. Austin Nichols hits a game-winner, Memphis coach Josh Pastner dances (VIDEO)

    Jan 25, 2015, 1:05 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    I feel comfortable saying I’m a better dancer than Josh Pastner. Not by much, though.

  4. Saturday’s Snacks: No. 18 West Virginia, Georgetown win absolute thrillers

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:58 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Get caught up on everything that has happened in college basketball on Saturday.

  5. Northwestern State staff wears special pants for ‘Suits and Sneakers’ game against McNeese State (PHOTO)

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:34 PM EST

    Patrick Netherton Patrick Netherton

    The pants worn by the coaching staff were one of the highlights in Northwestern State’s 92-68 win over McNeese State.

  6. #POSTERIZED: Memphis’ Markel Crawford dunks on Tulane defender (VIDEO)

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:31 PM EST

    Central Florida v Memphis Central Florida v Memphis

    Crawford and his teammates are looking to rebound from the 18-point loss they suffered at Tulsa Wednesday night.

  7. Central Connecticut State beats Wagner on Brandon Peel’s buzzer-beating three (VIDEO)

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:20 PM EST

    CCSU Athletics CCSU Athletics

    Peel finished the game with 17 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks as the Blue Devils picked up their first win in NEC play.

  8. No. 21 Baylor beats No. 19 Oklahoma, should we be concerned about the Sooners?

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:34 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Baylor really needed this win, but Oklahoma has now lost three of their last four.

  9. Balanced effort moves William & Mary into tie for first in the CAA (VIDEO)

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:20 PM EST

    William & Mary v North Carolina William & Mary v North Carolina

    The Tribe bounced back from a loss at Delaware earlier in the week to move into a tie for first in the CAA.

  10. Slow start dooms No. 9 Iowa State as they lose at Texas Tech

    Jan 24, 2015, 6:46 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwrjywuxywyyywu3mjy5mddjotbkn2i1nzqynjq3zdhk AP

    Texas Tech hit its first five three-pointers and led by as many as 19 points in the first half of their 78-73 win over the Cyclones.

  11. No. 11 Kansas makes a statement blowing out No. 17 Texas

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:52 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    “We are still the best team in the Big 12″ — Kansas, on Saturday.

  12. #POSTERIZED: Marquette’s Derrick Wilson with a surprising poster (VIDEO)

    Jan 24, 2015, 3:14 PM EST

    Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 3.10.44 PM

    Wilson dunks all over Georgetown’s Paul White.

  13. Iowa star Aaron White suffers ‘stinger’ in shoulder against Purdue

    Jan 24, 2015, 1:53 PM EST

    Traevon Jackson, Aaron White

    White is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Hawkeyes.

  14. WATCH LIVE: Northeastern visits William & Mary on NBCSN

    Jan 24, 2015, 1:30 PM EST

    Richmond Northeastern Basketball AP

    Northeastern and William & Mary clash on NBCSN.

  15. Baylor awards two walk-ons with scholarships (VIDEO)

    Jan 24, 2015, 12:15 PM EST

    2014 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational Basketball Tournament Baylor v Illinois Getty Images

    Walk-ons receiving scholarships will never get old.

  16. WATCH LIVE: Drexel hosts College of Charleston on NBCSN

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:30 AM EST

    AP AP

    The College of Charleston battles Drexel in a CAA clash on NBCSN.

  17. Pitt wing will have shoulder surgery and miss the rest of the season

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Pittsburgh v Indiana Getty Images

    Pitt will officially be without a wing for the rest of the season.