Apr 4, 2013, 2:55 PM EDT
ATLANTA — On Saturday afternoon, John Beilein’s Michigan Wolverines will take the floor against Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange in one of the more intriguing and unexpected Final Four matchups in recent memory.
Syracuse lost seven of their last 12 regular season games. Michigan lost five of their last 10. Both programs were written off by just about everyone outside of the locker rooms at the Carrier Dome and Crisler Arena. And yet, here they are, preparing to play on Saturday night at the Georgia Dome, 80 minutes of basketball away from winning a national title.
The biggest irony of all is that Beilein, one of the most well-respected coaching minds in the country, may not be here if it wasn’t for his opponent on Saturday.
Beilein’s back story has been well-documented. A descendant of the family that Saving Private Ryan was based on and a member of a noted coaching family in Western New York, Beilein began his career as a high school coach before moving on up to the Community College ranks. That was in 1978, two years after Boeheim took over at Syracuse. Beilein spent four years at Erie CC before jumping to Nazareth for a season before landing what he believed to be a big break when he was offered a job by Division II LeMoyne.
And that’s where his career started to stagnate.
A couple different Division I jobs in the area opened up during that time. Beilein applied for and was passed over each time. Finally, when Canisius came open in 1992, Beilein he was hired, but it wasn’t without some help. A call from Boeheim certainly helped move things along.
“He assisted me a great deal in actually getting my first Division I job,” Beilein said on Wednesday.
At Canisius, Beilein had five successful seasons which led to being hired by Richmond and, eventually, West Virginia. Boeheim had a hand in that as well, convincing West Virginia’s athletic director to offer the job to Beilein even though that meant that he would have to count Beilein as a conference foe. It was Beilein’s postseason success with the Mountaineers — an Elite 8 run in 2005 and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2006 — that played a major role in Michigan giving him the job in 2007.
And while it may have taken him six years, Beilein has turned the Wolverines into a national title contender.
But Beilein isn’t the only coach that Boeheim helped mentor.
Back in 1976, when Boeheim first got the Syracuse job, he needed to hire a coaching staff. As legend has it, Boeheim called Pitino down to the lobby of his hotel in New York City on Pitino’s wedding night, convincing him to take a job as an assistant immediately so that Pitino could get out on the road and land a recruit named Louis Orr.
But here’s where it gets interesting: Pitino was hired in large part due to his association with five-star basketball and the recruits that he would be able to bring in as a result. That wasn’t the only reason that Pitino was hired, however.
“[Boehiem] wanted to play more man-to-man defense,” Pitino said. “He was under Roy Danforth, who was strictly zone. Back then we played a lot of man-to-man. I was fortunate, I got to learn the zone.”
He sure was fortunate.
Pitino’s Louisville teams mix-up their defensive looks quite a bit. They press, they play man-to-man, they play 2-3 zone, sometimes they play all three on a single possession. But what he’s known for right now — the defense that has carried him to back-to-back Final Four — is that 2-3 zone.
The defense that he learned in his two seasons on the Syracuse bench.
Pitino and Beilein are both terrific basketball minds. They would have had success in this business with or without Boeheim’s help.
But it’s interesting to think that Boeheim could end up beating not one, but two of the young coaches that he mentored in their younger days.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.
Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT
Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.
Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.
Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT
Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.
Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.
Oct 29, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Toledo’s defense will be the key to their NCAA tournament bid.
Oct 29, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT
I can do that.
Oct 29, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT
Keith Thomas was expected to start for the Johnnies.
Oct 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The MAC is sure to be one of the more intriguing mid-major leagues during the 2014-15 season.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
How can Texas build off of last seasons surprising success?
Oct 29, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT
Who would you pick in first, UConn or SMU?
Oct 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
CBT’s rankings of the best wings in college basketball heading into the 2014-15 season.
Oct 28, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT
The JuCo transfer guard is expected to have an impact in his first season in Stillwater.
Oct 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
The Syracuse big man was limited to only 12 games during the 2014-2015 season.
Oct 28, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Arguably the top point guard in the junior class, and a consensus top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016 has narrowed his list of offers to just 10.
Oct 28, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT
Gib Arnold was entering his fifth season at Hawaii
Oct 28, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
One of the nation’s top lead guards — on one of the best mid-major teams — is as hungry as he is entertaining.
Oct 28, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
The 6-foot-5 junior guard is looking to bounce back after a sophomore slump.
Oct 28, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT
The University of Illinois opens the 2014-2015 season against Georgia Southern on Nov. 14.
Oct 28, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT
Skal Labissiere’s basketball career gets ever weirder.
- 2014-15 Season Preview: Toledo looks to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought and rep the MAC 1
- Top 25 Countdown: No. 8 Texas Longhorns 1
- 2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings 1
- Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes maintains the chip on his shoulder 0
- Skal Labissiere, Reach Your Dreams Prep and why this isn’t as scuzzy as it sounds 0
- Top 25 Countdown: No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs 2
- 2014-15 Season Preview: Can Green Bay take the next step, represent the Horizon League in the Tournament? 1
- Five-star 2015 power forward down to five schools (2)
- Roy Williams says he was ‘dumbfounded’ following Kenneth Wainstein’s report (VIDEO) (2)
- Hawaii considering its options regarding NCAA investigation of basketball program (2)
- VCU’s band ‘The Peppas’ will be doing Haka War Chants this year (VIDEO) (2)
- Mark Emmert calls UNC scandal ‘troubling’, ‘disturbing’, ‘shocking’ (2)