ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This isn’t exactly John Beilein’s first rodeo.
Experienced and versatile, Beilein has had veteran laden teams that achieved their goals and oodles of talent filling a roster that at times may have fallen short of expectations -- but make no mistake, Beilein’s bread and butter is taking a team many didn’t predict to make noise and doing exactly that.
Look back on Beilein’s time at Michigan and each of the statements above rings true.
Following a 10-22 mark in his first season with the Wolverines in 2007-08, Michigan quickly turned it around finishing 21-14 and making the NCAA tournament a year later.
In 2009-10, Michigan then underwhelmed finishing the year 15-17 and tied for seventh in the Big Ten. But since then, the Wolverines have been on a winning track and doing so with a healthy combination of youth mixed with veteran talent.
Whether it be the five freshmen that contributed greatly for the Wolverines in 2012-13 or last year’s emergence of sophomores Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, Beilein has guided his teams to remarkable improvements and quickly.
But this season is on an entirely new level.
“If you have two children and then all of the sudden your wife has triplets, it’s a huge change in your life, your lifestyle,” John Beilein said Friday. “And going from two guys last year that we were working into our program, everybody else knew things, to really going to eight, I mean there’s eight guys -- I’ll count Mark Donnal as eight -- that we’re trying to teach the culture.
“We don’t even think about last year like any take a ways from last year. We’re trying to get eight guys to be as efficient as we can, just in a practice. How does our scout team operate?
“I know it’s crazy, today will be practice number 30 in our official season and I’m sitting in a meeting saying, how did we forget to do that in this time? And you’ll probably say what’d you do after five days, don’t you know it all? There’s something everyday that we have to do or someone has forgot and we have to reinforce.”
Unwilling to call this camp and group of players his most difficult challenge yet based on all of the youth and inexperience, Beilein certainly made it clear this won’t be a process that fixes itself at the snap of a finger.
“The only reason I think it’s been very difficult -- I can’t compare them -- is that last year was just, even though we had lost Tim and Trey, I don’t think it impacted me the value, at the time, of the five seniors that left,” Beilein said.
“That were there when those freshmen came in and now that’s the big thing that we’ve noticed. We’re getting better but it is slower than everybody hopes so we just keep working at it and keep working at it. In time, we’ll get there, but it’s not going to be like that.”
Instead, Beilein and his coaching staff continue to mold the clay like freshmen into fundamentally sound college basketball players as the 2014-15 season is now just hours from tipping off.
Compiling a checklist of roughly 50 areas of focus in practice heading into a new season, Michigan won’t have the luxury of multiple days off in a row until exams get underway at the end of the semester, putting a premium on the amount of detail that’s been invested to this point.
Either way, junior point guard Spike Albrecht remains encouraged the younger guys will pick things up despite some bumps along the way, especially picking up concepts defensively.
“From where we were at before Italy, they’ve come a long way,” Albrecht said. “And it’s tough, college basketball is a lot different especially on the defensive end and that’s something we’re really focusing on in practice, just trying to clean some things up there.”
“A lot of it’s just kind of like communication things,” added Albrecht. “They don’t know the whole lingo I guess for our system, switching patterns and things like that. Just, the more they study up on that and the coaches just kind of beat it into their brains, they’ll pick it up -- I have no doubt.”
One thing Michigan does have working for them despite being such a young team is a strongly forged chemistry off the floor.
“That’s one thing I’d say just this year I feel like everyone is so much closer in age,” Albrecht said. “We’ve got so many freshmen and sophomores and all of those guys are in the dorm together so they’re always constantly around each other. There’s only like two or three of us who aren’t with each other all the time.”
Beilein on Rotation
Every freshmen saw the floor in Michigan’s exhibition win over Wayne State Monday.
Moving forward, John Beilein isn’t positive how exactly his rotation will shape up in the regular season, possibly varying game to game especially early on in the non-conference.
“We’ll see how the game comes cause foul trouble sometimes can determine that,” Beilein said. “But, overall, yeah I think we will shorten the rotations and shorten the bench as the season progresses.
“At some point, we’ll lengthen them. It’s just, who’s healthy, who’s playing well, who needs to sit, just to understand that we’re going to play a certain way and that’s what we’re all going through.”
Asked whether or not any decisions have been made on redshirts, Beilein added, “We don’t anticipate redshirting anyone at this point.”