Beilein Happy to be Ahead of Schedule

Michigan head basketball coach John Beilein had a plan to get the Wolverines back to the tournament, but the path seemed like it would be a little bit longer than he anticipated after a 10-22 campaign last season. Fast forward one year, and the program has taken a the kind of step that not even he anticipated it taking quite so soon.

Coach Beilein opening Statement:  ""We were a 10 (seed)... so why the hell was I so nervous? (laughter)  When I saw Arizona going in at first, I thought PAC-10, Arizona as a 12 seed right there that was one of the last spots.  If you watched the last couple of days of all the…we were sitting here after practice watching Mississippi State game, that could have went either way.  You can have a great, great year and like many teams did right now.  It looks like Creighton and Steve Fisher's team at San Diego State had a tremendous year.  I don't even know who got in that last one, but I don't think San Diego State got in at the end, tremendous year and not get in.  So we feel very fortunate to be one of those selected." 

Question:  Did you play Clemson a few years ago?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah we played them in the NIT Championship.  We followed them a little bit this year.  I don't know how much their personnel has changed.  I do know that they are a high pressure/full court pressing team.  That is what they've been in the past, but I haven't watched one of their games this year.  Matt has five or six tapes already…I'll have two loaded into my computer by eight o'clock.  I'll stay with my whole thing.  I'll just enjoy this a little bit and then I will begin as early…whoever gets up…not as early as Sam (Webb) gets up, but I'll be up pretty early watching tape."

Question:  Is this more nerve wracking than a game, because you have no (control)?

Coach Beilein:  "Yes.  I told my wife and I think I was talking to Sally Martin at the time.  When I'm coaching the game, I don't know if there is a heartbeat at all, I'm just sort of coaching.  When I'm watching the Buffalo Bills in the last second, which it has been a long time since they have been in the last second of the game, but the Cardinals in the World Series, my heart goes like this and that's what it was doing in there.  You don't have any control."

Question:  So was that nerve wracking more that you gave the green light to watch it in front of the whole public?

Coach Beilein:  "I made that decision yesterday and at first had said, just looking at the same thing, didn't want to make a decision.  You know what, they had to know right away a lot of things.  So I said, you know what if there is so much involved in the thing...  the next morning I woke and I saw the band members in the lobby.. they were studying and then a couple of cheerleaders where going out in the morning.  I said all these people have sacrificed so much and we got to make this an inclusive thing.  If we're in, we enjoy it all together and if we're out, it makes us stronger to be ready to come back next year to be better."

Question:  Can you talk about the scene, the looks on your player's faces in that moment?

Coach Beilein:  "You know what, we were hugging so many people, I don't know if I saw the looks on their faces, but there was a lot of joy in the room, no question.  Before we went out there I prepared them for both scenarios and how we were going to handle you guys in the other scenarios.  Because whenever we've been gone to the NIT it has been a great experience for our team.  I did not want that to be one of those teams that didn't get in and laid an egg right away in the NIT.  It is just trying to think (ahead).  Had I known that we were going to get in, I probably wouldn't have brought that up, but I wanted to make sure that we were ready for both scenarios."

Question:  Talk about the fans.  For you it's been two years here, for a lot of them it has been a decade.  Can you gauge the depth of feeling from all the people?

Coach Beilein:  "There is a lot of passion out there right now.  I just love having our students being involved and I think we are grooming a younger group of students too, even the freshman now.  They've done great work with Brian Townsend and our administrative staff, Marty Bodnar and his guys.  Now the freshman as well, when they get their football ticket application, they can check basketball as well for the freshman coming in.  All these things just to get the men's and women's basketball programs are back, at least in the middle of the Big Ten, because you got to get to the middle before you can get to the top."

Question:  Last year did you think this would be possible?

Coach Beilein:  "I don't think that that would have been the thing.  We were hoping…probably more an NIT thing would be a good step.  When you go 10-22, you're not expecting and looking at the schedule.  I was hoping that we were going to beat Michigan Tech so we weren't playing IUPUI in the consolation game in that first tournament and that's the way coaches think.  You don't know how your team is going to respond.  So I was really pleased that we got off to that good start.  I told everybody it would be roller coaster.  I'm not trying to tell anybody that I'm wiser than anybody else, but I just…experience tells you that it is going to go up and down.  I know there was sometimes that we were just hoping for a .500 record after we hit the road there.  We lost to Wisconsin.  If it all came down where we didn't get into this tournament, it wasn't going to be about any road losses, it was going to be not beating Wisconsin and Ohio State at home and Michigan State, one or two of those three…beating two or three or one of those three, I thought was going to be a major difference in really what determines.  Ten wins in the Big Ten this year would have been a great year."

Question:  There is a point and time I recall when we were in this room and a lot of people on the outside were convinced that your team wouldn't get in and you stood your ground and said, nothing has been decided yet; how did you keep your players focused on that and keep them from the distractions on the outside?

Coach Beilein: "You do the same approach that you do, this is what I've tried to do, if you're on a hot streak.  Just day-to-day, this is about winning today, winning today's film session, win today's training meal, winning today's day in the classroom.  I think it allows them to stay pretty focused for short term goals instead of doing all that.  That is part of all the different access to the media and things like that.  There is a lot of stuff that can be distracting and we tried to educate them on that.  There are times that I get on the computer and look at bracketology or the college RPI just to see out of curiosity.  Then you switch the computer and you said, I can't make a difference about this but if I watch this film, maybe we can make a difference."

Question:  It's a team game obviously but when you got a pair like Manny (Harris) and DeShawn (Sims), do you feel like that gives you a chance?

Coach Beilein:  "I think that's the good news.  At this level now, when you are in the seat we're in, everybody has a lot of bullets in their gun as well.  In playing Clemson, very talented, great coach.  Really has done a wonderful job there at Clemson.  We also playing in the Big Ten, played some terrific teams this year.  As I've said out there, we are fortunate enough to have a win over the ACC tournament champion and Big Ten tournament champion.  That means we have played against some very good teams, but we've played extremely well in those games.  We'll have to do that again."

Question:  Given this tournament can you talk about David Merritt and him kind of seeing this dream realized today?

Coach Beilein:  "And CJ (Lee) and Jevohn (Shepherd); I think Jevohn is one young man that probably through this all because he hasn't had the playing time, you don't hear him being as vocal.  He has really been a silent leader.  There has been no nonsense, no complaining, no bringing the team down in the locker room and I feel that is as important as having the outspoken former walk-ons that have emerged as team leaders.  So David and CJ both have been terrific, but I think Jevohn, just staying on board with Jevohn and the kids like him so much it has really helped him as well."

Question: You said it would happen, talk about how Manny didn't let the Iowa thing effect him in a negative way at all and he just came back like you thought he would and played well.

Coach Beilein: "It's like any other game.  There are things that go on during the game that you try to learn from for the next game. Whether that was a learning experience, who knows?  It is just the way we try to do things – do things the right way."

Question:  Talk about rebuilding a program, is the first step?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah, I think we had to get to this point to have people believe and you would know as well as anybody else, it's about recruiting, what this does to people saying, are they going to get it done there.  Is that style going to work, are those type of recruits going to work, is this going to work.  Okay, it worked so far, now we got to continue with the program so that we can not just be happy to be in but be happy to be in and advance, which is obviously what we're trying to do on Thursday."

Question:  Now that there is a sense of accomplishment and there is still a lot of work to do, but do you stop and take a look back at what you've accomplished in a short period of time?

Coach Beilein:  "I'm going to try and do that.  In the next 12 hours, I'm really going to try and do that.  I might go home and pour myself a nice cold beer and sit back and maybe just glance at Clemson's roster and look at their stats and really relax a little bit, and just say we go to work tomorrow just like any other game and do the best we can.  People tell me that I need to do more of that and that's what I'm trying to do."

Question:  Why is it hard for you do that do you think?

Coach Beilein:  "I don't know why it's hard.  Enjoying winning is probably what coaches do the poorest job of because there is just another game looming there.  I try to do a better job of not embracing defeat but dealing with defeat to make it better.  Winning is always okay.  How long can I enjoy this.  I got another game, I can't enjoy this.  Then it all runs together and it is a rough journey that way."

Question:  How much of asset is it to have DeShawn down low in an offense that everybody thinks threes, threes, threes that makes teams defense in there too?

Coach Beilein:  "You have no reason know whether I was Canisius or Lemoyne or at West Virginia a little bit, but (Kevin) Pittsnogle when he was playing for us he was known for his threes, but he scored 1800 points, but I think he only scored a 1000 points inside the arc.  It's just this misconception of what we do.  Now if we don't have a dominant inside guy, we won't throw it in there, we want to win.  When we have guys that are dominant inside, we are going to get it in there."

The Michigan Insider Top Stories