Breed Apart

There are a number of things that set John Beilein apart from the typical college basketball coach, and one of them was on display in West Virginia's 61-41- win over Wofford in the second round of the Guardians Classic.

Beilein, of course, has made a career, and a very successful one at that, based on some decidedly unconventional thinking. His willingness to try new ideas, his unique offense, his different view of timeouts, and his disdain for certain statistics all contribute to the picture of a gifted coach unafraid to do things his way, whether they follow tried and true patters or not.

Although there weren't any great strategic or tactical landmarks in the Wofford game, there were a pair of very illuminating moments that highlight the way in which Beilein approaches the game – moments that probably wouldn't have played out the same way with many other coaches.

The first came at halftime, with WVU trailing the Terriers by the cover-your-eyes score of 24-19. Many coaches, after watching a first half in which their team failed to crack the point-a-minute barrier, would have been livid. Bob Knight-type tirades would probably ensue. Chairs would be tossed, blackboards broken, and perhaps the odd water cooler overturned. That's not Beilein's way however.

"He wasn't upset at halftime," junior forward Frank Young said of Beilein's demeanor. "He just talked to us and told us that we know how to play, and that we can play better than we did in the first half. He told us to just execute our offense, and the shots would go down sooner or later."

Beilein recognized that West Virginia was running the offense acceptably, and that the reason for the low scoring was just an uncharacteristic poor shooting half . Other than Kevin Pittsnogle's 5-8 effort, no other Mountaineer shot better than 33% in the opening stanza, and just Joe Herber (2-6) reached that mark. WVU was 8-27 from the field, including a rim-bending 1-10 from three-point range, but Beilein was confident that trend wouldn't continue.

Even if the sight of shots clanging off the iron did run into the second half, there's not much Beilein could have done about it. What he could, and did do, is ensure that his players didn't get frustrated and start trying to do things outside the offense or make plays beyond their abilities. The best way to achieve that goal was a calm talk about staying the course and continuing to run the offense efficiently – not a fire and brimstone speech.

When WVU came out to start the second half, the Mountaineers were relaxed, despite the deficit, and part of that was certainly attributable to the coach's halftime demeanor.

"There wasn't any panic on our part," senior center Kevin Pittsnogle confirmed. "We knew we just need to keep running the offense, and the shots would fall."

That's exactly what happened, as WVU hit its first four shots of the second period while piling up an 8-17 mark from long range as it rallied to defeat the Terriers. The comeback, however, might not have been the most notable item of the second half. Instead, it was the sight of Beilein shedding his cool and erupting from the bench with 4:03 to play.

Just prior to the timeout, Wofford was making a last ditch effort to get back into the game. Trailing by 18 points, the Terriers turned up the pressure in its man-to-man defense in an attempt to get a few steals and cut into WVU's lead. The Mountianeers responded not with crisp screens and sharp back cuts, but with a somewhat lackadaisical offensive sequence that ended with a hurried three-pointer as the shot clock was winding down. As the ball clanged off the rim and went out of bounds, Beilein bounded angrily to his feet, signaled for a timeout, then proceeded with a strenuous lecture to his team about the poor sequence he had just witnessed.

The casual onlooker might have wondered what had gotten into the veteran coach. His team had the game under control, so there was no reason to get upset, right?

Beilein, of course, didn't look at it that way.

"I didn't like the way we responded to their pressure," he said of the late timeout. "That was a key area where if it's a four-point game, we lose it. If that's Texas next week, we lose it. When people pick it up like that, we have to respond and cut harder, and I wanted to make that point."

The point was made, and rather emphatically.

"We were just running the offense really sloppy," Young said of the reason for the refresher course in Beilein basketball. "He knows that's not characteristic of us, and that's why he was upset."

"We just weren't running the offense," Pittsnogle echoed. "We didn't run it through. When people pressure us we should be able to pick them apart, and we didn't do that."

Consider the point made, and one that a number of coaches might have let go. By the time film of the possession was reviewed the next day, the impact of the moment might have been lost, so Beilein grabbed the opportunity to make a teaching point in what many consider to be "garbage time".

Most observers won't recall that timeout as the year goes on, or Beilein's calm reaction to WVU's shaky first half, but they might well see the benefits from them without realizing the sources from which they came. And that, as much as anything, defines WVU's outstanding head coach.

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