Michigan Man

Following days of speculation, John Beilein confirmed what was suspected for the last 24 hours: He is no longer West Virginia's basketball coach.

"Obviously, it is now official that I have decided to leave the great fans, and just a wonderful student body that we have here at West Virginia, great fans and a terrific team, to make another move in my career and my family's life," an emotional Beilein told reporters inside the blue gate at the Coliseum. "Bittersweet is the word that everyone always uses. I just met with my team, and we're all very sad. They'll move on, without myself as the coach anymore.

"I know I'm sad. Maybe some of them are happy. It's a sad moment."

Beilein met with the team for approximately 45 minutes prior to meeting with the media. Center Jamie Smalligan, a Michigan native who transferred from Butler to play for Beilein, was visibly upset as he left the Coliseum. "He's gone," Smalligan said as walked towards the main parking lot. The big man declined to comment any further.

Beilein, who came to West Virginia in the spring of 2002 following a five-year stint at Richmond, would not discuss specific details of his new deal with Michigan.

"I really don't want to go into all of that," said Beilein. "It was really just the right thing for me to do. It really was the right thing for me to do at this time. There's never the right time to leave when you're a coach and you're so involved with your players. There's no great time to say ‘OK, now is the time to go' whether you have one senior, whether you have five seniors, seven freshmen…there's never a good time.

"I know that it was the right thing for me to do at this time, or I wouldn't have done it," he continued. "I always pride myself on trying to do what's right."

In his comments -- which lasted roughly 12 minutes -- Beilein thanked the fans, as well as the media for the past five years of his coaching career.

"I've gotten hundreds of emails in the last couple of days from people who were extremely congratulatory about our season," he said. "As I said, I'm so thankful and grateful to all of those people who have emailed me and come to our games and traveled all over and listened on Armed Forces radio. They are great West Virginia fans.

"It was a wonderful opportunity for me to come here to coach in the Big East and coach at West Virginia University. I'll be thankful for the rest of my life. I hope that everybody is very pleased with the direction that we took the program. Sometimes, good things come to an end. It's been a great time here at West Virginia. Maybe other people don't feel that way; I feel that way. It's time for me to make a move and do new things at another institution."

Ed Pastilong, West Virginia's Director of Athletics, released the following statement this evening: "We want to thank John Beilein for his five years at West Virginia University and the success that he has brought to the program. Under his leadership, WVU has achieved new levels of national prominence and success within the Big East Conference.

"While we wanted John to remain our coach for the remainder of his coaching career, he has made the decision to leave West Virginia University. We wish him the best in this new chapter of his coaching career.

"The search for a new coach will begin immediately. I am confident that we will find a quality coach who will continue the rich Mountaineer basketball tradition."

The coach has yet to address his West Virginia players individually, but acknowledged that he will begin to do so this evening while also talking to their parents. He will also speak to Washington D.C.-area forward John Flowers, currently the only signed committment for WVU's class of 2007.

Beilein, 54, is expected to fly to Ann Arbor tomorrow morning at which time a press conference will be held introducing him as the new head coach for the Wolverines. Despite published reports to the contrary, Beilein said that he has not visited his new town at any point during this process.

"I took a leap of faith that West Virginia was the correct job for me five years ago," he said, "and I'm taking another leap of faith now."

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