April 8, 2013

Beilein in the eyes of his players

One by one, Michigan starters were asked what struck them about head coach John Beilein as they went through the recruiting process and settled on Ann Arbor. Their answers reveal plenty about the man who has them on the verge of a national championship.

Here is what they had to say…

Sophomore guard Trey Burke: "I knew I was coming into a really good program, was going to play for a really good coach. My senior year, it came down to Cincinnati and Michigan. Michigan came onto the scene for me late in my recruiting process.

"You know, I really didn't know what to expect when they first started calling me. When I got the chance to meet Coach B., get to campus, meet the players, things like that, I definitely felt like this was the place for me to be.

"Coach Beilein, he's always been a players' coach. He's the type of coach that allows you to play. He tells you, 'Play within the system, but don't be mechanical, robotic, be a player.' I definitely think that's important for this team because we had those type of players that can make plays, but at the same time run an offense and definitely get good looks."

Junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "I knew I was coming to a great place when Coach Beilein, the first question he asked was, 'How are you academically? How you doing in school?' When I was getting recruited, no other coach talked to me about that. It was great just to see how important academics were to that coach.

"He knew if you weren't going to do well in school, you weren't going to see any playing time on court. So I knew right then and there I had his trust going to the school, just getting a great education here."

Freshman center Mitch McGary: "During the recruiting process, I had other big‑time schools that offered. I just felt with Coach Beilein and his staff, I respected them a lot. They stayed true to me. They were real classy with it. They didn't give me the normal car salesman pitch like every other coach did. They told me what I wanted to hear, told me I have to earn everything when I get there.

"Just going off this year how Coach Beilein lets us play throughout his system, it's just a blessing for us players. We have guys, like Trey said, who can score at any moment. Just for him to let us play within his offense, be players, it's just an honor."

Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III: "I heard a lot about Coach B. coming into Michigan, our recruiting trips, how good of a coach he was. Something that really caught my eye and my attention about coming to Michigan was about how he was a great coach, and he was so family-oriented. We all get along like family. He really values each and every one of us, wants to gain a relationship. He's not just a coach to us.

"He believed in myself and the rest of these guys up here in stages of our life when we probably weren't this good and we didn't have all the offers. That's something I really respect about Coach B., and thank him for that."

Freshman guard Nik Stauskas: "During the recruiting process, the thing that stuck out to me was the interest that Coach B. took into my personal life and my family. Most of the other coaches that recruited me, every time I talked to them, it was just about basketball, what things were going to be like when I got there.

"Coach Beilein took the time to talk to me about anything that was going on in my life. I appreciated that. The other thing he stressed was skill development. He said he was looking forward to improving my game, getting me better. That's something that meant a lot to me because I'm always looking to get better on the court."

Beilein heard all of that, and was later asked how this team has changed him as a coach. He's certainly shown a willingness to adapt what Michigan does in his six-year path in Ann Arbor, and certainly in 35 seasons as a head coach he's evolved considerably.

He insists, though, that this group has reinforced in him many of the tenets that he's always believed in so strongly.

"I don't think it's changed me," Beilein said. "What it's done, it's encouraged me to know that some things don't change: your values, getting kids to work hard, getting them to play together. All our core values are stronger than ever. At the same time, it reinforces the idea that you must change to your team. You can't say, 'This is how we play.'

"For example, here is the thing. We went into the season. The first week of the season, we were throwing lob dunks to each other. We were like 0-for‑20. I realized it was part of what we needed to do to get easier points. I can see it more and more, how it's effective, especially in the pick-and-roll and the fast break. We began practicing lob dunks, did more and more of it throughout the season in practice. All of a sudden, we've become very good at it.
So that's a big change.

"Now, throwing a lob dunk to Zack Novak or Stu Douglass probably wasn't the best play. But when you have Glenn running in, Mitch running in, you know, again, change to your talent. What do you have? Don't say you have to get a better point guard, like we did with the two‑guard system. No, change how you play so it more fits that particular team."

Beilein has changed, and stayed the same. And now he and his team are 40 minutes away from the biggest prize in college basketball.

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