Before this year’s NCAA Tournament, Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein had been to the dance seven times with four different schools. The closest that the 60-year old head coach had come to reaching the pinnacle of a college coaching career and making the Final Four was in 2004.
Then the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers, Beilein and his squad were ousted by the Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight round in an overtime thriller. At the time, it was a heart-breaker for the coach.
Today, Beilein mended that broken heart by finally reaching the promised land of the Final Four, and frankly, there really couldn’t be anyone more deserving.
When Beilein made the decision to leave West Virginia and become the 16th head coach of the Wolverines in 2007, there were certainly a lot more skeptics than optimists. With the Big East being seen as the top conference in college hoops, Beilein seemed to be building a consistent winner to contend with the traditional powers. So, why would he leave for a football-enamored school?
The results of today are exactly why he made that move.
The skeptics were quickly proven wrong, as Beilein guided the Wolverines to their first tournament appearance in over a decade in 2008.
In just his second year in Ann Arbor, the results were starting to show. After a disappointing 15-17 campaign the following season and missing the postseason, many thought the ’08-’09 accomplishments were a fluke. But, Michigan was right back in the tourney after the 2010-2011 season and hasn’t looked back since.
After two straight second-round exits, Michigan ran the Florida Gators right off the court today and punched their ticket to Atlanta. Beilein accomplished what many people would have scoffed at in 2007 — He has built what appears to be a consistent basketball contender at Michigan.
At a time when people in Ann Arbor, Michigan are usually studying their football depth chart, the coach has them focusing on a potential national championship basketball program. For this alone, the coach deserves some sort of lifetime achievement award.
The fact of the matter is that since he began coaching the sport of college basketball in 1978 at tiny Erie Community College, Beilein has consistently shown all of the great tools that make up a great college basketball coach. Cutting down the net today after a historic victory for the Michigan program was a reward that this man has had coming for a very long time.