Well, it’s probably time to start discussing the elephant in the room. It’s been a bubbling topic in the background for much of the last week, but it’s now gained enough traction to warrant a legitimate response and some real analysis.
The elephant, of course, is the news that John Beilein interviewed and is under serious consideration for the head coaching vacancy with the Detroit Pistons. The news was shocking and upsetting to more than a fair number of Wolverine fans. After all, the idea of losing a coach of Beilein’s pedigree isn’t exactly an encouraging thought.
But how should fans react exactly?
And how should others around the Big Ten feel?
Is this thing for real, or a dog and pony show to help Beilein in contract negotiations?
There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive into some of the major points. Since we can only know so much about what Beilein is thinking, there’s a fair bit of (necessary) speculation. Nonetheless, here’s an overall look at where things are sitting as we move forward.
1. Yes, this is real and fans should treat it as such.
Many in the media have been hesitant to buy into the idea of Beilein leaving Michigan for the Pistons job. I have to admit, it was a bit surprising when I first heard it as well. Beilein has been in Ann Arbor for over a decade and the idea of him leaving for one of the more dysfunctional franchises in the NBA was pretty jarring.
However, based upon what we have now, we need to consider this a real possibility.
To start, all the reports we have so far strongly indicate that this is real. Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Beilein has already interviewed for the job and that the Pistons are also interested in “further conversations” with the coach. This is all on top of a meeting that allegedly happened in California with Pistons owner Tom Gores beforehand. Multiple meetings implies the seriousness of interest on both sides.
Additionally, the Detroit Free Press is reporting that Beilein told his team and recent commit Jalen Wilson earlier this week that he was in talks with the Pistons. That’s a major sign for a coach who has primarily avoided the drama that many other coaches seem to chase.
Barring a massive disinformation scheme by someone—which doesn’t appear to be the case here—these reports pretty clearly tell us that Beilein to the Pistons is a real possibility. This isn’t fake news to sell newspapers. It’s something that could legitimately happen.
2. There really isn’t any precedent for Beilein making a play like this for a contract.
Many in the media have speculated that this is simply a ploy by Beilein to put pressure on Michigan to give him and his staff more money in contract negotiations. And, generally speaking, that’s not a crazy jump, either. College coaches have been doing this for years. They pretend like they have interest in an NBA job simply to lock up a raise.
But I don’t think that’s the case here.
Look, I’m not going to pretend Beilein is a charity worker or doesn’t care about the size of his contract. We know he does. He makes a boatload of money already and I highly doubt he would be opposed to earning more. The same can be said for his staff.
However, Beilein just really hasn’t done this before, at least not at Michigan. If this was a negotiating method he believed in, wouldn’t you expect him to have done this before? It seems unusual that a coach would lead a program to historical success for more than a decade and suddenly start using hard ball negotiating tactics.
Beilein will likely use this development to his benefit, but I believe folks speculating that it is the only or even the primary reason for this interest are misguided. This seems to be more about a shot to coach at the highest level of the game than a play for a few extra bucks.
3. Don’t just assume the Pistons are going to beg for Beilein’s services.
While Beilein going to the Pistons is a legitimate possibility, it’s also important to remember that it’s not a done deal yet. I believe there is real interest on Beilein’s part, but don’t forget that there are two sides to this process. The Pistons also need to offer Beilein the job before he even has the opportunity to take over in Detroit.
Reports place Beilein as one of the frontrunners for the job right now, but none have stated that he is the frontrunner. In fact, the frontrunner seems to be Dwayne Casey, who was just fired from the Toronto Raptors. Casey certainly has more NBA experience than Beilein and built the Raptors into a power in the Eastern Conference. Although, nobody can know exactly what the Pistons are thinking at this exact moment.
Either way, fans need to remember that this coaching search isn’t finished. Moreover, keep in mind that Beilein is not a runaway frontrunner for the job. His college accolades are impressive, but that doesn’t guarantee you anything in the NBA. So, even if Beilein is interested in the job, nothing is finished at the moment.
4. There are reasons for Beilein to want to jump to the NBA.
Whether college fans want to admit it or not, there are things that NBA teams can offer that colleges simply can’t replicate. The opportunity to compete at the highest level for a championship and against the best in the world just isn’t something that colleges can offer, no matter what Warde Manuel and his staff do.
Maybe this is something that goes without saying, but it’s important to reiterate. How important these things are to Beilein is a choice for him and him alone. We don’t know how much he would value coaching against LeBron James or having Blake Griffin on his roster. Or how much he would enjoy scheming against Brad Stevens and Steve Kerr.
Moreover, there are some reasons to think Beilein could hit the ground running as well. His perimeter focused offense would fit in the NBA and he has a temperament that’s pretty similar to the elite NBA coaches. Add in an elite ability to scout and develop talent and he very well could find substantial success at the next level.
5. There are also reasons to return, too.
However, there are also some major reasons for Beilein to return to Ann Arbor as well. To start, he’s coming off a national championship game appearance and has things rolling on the recruiting trail. Michigan is built for a massive amount of success over the coming seasons and walking away from that situation won’t be easy.
Additionally, Beilein knows what he’s getting in Ann Arbor. He has fantastic job security, gets paid well, and knows what to expect on a yearly basis. We’ve all heard about how the “grass is always greener” and the like. Walking away from a known commodity is never easy to do and is a major reason to stay put.
The situation at Michigan is especially important to consider given the fact that the Pistons have turned over coaches like an entry level telemarketing organization. It’s been years since a coach in Detroit has felt any real job security and that probably wouldn’t change, even if Beilein took over at the helm.
It’s also worth pointing out the legacy that Beilein has built with the Wolverines. He’s the program’s winningest coach of all-time and will be beloved for years to come. Does he want to sacrifice that for a chance to lose to the Cavs and/or Warriors at the next level?
6. Hold on to your butts.
There are a lot of things we don’t know about this search, but there are some things we do know. And one of the things we know for sure is that Tom Gores is a wild card and that this thing likely won’t be resolved for some time.
So, hold on to your butts.