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Cavs' Beilein Starts Coaching Before Press Conference

Photo by Cavs.com
Photo by Cavs.com

Even before he was officially introduced as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the teaching had already started for John Beilein. Young building blocks Collin Sexton and Larry Nance Jr. were at the Cav's training facility in Independence Tuesday morning, and they got some  pointers from the former University of Michigan coach before his first session with reporters.

"Collin flew from the Phillipines and got here at 6 a.m.," Beilein said. "Larry was here before I got here at 9 o'clock. I've spoken with every player on the team thus far, and from the excitement in their voices, I feel like I'm talking with some of the best young men I've ever coached."

Beilein said he has more tutoring in mind for Sexton, who just finished his rookie season.

"I'm going to put him through a few drills that I want him to work at while I'm away," Beilein said. "That's what makes me tick, being on that floor with those guys, being in a film session with them and watching them grow as players."

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert started the press conference by listing Beilein's many college sucesses, but then cited what he felt was the new coach's most important quality.

"He develops young players and he has an instant bond with young players," Gilbert said. "He was literally in the gym just a few minutes ago, in his suit I think, giving Larry some tips."

Gilbert also praised Beilein as a person, one who took what fans and many in the organization viewed as a negative experience at the NBA Draft Lottery and gave it a positive spin. The Cavs finished with the second worst record in the league, but drew only the fifth choice in the draft.

"Instantaneously he just looked at us both, he goes, 'C'mon you guys, that's it, let's go. Fifth is good, we're good,' " Gilbert said. "He saw that Nick (Gilbert's son) was disappointed and he goes, 'C'mon, first thing we're going to do, we're going to go up there after this thing, we're going to pick him up.' "

Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman also spoke glowingly of Beilein's character, saying he checked all the team's boxes for a head coach.

"A cultural driver and a leader," Altman said "We wanted a teacher. We wanted an innovator, someone that's going to be able to adapt on the fly to personnel and to the times. And then we wanted an incredible communicator. On top of that, we also wanted someone who embraced analytics."

Cavs Assistant GM Mike Gansey played for Beilein at West Virginia, his last coaching job before 11 seasons at Michigan.

"He doesn't get the marquee talents in terms of the McDonald's All-Americans, the top 20 kids," Altman said of Beilein's college career. "He gets the kids that are top 100, and then somehow turns them into lottery picks. We watched that through his system."

When he spoke, Beilein acknowledged his former school's rivalry with Ohio State.

"I left the greatest university in the world," Beilein said to a smattering of applause and laughter. "Some of you Ohio State people may not agree with that, but we left the greatest university in the world, a place that was special to Kathleen and me and our entire family, to come to some place I think is equally as special."

Beilein said people have told him throughout his career he was crazy for changing jobs. That includes his father who cautioned against leaving a $7,000-a-year high school coaching job because he was in the teachers union.

Somehow, through seven college coaching jobs -- four in DIvision I -- Beilein has never been fired. Firings, one reporter noted, are common in the NBA, including in Cleveland, where's he's now the sixth head coach since Mike Brown was axed (for the first time) after the 2009-10 season.

"We don't complain on paydays, right? That's part of this job," Beilein said. "But I've been able to stay away from that, and that's the only plan here."

Beilein plans to coach at least one of the Cavs summer league teams, beginning July 1 in Utah. 

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.