"I want to thank the University of Michigan for what has been a truly special home and remarkable place for my family and I for the last 12 years," Beilein said in the team release. "We have achieved great success together and we could not have done it without the incredible support of our administration, coaches, players, staff, students, fans and the entire university community. We shared some of the best moments of my life together and I will always be grateful for that, ” said Beilein. “At the same time, I felt very strongly about this new and exciting opportunity with the Cavaliers. I am very thankful to Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman and honored to be the head coach of the Cavaliers. I love the position the team is in to build and grow and this was something I felt was the perfect fit for me. With hard work and dedication by all of us, we will grow this team day by day and reinforce a culture of success that sustains itself with strong core values. Cleveland is a great city with amazing fans and I am really looking forward to calling Cleveland home for years to come.”
Beilein, 66, has been the head coach at Michigan since 2007. He's led the Wolverines to a 278-150 record and nine NCAA tournament appearances, including twice finishing as the national runner-up.
Beilein has no NBA coaching experience but has coached basketball at every level, beginning in high school and slowly working his way up through the collegiate ranks. He's coached at Nazareth College, Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia in addition to Michigan.
The Cavaliers parted ways with interim coach Larry Drew after finishing the season 19-63. Drew replaced Ty Lue just six games into the 2018-19 campaign.
That the Cavs would look to the college coaching ranks to make their hire is no surprise. The organization chased after Kentucky's John Calipari with a 10-year contract in 2014 and offered the job to Michigan State's Tom Izzo in 2010. Both coaches declined the offers and stayed at their respective schools.
Wojnarowski's report notes that Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman has "long been intrigued by Beilein." Cavs assistant general manager Mike Gansey played under Beilein at West Virginia.
The Cavaliers job likely appealed to Beilein because of the potential to rebuild the franchise in his image. Cleveland is one of three teams (New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns) that has a 14 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in June's draft. The team also already has a point guard of the future in place with Collin Sexton, who came on in the second half of his rookie year after struggling out of the gate.
There is also a matter of age and time. Beilein would be the third-oldest coach in the NBA behind Gregg Popovich and Mike D'Antoni. He's going to move into a version of basketball unlike anything he's ever seen. Whereas Beilein has been the constant and most powerful figure throughout his tenures in the college game, that's not the case in the NBA—even on a young team.
The Cavs still have some veterans with championship pedigree on the roster who are comfortable with their place in the league. There's going to be an adjustment period for Beilein, especially in regard to ceding control over play-calling aspects. It's an interesting hire on a number of levels, and Beilein's ability to adjust will be paramount to his success.
But the Cavs gave him a contract that runs through his 71st birthday. This was a now-or-never offer, and Beilein could comfortably transition into retirement if things don't work out.