John Beilein Resigns as Cavaliers HC; Reassigned to New Role with Team

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein watches his team play against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)
Hannah Foslien/Associated Press

John Beilein's first season as an NBA head coach did not go according to plan.

Beilein stepped down as the Cleveland Cavaliers' head coach on Wednesday but will remain with the franchise in an unspecified role. The Cavs will promote associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to replace Beilein.

Cleveland sits last in the Eastern Conference at 14-40.

The writing seemed to be on the wall for the former University of Michigan coach when Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported he and the Cavaliers were "in advanced talks about parting ways by Wednesday."

What's more, Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported for ESPN the coach discussed stepping down during the All-Star break with the team.

The Cavaliers have struggled throughout the season and never looked the part of contenders under Beilein's leadership.

Beilein also made headlines in January when Wojnarowski reported he said his players were no longer playing "like a bunch of thugs" during a film session.

While Beilein later said he understood the racial connotations the word carries and reached out to players on an individual level to explain he meant to say "slugs," Wojnarowski reported "players left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed" after a "hush fell over the room" in the immediate aftermath of the comment.

"I didn't realize that I had said the word 'thugs,' but my staff told me later I did, and so I must have said it," Beilein said. "I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. We weren't playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That's what I was trying to say. I've already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand."

The coach's use of the word "thugs" was not the only issue in Cleveland this season.

Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported "Kevin Love had an emotional verbal outburst directed toward general manager Koby Altman" regarding the direction of the franchise.

Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report also cited sources around the team who said Love was becoming increasingly frustrated. That was clear during a January loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder when he slowly walked toward a dribbling Collin Sexton and threw his arms up in disgust over not receiving a pass earlier.

While Love eventually apologized for his actions, per James Rapien of 92.3 The Fan, his frustration helped define Beilein's first and only season with the team. After all, Love was the most notable connection between the current outfit and the 2015-16 champions and figured to be Cleveland's best player.

Despite the failures in Cleveland, Beilein largely found success during his collegiate career prior to his move to the NBA.

He made stops at Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan, finished with a 571-325 record and made the NCAA men's tournament 13 times. He is best known for his time with the Wolverines, where he advanced to the national championship game twice in addition to winning two Big Ten regular-season titles and two conference tournaments.

Those winning ways did not translate to the Cavaliers.

While they were not expected to be contenders right away, especially with LeBron James now on the Los Angeles Lakers, they did give Beilein some veteran pieces in Love and Tristan Thompson to go with young potential building blocks in Sexton and Darius Garland.

Instead of establishing a quality foundation for years to come, the coach's season generated plenty of negative headlines, particularly those concerning the contentious situations in which he and his players found themselves.

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