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John Beilein Hired by Pistons, Hailed as 'Real Asset' for Player Development

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2021

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 27: Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein reacts during the game against the Boston Celtics in the first half at TD Garden on December 27, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons announced they are hiring John Beilein as a senior advisor/player development on Wednesday.

"There is nothing more important to our franchise right now than the growth and development of our players," Pistons governor Tom Gores said. "Having spent time with John, we all know he is one of the best teachers in the game of basketball at any level. Dwane's decision and desire to bring him on board underscores our commitment to helping this young Pistons team maximize its potential. John will be a real asset to the organization and we are fortunate to have him join us."

Beilein is returning to the NBA after his stint as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers ended abruptly in February 2020.

He signed a five-year deal to become the Cavs' coach before the 2019-20 season and failed to make it past the All-Star break. Cleveland had the Eastern Conference's worst record (14-40), and its coach appeared ill-suited for the pro level.

Most notably, the 68-year-old got in hot water when he said his players had improved and weren't playing like "a bunch of thugs"; he apologized for the comment, saying he meant to say "slugs."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported that Beilein's departure was inevitable:

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"Friends and associates of Beilein have described him as unhappy -- even miserable -- with the move to the Cavaliers. The losing that comes with a rebuild, as well as several skirmishes in public and private with players, has played a part in the rapid deterioration, sources said. ...

"Beilein has also dealt with some personal and family turmoil, as his son Patrick was dismissed before the start of his first season as head coach at Niagra University. Personal issues were cited."

According to Wojnarowski, Beilein walked away with a portion of his outstanding salary for the 2019-20 season. The fact that he was willing to leave the remainder of his contract on the table spoke to how much he was looking to ponder his next step.

There's no question Beilein's Cavs spell was an unmitigated disaster. However, the success he enjoyed at the collegiate level at West Virginia and Michigan meant he'd land on his feet when he was ready to get back to the game.

Beilein had a 571-325 overall college record. He turned West Virginia around, guiding the Mountaineers to the Elite Eight in 2005, and then he returned Michigan to heights the Wolverines hadn't enjoyed since the Fab Five era. Michigan made the Final Four in 2013 and 2018, finishing runner-up to Villanova in the second of those trips.

Under Beilein's watch, the Wolverines were often better than the sum of their parts. They didn't have a revolving door of elite 5-star recruits coming through Ann Arbor every year.

Caris LeVert was the No. 239 player in the 2012 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Trey Burke ranked 93rd nationally in 2011, and Moritz Wagner was 119th in 2015. Those three players grew into first-round draft picks.

He will now look to lead a turnaround for the Pistons, who were an ugly 20-52 during the 2020-21 campaign and haven't won a playoff series since they reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008.

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