Report: John Beilein Acted Like 'Dictator' to Cavs Players Before Leaving Team

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2020

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Denver. The Cavaliers won 111-103. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

As head coach John Beilein's Cleveland Cavaliers tenure ends, more details about what went wrong in the nine months after the team hired him have emerged.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Beilein is expected to formally say goodbye to the team and coaching staff Wednesday after he negotiated a contract settlement with the Cavs.

Per The Athletic's Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon, one source described Beilein as being a "dictator" whose style wasn't suited for the NBA

One problem cited was Beilein's "tone toward the players" when he was "allegedly overly harping his voice in film sessions, nitpicking fundamentals and showing an inability to adapt to the NBA's offensive and defensive structures."

The report noted the final straw for Cavs players occurred during their Jan. 8 film session that included his "thugs" comment: "He insisted later he meant to say slugs, and he tried to apologize the next day, but a number of the players never really embraced his explanation. In fact, some of them thought it was an insult to their intelligence, one player told The Athletic."

After Beilein's remark, one Cavs source told Charania, Vardon and Lloyd the team tried "to make light of a very tough situation" by putting on songs that had the word "thug" whenever he was close enough to hear it. 

Andre Drummond, who was acquired from the Detroit Pistons in a Feb. 6 trade, was already telling "teammates the situation in Cleveland was worse than Detroit."

Despite all of the turmoil in Cleveland under Beilein, players were "surprised" that he left the team with three more guaranteed years on his contract worth between $4 million and $4.5 million per season.

The report noted Beilein is believed to have recently told one Cavaliers player, "money isn't an issue; happiness comes first." 

Beilein, who joined Cleveland in May, became "miserable in his new job" and was "questioning his decision" to leave Michigan by the time of the team's final two preseason games against the Boston Celtics, which the Cavs lost by a combined 69 points. 

Before going Cleveland, Beilein had a successful 12-year stint at the University of Michigan. The 67-year-old turned the program around with nine NCAA tournament appearances, including two trips to the national title game in 2012-13 and 2017-18. 

Beilein had never coached in the NBA as an assistant or head coach before getting the job in Cleveland. He went 571-325 in 27 seasons with four different programs. 

Per Wojnarowski, J.B. Bickerstaff, an associate head coach on Beilein's staff, will take over as Cleveland's head coach for the remainder of this season.

The Cavaliers entered the All-Star break with a 14-40 record, second-worst in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors (12-43).


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