A little known but very successful coach

Not too many people had heard of John Beilein before last week. The only thing I knew about Beilein was that he was the head basketball at West Virginia University prior to his current position as head coach at the University of Michigan. This year, he coached his Michigan team into the National Championship game. They played a great game before losing to Louisville, this year’s national champion. I was impressed with the way Beilein coached his team so I decided to see if I could learn more about him.

It turns out that Beilein has had quite a career in coaching. He is the only active coach to have won 20 games with teams at four different collegiate levels – junior college, NAIA, NCAA Division 2 and NCAA Division 1. Beilein is one of 8 coaches to have taken four different schools to the NCAA tournament. The man can coach. He has been successful at all levels and at every school where he has coached.

During the NCAA championship game, I caught a glimpse of why John Beilein has been so successful. At halftime, the television network went into the locker room and showed a bit of Beilein’s halftime talk to the team. Michigan played a great first half. They had a 12 point lead with just three minutes to go and the momentum was clearly in their favor. But in that last three minutes of the half, Louisville went on a run. Louisville shooting guard Luke Hancock made four three pointers and got the Cardinals back in the game. At halftime, Michigan led by only one point. It was a crucial three minutes. And most importantly, the momentum had swung to Louisville’s favor.

In his halftime talk, Beilein didn’t focus on that last three minutes. I’m sure he was nervous about the sudden swing in momentum and concerned about how quickly Louisville had closed their deficit. But Beilein showed no panic at all. He showed no concern for what had happened in that last three minutes. He did not focus on the negative. Instead, Beilein was positive, upbeat, and enthusiastic. He told his team what a great half of basketball that was and how excited he was for the second half. He clapped, cheered, and encouraged. He focused on the positive things his team had done and refused to let any negativity enter their thoughts.

It was clear to me from watching just a few minutes of his halftime speech why John Beilein has been a success everywhere he has coached. He displayed important qualities of a leader – composure, positivity, calm, enthusiasm, encouragement. As his team was going through a time of crisis, Beilein was a calming force.

In the end, Michigan lost the game. (It would have been too perfect for this blog if they had won!) But had Beilein not done a great job of re-focusing his team at halftime, it may not have been nearly as exciting a game as it was.

Thanks for reading,


2 thoughts on “A little known but very successful coach

  1. Jim,

    John Beilein is the man. When I was at Wake it was between him and Skip Prosser. I think Ron Wellman went with Skip because at the time he was making $150,000 less than Beilein. Both Skip and John are good people.


  2. Jim–I love the guy and have followed his career—he’s the kind of guy you’d want your son to play for


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