Orion Sang Detroit Free Press
Published 6:45 PM EDT May 17, 2019
CHICAGO — When it came to learning of John Beilein’s decision to leave Michigan for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis found out in very similar ways.
Brazdeikis’ phone was “blowing up.” So was Matthews’. Both thought it was because they had missed their flight to Chicago for the NBA draft combine.
Instead, it was the news that rocked the Michigan basketball program this week, leaving the Wolverines searching for a replacement for the winningest coach in school history.
“I think everybody in America was surprised,” Matthews said Thursday. “I don’t care that he flirted with that idea last year, just the timing of it caught you off guard.”
More: Michigan’s coaching search still ongoing. Here’s the latest
While surprised, Brazdeikis, Matthews and Jordan Poole — who are all at the combine this week — shared the same sentiment when it came to Beilein’s departure: excitement for their former coach.
“You can’t really be upset,” Poole said. “The man wants to be an NBA coach. I think he’s proven his resume worthy of being able to coach at the next level, and we all support him. We know that he’s going to be extremely successful at the next level.”
Added Matthews: “At the end of the day, he’s happy, and that’s all that really matters. I think nobody at Michigan could complain about that, because this guy gave his all to the university, 800 plus wins at the collegiate level, I feel he’s the most underrated college coach ever.
“I think he should be up there with Coach K, Coach Cal, those guys. i’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the Cavs. It’s a fresh start.”
All three players had a chance to reflect on the impact Beilein had on their careers. Matthews gave Beilein credit for putting him in this position. He also said Beilein played a big role in helping Matthews adjust to Michigan after transferring from Kentucky.
“It was a complete culture shock for me,” Matthews said. “Completely different environment. Coach (Beilein) just welcomed me with open arms and continued to teach me.”
More: Charles Matthews knows his way to the NBA: His defense
Brazdeikis, a member of Beilein’s last recruiting class in 2018, said Beilein has “definitely been a great reason to why I’m the player that I am.” He also said Beilein’s decision would affect whether he remains in the draft or returns to Michigan, as Beilein was the biggest reason why Brazdeikis initially chose the Wolverines.
“He taught me to be humble, to make the right play, to do things the right way,” Brazdeikis said. “That was the biggest takeaway from him. He’s just such a great guy.”
Poole believes Beilein’s legacy “speaks for itself,” calling him “genuine” and “an amazing coach.” And he expects Beilein to succeed at the next level.
“He wants you to be successful,” Poole said. “He’ll put you in a situation that he believes will make you as successful as possible. He knows your dream is to get to the next level. He’s going to put you in situations and teach you and really critique you on what it takes to get there.
“I personally think he’ll be successful. If you know basketball, you know basketball. And obviously he knows basketball.”
More: Jalen Rose, Mark Hughes agree: Juwan Howard should be next Michigan coach
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