Brandon Blog: Lessons Learned Enable Beilein to Lead Program
John Beilein

April 3, 2013

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page,, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

We have all seen the motivational posters that stress the importance of Challenge, Achievement, Perseverance, Destiny, etc. Those pictures and those quotes are there to remind us of what we need to do to achieve our goals, reach the top of our profession, and live a successful life.

This upcoming weekend the Michigan men's basketball team will be playing in Atlanta and doing its best to add a second NCAA championship to the one earned by our Michigan men's swimming and diving team this past weekend. It is the pinnacle of competitive success for a collegiate student-athlete.

When fans watch this weekend's Final Four men's basketball games, they will see the teams playing but they might not understand what happens (often behind the scenes) to enable these four teams to get themselves in a position to advance to Atlanta.

Some Michigan fans might convince themselves that our team is just getting hot at the right time or think that our recent successes are all about one or two individuals who have played particularly well in the last two weeks of play. What many fail to realize is that the past two weeks are really just the tip of iceberg. The real work started years ago, as the coaching staff and players started to build a program, one that would continuously improve and perform at a consistent level.

Head coach John Beilein has led this effort. He talks about the people behind the scenes who have helped him build this program. He talks about those who came before him at Michigan and those who helped him earlier in his career. He understands what it takes to reach this level of accomplishment, and he knows one man cannot achieve this alone.

Pay close attention to Beilein during an interview. Look at his face and listen carefully to his words. No doubt, he is personally enjoying this run in the NCAA tournament, but his enjoyment and fulfillment come from more than just winning basketball games. He understands that success as a big-time college basketball coach is not just about building a championship team on the court, it is to prepare these young men to be champions in their lives after basketball. This is why he loves coaching.

Make no mistake, John has always wanted to win a national championship. Every basketball coach dreams of receiving that national championship trophy. However, John Beilein has a competitive fire that is exceptional, and it ignites his team members to work as hard as they can to stay one step ahead of their competition.

His coaching philosophy, leadership style and unique strategic approach to teaching the game is respected by both his student-athletes and his coaching colleagues. Much of what John teaches here at Michigan is dissected and visualized at coaching clinics around the nation.

As basketball coaches toss kudos to the U-M head coach, he gently reminds them that it wasn't just John Beilein who came up with this philosophy. He gained his basketball know-how from so many of the great names and even some of the not-so-great names in the game.

He learned a lot from his uncle, Tommy Niland, the first basketball head coach and director of athletics at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where Tommy spent a 43-year career.

Beilein's uncle was quite a basketball legend, but, as the small Jesuit school mentioned in the press release when Niland passed away in March of 2004, it was "his integrity, his work ethic, and, above all, his fierce commitment to the well-being and moral development of his students that were the hallmark of his 43-year career."

These same words ring true for John Beilein.

He coaches individuals on what they need to do to gain the true measure of success, and he reminds them regularly that it must be done with class and dignity.

The knowledge he gained from those before him has helped John build the type of Michigan basketball program that creates the proper balance of competitiveness and respect.

John Beilein is now communicating these ideals to an elite group of players, and they have bought into the plan and made it work in a very effective way!

What you will witness this weekend in Atlanta is not just a successful U-M team battling for an NCAA championship. It will be a great group of young men who love one another and recognize the meaning and power of the word TEAM. Their coach has taught them this important lesson over the long and highly competitive season they are in the midst of completing.

Good luck to our Wolverines this weekend in the Final Four!

Go Blue!

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