Comments from Press Conference Introducing
U-M Men's Basketball Coach John Beilein
Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin
"Thank you everybody for coming today. Just a few brief comments before I introduce our new coach.
"First, I would really like to say thank you publicly, because I haven't had an opportunity to do it yet, to Tommy Amaker for his service to Michigan. He will always be remembered for how he took us and navigated us through a very troubled period in the history of Michigan basketball. I'm forever indebted to him for that.
"Having said that, I'd like to also thank the members of our screening committee that worked with me to help me be able to determine who would be the next coach at Michigan. They are two former players for Michigan, Tim McCormick and Marty Bodnar. Then our director of undergraduate admissions, Ted Spencer, who is here with us today also, who was very instrumental, as was Greg Harden, associate athletic director. Thanks, guys, for everything you did. You put a lot of time in, and you did really great work.
"Certainly I also have to thank Percy Bates, our faculty representative, who's worked with me so well for seven years and also provided guidance on this hire.
"Having said that, there is one individual who is uniquely qualified to help us in this search, and that's Lisa Rudgers, and Lisa Rudgers, I believe, is here. Lisa, where are you She's right there. Lisa is the former vice president of communications for Michigan. Why was she uniquely qualified to help us in this search Because she was in a seventh grade social studies class that was taught by John Beilein.
"So she kept emailing me throughout this process saying that all the girls in that seventh grade class had a crush on this guy, and they were all wondering where he was going to end up in life. I think Lisa also said that your family went back with his family three generations. I see you've already bonded with Mrs. Beilein, so it's okay what I'm saying this.
"I am very, very pleased at this time to succinctly hold my remarks by introducing the new coach of Michigan basketball, John Beilein (applause)."
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement ... "It's a thrilling day for the Beilein family, to be associated with the University of Michigan. Yesterday was a very difficult day in our lives, as well, where we left our beloved team and our beloved fans of West Virginia to tell them that we were going to the University of Michigan. So one day you're at the lowest of lows regarding the decisions that you have to make and friends you have to depart from, and then the next day you walk into an environment like this. It's hard to comprehend sometimes, but we're thrilled.
"There are opportunities. There are challenges. There are big challenges, but I've never looked at the challenges as much as I've looked at the opportunities. We have one great opportunity here to put the University of Michigan basketball program back on a national stage and be national contenders.
"So I'd like to introduce, first of all, my family that joins me. They are with me. I have four children, and my oldest daughter Seana is back in Richmond probably with her fourth grade class right now trying to get this on the Internet or get this on satellite. I have a younger son who is 16, going to be 17, who is in Florida on vacation and who certainly supports us, as well. I've also brought my son Mark with me. Mark is a senior at West Virginia and will graduate shortly from West Virginia. Patrick, who graduated from West Virginia last year and was a big part of our Elite Eight and Sweet 16 teams; and then Kathleen, my wife, who is thrilled, as well, with this decision. The family has helped us make this decision, and we believe very strongly it was the right decision to make.
"So I do also want to tell you how much I admire and have respect for Tommy Amaker and the job that he has done here in putting this program back on its feet; really, just taking it to one level. It is my charge now to take it to the next. Tommy has done a great job. He's recruited some wonderful young men. I spoke with almost everyone on the phone last night. The ones that I didn't, they probably were in the library studying, I'm sure. I did not speak with everybody, but I left voice mail messages. I think Ron (Coleman) was one of the ones studying. I think I called him three times last night. So it was a busy night. I loved every call and every conversation. When I got done with the conversation, I said, 'Wow, these kids are communicators. They're my type of young men. This is going to work.'
"I also reached out to every one of our three signed players. I did talk with Manny Harris' mother. Alex Legion is in Chicago. I left several messages, but his mother was not at home. I did talk with Kevin Grady, Kelvin's father, because they're on vacation in Cancun.
"We had a busy night last night. Besides talking with my own players, West Virginia, my former players, we were hugging and crying with them until seven. We got a lot done yesterday.
"We're thrilled by all of this. I would love to answer any questions that anyone may have so that we can I want to get out on the floor. We've got a scheduled workout, we have a meeting scheduled, we have a practice scheduled, and we have a compliance meeting scheduled; so we can start moving in the right direction immediately."
What made you decide to leave West Virginia and come to Michigan "It's hard to tell sometimes. You go with what you feel is right in your gut and what you believe. I think that there are a lot of similarities in the type of young man and student-athlete and student that come from Michigan to the same ones that I've recruited in all my years of coaching.
"The kids, they love basketball. They do have a strong interest in academics -- sometimes their parents may have stronger interests in academics than them. But I'm not the lone ranger when I come to telling them that academics are going to be important in our program.
"So I think there are a lot of similarities there. West Virginia, the fans, the team, it would have had to take a very unique situation to pull me out of there, and I thought Michigan was that unique situation."
When did you get to talk with Bill Martin ... "We waited until the end of the NIT Championship. I don't know he if he was, at that time, probably wishing we'd win or lose as we were going through that NIT run. But at the conclusion of the season, he and I met and we talked. I think we hit it off right away."
What did Bill Martin tell you about the job ... "I don't know if there was anything specific. I felt good karma with the direction he wanted the program to go in and what my values were. From the very beginning, when we began to talk, I just really felt good about our relationship in the future and the vision of the program. We both have very similar visions."
What are your defensive and offensive strategies ... "I want to set the record straight. Please don't use the word -- I love Princeton. It's a great university. That would be like saying, 'Hey, if you understand Japanese, you understand Chinese.' It's different. It may look the same, but it's not. It's not the same. We value the ball a great deal. We're usually one of the top teams in the country in not turning the ball over. However, we usually are one of the top teams in the country with number of assists.
"We basically have learned to coach -- if you know my coaching background -- I didn't come from a pedigree type of program where I always had the same players. So you learn to be versatile as a coach. There's been years we threw it inside and threw it inside because that was the best way to win. There were years we did nothing but crank threes because that was the best way to win. I think when you come up through the way I had to come up; you adapt your style to the talent and then recruit to the style you like most. We like a lot of versatile players, a lot of positions. We like to have great kids that never quit, they just play, low-maintenance young men. They all need help. My own son graduated from West Virginia. He went to tutoring sessions just like everybody else. Everyone needs someone there to help him. But if you get to where the kids can concentrate on basketball and have their priorities set, it's a lot easier to coach."
What are your characteristics and what do you value in players ... "I value players that want to work hard and love their teammates and want a family situation; they're unselfish players but love to play together. I'm seeing these guys already hanging around together.
"The other thing that I value about having a team is a team that fits in with the student body. I never want my team to be on an island and think that are very different than typical students that come to the University of Michigan. We used to say we want the students to come to see their friends play, not to come see the team play. We have had outstanding student support over the years. I think Tommy has done a great job recruiting that type of young men. I can tell from my initial meetings with them.
"There's no magic formula. There's a feel. And 32 years of coaching, it's a feel to how you want to do it. I can't tell you exactly how we want to do it until I meet these young men and I get to know the University of Michigan a little bit better. But I will work every day as hard as I can for our fans, for our students, for our state, to make sure that it gets done."
How important is it to recruit in the state of Michigan ... "It's going to be huge. I'll reach out within this state to all the high school coaches. Obviously, there's so many of them, it's hard for me to personally meet with them. Between coaching clinics, between my camp, just telling them to come to practices, we're here, coaches association meetings. If I can't make it, we'll get there. You'll find I'm very hands on with coaches. I pride myself to be very approachable. And I want kids to grow up here in the state of Michigan, you know, dreaming of wearing these colors. We're going to work with that. I know we have some great other programs, other universities in this state, and Michigan State certainly has been terrific. But we'll be recruiting Michigan very, very hard as long as I'm the basketball coach."
Have you been into Michigan much for recruiting ... "Yes, when I was at Canisius, we'd come up here because it was right across the border. In Richmond there was a few times that we recruited here. The last couple of years, we've been involved with a couple of young men. We have some over in the western part of the state, one of our transfers."
How many ties do you have to the Detroit schools ... "I have recruited there before at Canisius, but not lately. I never had any ties in Richmond. The footprint of our recruiting is certainly going to be in this area, but this is a national university, as well. You make ties by going in and meeting people. If I don't have a tie there already, hopefully we have a reputation as a coaching staff that knows what they're doing in basketball, knows how to recruit, and does it in an honorable way."
What about the facilities here ... "I just walked in, and I've been reading about that. I just saw a beautiful locker room, a beautiful film room. I just came in, and when I walked into this building I said, 'I wouldn't want to come in here with my team and try to win,' because I can tell the fans are on you. It's going to be a hostile environment.
"I don't watch a lot of games. I'm usually at my computer watching my games. But I remember this as one of the places I saw where the students, when you saw a game, and I think it was all maize. You might have been the first people that did that with the T-shirts, that it was all the same color.
"We've never played up here, and probably that's why my record is a little bit better than it would have been."
Were there any assurances made for a practice facility ... "We talked about a general plan for the future, yes. We did, about that. I'm taking a great leap of faith here by leaving West Virginia and coming here, but I believe an awful lot in Bill Martin. He will help us do what we have to do.
"But I like what I see so far, without question. Certainly, we've been playing late in March and even at Richmond and Canisius, an awful lot of teams. I think facilities have always been good, probably better facilities at other places, as well. But now, what I see, I like an awful lot."
So there was not a guarantee of a new practice facility ... "Haven't given any time. Like I said, he's open to all options. That's terrific for me to hear. That's all I can ask, is give us a chance to compete with our competitors and recruiting young men, practicing and developing our players. Those are some pretty important recruits right there (the current students). They're already here, but you have to recruit them every day to be better players. That's important, as well. We'll plan on doing that as the facilities are upgraded, and certainly with the facilities we have right now."
There are two shadows here, Michigan football and Tom Izzo. Can you address both of them ... "Those wouldn't be shadows. Are you kidding me You have the University of Michigan football as a shadow That is nothing but a breath of fresh air and sunshine. Wait a minute; we got the best of everything here. We have a program that competes in the Big Ten and has won national championships, is in a great recruiting area, and has a wonderful university with tremendous support from the fans. You have the best of both worlds having a great football program.
"And Tom Izzo, that just makes college basketball better in this area, that you have a program like that that you compete against. We all get paid very well. You don't get paid well if it isn't a situation where people have a lot of interest. I hope that the Michigan State and Michigan games in the future will be something people talk about forever because Tom is such a great coach. We'll do everything we can do to do that. Those will not be shadows; those are highlights to be able to be in that situation."
How do you answer questions about your ability to recruit ... "I don't know. We've averaged 25 wins the last three years. I mean, I'm anxious as heck to be in a situation like the University of Michigan, just like it was West Virginia, that you can recruit great players. I recruited some great players, and we've been in situations before where you can do the recruiting, in different situations, but this is a hotbed for recruiting. I don't expect recruiting to be a problem for one bit of one second."
What was said to the three recruits when you spoke with them ... "I would just tell you that they were great conversations. That's all I can say. They were wonderful conversations. I talked with Manny's (Harris) mother last night. She's one of ten -- they have ten children. I am one of nine. I think Manny and I -- I think he's almost at the bottom -- so we have a lot in common. We better eat fast at that table, or we're not going to get anymore.
"We had a great conversation. I also, like I said, talked with Kelvin's (Grady) father. We had a great conversation. Then I expect to talk with Alex (Legion) this afternoon.
"Everything was positive with every one of these players, and with our recruits. I plan to go and meet everyone. The contact period started yesterday again. So if I don't see them here, I will go see them hopefully before I -- I don't know when I'm going back to West Virginia -- but I'll make sure I see those three before that happens."
Do you have a timeline for an NCAA Tournament appearance ... "Oh, no. Just watch us try and get better every day, and that's the thing. I brought a couple of NCAA rings and an Elite Eight ring and a Sweet 16 ring. I passed it around to these guys today and I said, 'We're going to put these on as soon as we can.' NCAA rings, we're going to go after it as soon as we can. There's no timetable. Just do your best, and our coaching staff and everyone will do the best they can, as well."
How did your buyout from West Virginia get settled ... "The University of Michigan really has nothing to do with my buyout. That is something my lawyers are taking care of. My attorney is taking care of. We're working that out at the other end. The University of Michigan -- that was never an issue."
When did Bill Martin offer you the job and what was the process afterward ... "I think that it's probably pretty confidential exactly at this time, but I would say that he gave me a comfortable enough time to think about it. And after I thought about it, and it was a tough decision because I would hope with these young men right here that I have a bond, it's difficult. When Ron Coleman graduates next year, I hope tears are coming down our eyes because we've had such a good year together. That's what we just had.
"It was a very difficult decision to do that. We've had great fans at West Virginia, incredible fans that filled that arena almost every night that we've played. That was difficult to say good bye, as well, and make sure that -- there's no way they can understand sometimes the rationale of why we make these moves."
How do you get the players to buy into your system ... "We won't be talking about any systems today. We're going to be shooting and running and doing ball-handling drills. I cannot work with them after their last day of class. I believe it's coming up. I only have four hours total with these guys, and that's because the semester ends so early here.
"So we're basically going to start working with them on things that they need, drills and things like that that I want them to do over the summertime. I've prided myself, and you guys should know this right now, in having self-motivated teams that coaches will give them a plan and expect to set goals and expect them to achieve those goals.
"You have a track here, don't you I'm sure you have a track. If they don't achieve the goals, then they get to know the track very well. If they do, they don't know the track. We do have a track, I would assume
"We want self-starters. We're going to help them start. The old saying, you give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fishwe can teach them to fish, but that takes a little bit of time."
Will you be bringing your entire coaching staff from West Virginia with you ... "I'm looking at all the options. I came up here to look over the situation, meet these young men. My staff is back, still on the payroll at West Virginia. They are hanging tight until I decide what's appropriate, what the needs are here from the standpoint of a teacher, recruiting, director of basketball, all those different things. I know that I've already met the equipment manager, the strength coach and the athletic trainer. I'm very impressed with that part of the staff thus far."
Will this be your last stop ... "I hope so. After what we've just been through, I hope so. I was hoping Bill had something to say about that in the future. It is my last stop, but I know that Kathleen and I and our children, it's not exactly a 360, but it's almost a 360. I grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario. Kathleen had a cottage on Lake Ontario. Now we've gone all the through Upstate New York, all the way down to Richmond, back through Morgantown, made almost the complete circle here. We're back in the Great Lakes. I have to get my winter wardrobe back out, but I know the summers are absolutely terrific up here."
Since you've been to the NCAA tournament, is there any concern about the pressure you might receive from fans and alums to get to the postseason ... "You look at my paycheck, there ought to be pressure on me. It's expected that we're going to be trying to get back there. And if you don't, you're in the wrong business if you don't think that people are going to expect you to reach that type of level. And so the pressure hasn't bothered me for 32 years; I don't expect it to next year and years to come."
The team hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament for nine years and hasn't won a Big Ten title in I think 21 years. What do you see here that can get Michigan back to that ... "I probably can't tell you anything specific yet until I know a little bit more about it. I just know what the university has to offer, the commitment I think that Bill Martin has given me to take this program and trust in what I can do and what our staff can do with it.
"But I don't know if there's a difference between -- like I said, this area for recruiting and the national reputation for recruiting is just incredible. And the type of students that we can attract here, I think it's all a great mix for exactly what you're talking about, getting back to that level again."
Were you ever approached by a third party before the NIT ended; and how important was it for you that Bill Martin waited until the end to speak with you ... "I think it was very important. There are third parties all over the place right now that are doing the same thing. You just really don't do very much with that. What you end up doing, when the season is over, if it was an attractive situation, then you make the decision."
How do you get the fans involved ... "Hopefully, just by letting them know I'm an approachable man and that we're going to have great young men representing the program. So people, whether they're an 88-year old grandmother watching the game late at night way over in the Upper Peninsula, or whether they're down in the city of Detroit, wherever, an alumnus over in Indonesia, that they're going to sit and say, 'I like the way they play, I like the way they conduct themselves on the court, I like what the coaching staff does, this is my team. We're going to support them.' And they'll stick with us through thick and thin, but they certainly expect us to win."
Did you ask anybody's opinion and what was the perception of Michigan from other coaches around the country ... "I didn't ask a lot, because once Bill and I began serious discussions, I didn't ask a lot because I was afraid to give up anything. First of all, I know many of you tried to call me in many different ways and tried to contact me in many different ways. I apologize that I couldn't give any one of you any scoop that I knew. I couldn't have filled it in. But you were very respectful, and that's the thing. I didn't consult with anybody. Kathleen, she's the one I consulted with. She's moved around quite a bit, and she felt that this was right, as well.
"I will say that all of you that you've been very good today. But, I think you'll find that I will talk with you, whatever I can say, that I return phone calls, and I do all the things to help. I know this is probably a larger media market with more responsibilities. You have to know within reason that my first job is to coach these young men to graduate and be successful, but I will do whatever I can to help you."
How willing are you tot talk to the alumni about supporting the program and about doing a television show ... "It's part of my job. That's in my job description. Sometimes I look at it just like in basketball. Sometimes, I've got to say, 'We're going to go zone or we're going to go man,' and we have to live with it, just like I can say I can make that trip to California or I can't make that trip to California. You have got to go zone or man sometimes, and you've got to live with that decision. You've got to see what's best and live with it.
"I will choose very carefully what I do. I still have a family. I certainly want to spend every day, every minute of every hour, as a Michigan basketball coach. I need to be a husband and a father sometimes. But I also know I need to reach out to everyone I possibly can within reason."
What was your career goal Was it to coach in the Big Ten ... "I don't think it was the Big Ten. It was for us to have a team that was in the top 20 traditionally; pretty much what we've done the last few years in West Virginia. But I realized after getting done coaching Patrick (Beilein), at that time, you think, 'Well, all right, I've coached my son, we've been to the Elite Eight.' You think, okay, when you're 52, 53 at that time, 'Is this it' But I have never been so charged up as I was this year coaching a team and in the future.
"I've been doing it a long time. As a matter of fact, when I first started coaching in '76, '75, I said, 'I cannot do this for a living.' I was physically sick before a JV high school basketball game. And here it is, 32 years later, and I love it more than any time in my life."
Can you talk about your early years ... "Well, that whole two guard offense that we had. I was left with certain kids at LeMoyne. That was during the early point guard days. I said to one of my mentors, Tommy Nylan, who was the athletic director, 'We turn the ball over too much. We don't have a point guard. He said, 'Well, cancel the season; you don't have a point guard.' So we moved to a two guard set, you have two point guards out there but one might be bigger than the other. This thing has just taken off. But it doesn't happen if you're in a program that can hand pick every single time. In other words, necessity is the mother of invention. It's an old clich or old saying, but it's the truth. It's made me a better coach. I think Rick Pitino said in his book, 'Value is the fertilizer for growth.' All the values that I've had have made me become a better coach."
How tough is the process of changing jobs ... "This process is very difficult. Yeah, it is very difficult. It's a stressful situation. I'm sure for Bill it is. It is for everyone. But it's behind us now, and we won't look back. I will not be returning to Morgantown later today and saying I'm going back."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423