CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers went back to college to get a coach.
Cleveland has signed Michigan’s John Beilein to a five-year contract, three people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Monday. The deal came together quickly in the past 24 hours and was finalized Sunday after the Cavs had spent the weekend in Denver interviewing several NBA assistants.
The people spoke to The AP condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the hire.
The 66-year-old Beilein does not have pro experience but he’s long been regarded as one of college hoops’ best minds. He guided Michigan to two Final Fours in the past seven years and has developed several top players.
His hiring is a bit of a surprise since it was expected the Cavs would hire a younger coach for their growing team. Cleveland is expected to surround Beilein with an experienced staff.
The Cavs were able to lure Beilein away from Michigan, where he was the winningest coach in school history with a 278-150 record in 12 seasons. He had talks with the Detroit Pistons last year when they were in the market for a new coach, but Beilein said he was never offered that job.
Beilein previously coached at the University of Richmond before moving on to West Virginia and eventually Michigan.
At UR, Beilein led the Spiders to a 100-53 record and one NCAA Tournament appearance over five seasons (1997-2002).
Beilein tweeted his thanks to Michigan’s players and fans.
The Cavs are rebuilding following a stormy 19-63 season that followed the departure of LeBron James. Cleveland fired coach Tyronn Lue after six games and then mutually parted ways with Larry Drew to begin a thorough search.
Beilein inherits a young Cleveland team that includes All-Star forward Kevin Love and point guard Collin Sexton, who had a strong rookie season. Cleveland’s roster should get an upgrade in the draft and the Cavs are hoping for some more luck in Tuesday’s lottery, where the winner will have a shot at Duke All-American Zion Williamson.
Cleveland will have a 14 percent chance at getting the No. 1 overall pick.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman said he wanted a “culture-driving” coach when he began his search last month for the team’s sixth coach since 2013. The team spoke with numerous NBA assistants before sitting down last week in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with Beilein, one of the people said. The team has long been impressed with Belien as an offensive tactician, and they had a connection with him as he coached Cavs assistant general manager Mike Gansey at West Virginia.
When Belein arrived at Michigan, long known for its strong football program, for the 2007-08 season, the Wolverines hadn’t made the NCAAs since 1998. He led them to nine appearances, reaching the Sweet 16 five times and the Final Four in 2013 and 2018. Michigan lost in the title game to Louisville and Villanova, respectively.
Beilein also had health issues last year, undergoing a double-bypass operation in August.