Beilein resigns as Cavaliers coach after failed NBA run

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) – John Beilein didn’t make it through one NBA season. Another college coaching dropout.

Wildly successful at Michigan and other stops in his coaching career, Beilein resigned Wednesday after just 54 games with the rebuilding Cavaliers, who can’t seem to find the right person to lead their team.

The 67-year-old Beilein never got comfortable during his short stint in the pro game. The demands of travel, lack of practice time and a group of players who didn’t respect him or respond to his coaching style proved to be too much, so he decided to move on before the team returned from the All-Star break.

The Cavs went just 14-40 under Beilein, who the Cavaliers signed to a five-year contract last May.

The Cavs said Beilein will be reassigned to a different role within the organization.

From the start there were issues in Cleveland. The Cavs didn’t embrace Beilein’s methods in training camp – he had his big men doing fundamental “Mikan” drills – and players grumbled that he was treating them like kids and not paid professionals.

All the losing had an effect on Beilein, who more than once acknowledged he was feeling beaten down by his team’s struggles.

Cavs general manager Koby Altman stood by Beilein throughout his tenure. But as the All-Star break approached, it became evident that a change was necessary in order to salvage a season that from the start was devoted to developing the Cavs’ core of young talent, which includes guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland along with forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Cedi Osman.

Beilein’s not the first high=profile college coach to flop in the NBA. Kentucky’s John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Tim Floyd, Mike Montgomery and P.J. Carlesimo are among a group who found coaching at the highest level problematic.

Associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will take over on an interim basis for Beilein. Bickerstaff had become the preferred sounding board for Cleveland’s players and he has head coaching experience after nearly two full seasons in Memphis and one with Houston.

Bickerstaff took over the Rockets 11 games into the 2015-16 season when Kevin McHale was fired. He led them to a 37-34 record and a playoff appearance, but took his name out of consideration to be the next full-time Houston coach after the season.

Beilein’s departure continues a troubling pattern for the Cavs, who have been plagued by coaching instability and nearly constant change over the past few years. Bickertstaff is Cleveland’s seventh coach since 2013.

While the Cavs didn’t make things easy on Beilein, he didn’t help himself, either. During a team meeting in Detroit last month, he inadvertently called his players “thugs” when reviewing game film. Beilein apologized for the remarks, but the incident caused a larger wedge between him and the players.

Beilein’s personal life also played a part in his struggles as he was hit hard by his son Patrick’s resignation as coach at Niagara. The younger Beilein cited personal reasons for leaving the program.

It’s not clear what will be next for Beilein, who went 571-325 at Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan. He took the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament nine times in 12 seasons.

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FILE – In this Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein gives instructions to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Cleveland. Cavaliers first-year coach John Beilein will end a rough season by stepping down after 54 games, according to multiple reports Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.(AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
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