Beilein Perfect Example of Why College Game Is More Fun. Maryland in B1G Command

Herb Gould

As much as I like John Beilein, I can’t say I’m sad that the Beilein-in the-NBA-Experiment has ended badly in Cleveland. Actually, I expected it.

A wonderful college coach and fine human being, Beilein was among the least likely to succeed in making the jump from NCAA to NBA. Actually, the only NBA coaches who are likely to succeed, no matter where they’re from, are the ones with exceptionally talented rosters. And those jobs don’t open up very often.

Beilein’s humanity and unquestioned coaching ability gave him a chance to make the Cavaliers better. The inherent talent-driven bedrock of professional basketball, combined with the me-first selfishness that often permeates in the NBA, made it more likely that Beilein would be over-and-out very quickly.

As Charles Barkley put it on TNT last week, ``I thought what [the Cavs] did to coach Beilein was ridiculous, unprofessional. I think the veterans on that team were not leaders. I think the young guys who can't play think they're better than what they are and they tried to get that man fired. They got that man fired.’’

Good for Beilein for taking a chance. He left his collegiate comfort zone, an arena where he excelled at Michigan, West Virginia and myriad other stops on the way up from high school obscurity to the 2013 and 2018 Final Four national championship games.

He made a bundle of NBA money. Whatever the buyout ends up being on the five-year, $20 million deal he signed last spring, he did a wonderful thing for future generations of Beileins.

Never mind the free-flowing dollars. . . I am so glad that Tom Izzo resisted all the irresistible NBA offers he received. With the way he agonizes over each turnover, that would not have a good thing for him, coaching a bad pro team. Actually, it would have been downright unhealthy.

Despite the Cleveland debacle, Beilein now will have his choice of attractive college jobs, even at 67. Among the destinations being speculated on: Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and Boston College. I don't see him at Indiana. Minnesota also seems like a reach. Very difficult to say no to Texas. Wake and Vandy are intriguing. But if Beilein, who has deep Eastern roots, wants to make Blaudschun's day at BC, that would be interesting.

This whole messy Mistake by the Lake reminds me again of why I am less and less interested in professional sports these days and centering more and more around the college games. NCAA sports aren't nearly as amateur as the word would indicate. They have a bunch of their own issues—starting with money and hypocrisy. But they remain wonderfully entertaining in many ways.

As a kid, I was a big NBA fan. The Laker-Celtic rivalry was so marvelous, I didn’t mind that it left little room for the rest of the league. I was just starting high school when the Bulls debuted. And I loved them.

In the fall of 1966, they won their first three games as an expansion franchise. Which has to be some kind of a record. They also made the playoffs. Never mind that they finished 33-48. And that they lost three straight and were quickly bounced from the playoffs.

This was an expansion team. In Chicago. What kind of sport has to put an expansion team in Chicago?. . . With a roster of castoffs (Guy Rodgers, Bob Boozer, Don Kojis) and one notable youngster (Jerry Sloan). The NBA in those days was so unvarnished. It was the opposite of today’s glitz.

By virtue of the few cases of Coca-Cola he sold each week in his tiny suburban drugstore, my dad was occasionally given Bulls tickets. Center court, 10th row. They had a face value of $4. Which basically bought two movie tickets in those days. Try doing that math today.

Looking back, I loved those early Bulls because they more like a college team. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Coaching and teamwork mattered more. That was true throughout the league.

Now, it’s so predictable. Over-achieving is not a thing. Fans celebrate posterizing dunks, or whatever they call them, over gritty victories, which are rare.

Talented young men take out their frustrations on coaches who are trying to help them, rather than looking in the mirror.

That’s why I am much more interested in John Beilein than the thugs—or slugs, or whatever he called them—who wouldn’t let him help them.

Now they can figure out another reason why it isn’t their fault.

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TERPS IN COMMAND

Three weeks ago, the top of the Big Ten standings looked like this. . .

Illinois and Michigan State (8-3)

Maryland (7-3)

Rutgers and Iowa (7-4)

Penn State (6-4)

Wisconsin (6-5 )

Now, they look like this. . .

Maryland (12-4)

Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin (10-6)

Michigan (9-7)

Rutgers (9-8)

Michigan and Ohio State (8-8)

Biggest takeaway: Hats off to Maryland. Even though the Terps had their nine-game wining streak ended at Ohio State on Sunday, they have done the best job of navigating perilous waters.

Their impressive road wins at Illinois and Michigan State are the only thing keeping the league from an epic logjam at the top.

When I told you three weeks ago not to count out Wisconsin, based on its favorable schedule, I did so with trepidations. Because they were going to move on without their No. 2 scorer, Kobe King, who left the program, basically saying he wasn’t feeling the love from coach Greg Gard.

Injuries, which nobody wants to hear about, have played a role in the ups and downs of several teams, notably Michigan, which has won six of seven with leading scorer Isaiah Livers healthy.

Up two games with four games to go, Maryland is in excellent position to capture its first Big Ten title.

A potentially rugged final four remains for Mark Turgeon’s squad, though. The first game might, at Minnesota on Wednesday (8 p.m. Central, BTN), looms largest. Lose that one and things get dicier. The Gophers are a longshot to pull off the upset. But Daniel Oturu (No. 2 scorer, top rebounder in the league) is knocking on the All-Big Ten first-team door. And the Gophers are at home in their wonderful Barn.

Beyond Minnesota, Maryland travels to Rutgers, which is tough at home. And the Terps have remaining home dates with Michigan State, which always seems to get its act together at this time of year, and Michigan, the hottest team in the league.

Here's what Maryland has going for it: The Big Ten's most impressive concentration of quality offensive players. Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith are the best inside-outside in the nation’s best league, except that Smith can play inside or out. And Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala are dynamic scorers.

If Maryland falls short in the Big Dance, fingers might be pointed at their depth. But enough coaches have told me that depth is over-rated in March that. . . I try not to over-rate it. (Uber-long TV timeouts are a good thing, they say.)

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