Cavaliers Rookie Coach Beilein Admittedly Adapting to the NBA Way

Sam Amico

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Pro sports don't feature very many 66-year-old rookies but the Cavaliers currently have one of them.

And with training camp and the preseason all but over, the Cavs' John Beilein is admittedly still learning as a first-time NBA coach.

That's something you realize after just five minutes of talking to Beilein. 

He'll tell you not everyone is grasping the offense -- and the coaching staff has therefore had to adjust. He'll point out that NBA games are 48 minutes, as opposed to the 40-minute college games he was a part of for nearly 40 years. He even sometimes refers to the front office as the "administration," as if he's working for an athletic director back at the University of Michigan.

Beilein had a great deal of success in his 12 years with the Wolverines. He coached them to the NCAA championship game in 2013 and '18. He led them to a 31-7 record last season.

Meanwhile, the Cavs finished 19-63. It wouldn't be a stretch to say this year's Cavs could lose more games by the end of November than Michigan did all of last season.

So just like first-year players such as Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Dylan Windler, Beilein is figuring out what worked at the previous level might not work here.

“I'm learning how the dominoes work much differently," he said. "It's just so fast. You only can do what you can do. There’s an old saying, ‘You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.'"

In the Cavs' final preseason game, the trainers made it known to Beilein that Kevin Love was done playing for the night. Beilein never said as much, but the trainers are rarely part of the equation at the college level. In college, the coach's word is almost always final.

But Beilein isn't about ego. Instead, he takes great pride in his ability to acclimate himself to any basketball situation.

"It's a bit of a moving target sometimes because of the injuries, but we'll find a way," he said of trying to implement his schemes without interruption. "Finding a way is the only way I know. I'm still coaching 45 years later because I continue to adapt." 

Beilein isn't alone, either. He is receiving help not just from his assistants, but the men in uniform. Love, Tristan Thompson, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Knight and Matthew Dellavedova are the older players who often act as coaches on the court.

"Those five are the seasoned veterans," Beilein said. "They have been very helpful to me. In fact, they have come to me a couple of times and said, 'Coach, I know you're trying to get this guy in a certain spot. We'll take care of it.' I appreciate that because a player-led team is a much better team."

Thompson is one of the more-vocal players and said he respects what Beilein is trying to accomplish. So Thompson is happy to be an extension of the coach.

"I try to do my part to hold everyone accountable, and I think that's what we need," Thompson told CavMaven/ "Guys see that I come to work every day, punch the clock. They see that, and I think my voice is respected because of it."

The Cavs open the regular season at Orlando on Wednesday. Another thing about the NBA -- there are more games and a lot less practice time than in college.

But while it's all new to Beilein, nothing yet really bothers him. He is approaching as if it's nothing more than the latest challenge.

“It’s a growing perspective," he said. “Finding out what the pro player can do, what he can handle. Wherever I’ve gone at each level it jumped, it was like, ‘OK, this is non-negotiable. This will work. This can get done.’ But this, now you have to change again."