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February 20, 2014
Maize 'N View: Beilein is creating a Schembechler legacy
John Beilein is only the second coach in Michigan basketball history to lead the Wolverines to at least four NCAA Tournament appearances in the first six seasons of a tenure, and before his career concludes, he may just do the unthinkable - stand on equal footing with Bo Schembechler.
Blasphemous, you say! Schembechler is a coaching legend. A man that ushered in a 40-year run of success for the football program, restoring the tradition of excellence that U-M had enjoyed from the early 1900s through the 1940s.
When Schembechler arrived in 1969, Michigan had endured a four-year stretch without a Big Ten title (1964), but was 22-18 overall from 1965-68, going 8-2 in 1968. The real period of distress was 1957-63, when the Maize and Blue posted four losing records in six seasons.
From 1969-89, under Schembechler, Michigan would not finish with a losing record once, winning 13 Big Ten titles.
Schembechler's legacy goes beyond the championships, though. He changed a culture at U-M, ushering in an era of the 'Michigan Man' in which players, coaches and even the fans were held to a high standard that epitomized the Leaders and Best mantra.
After Schembechler's departure, Gary Moeller and then Lloyd Carr both continued to lead Michigan to success on the field and demanded the best from their players off the field. But their runs can directly be attributed to Schembechler and the program he rebuilt with a solid foundation that anchored every team from 1969-2007. It is that standard for which the Maize and Blue are striving to achieve again.
In the same manner, Beilein inherited a program that had been in a nine-year NCAA drought. One that had gone 43-53 in Big Ten play during Tommy Amaker's six seasons previously. A once-proud goliath had fallen on hard times, and was seemingly resigned to being nothing more than average in the Big Ten.
Enter Beilein, who in seven seasons is 140-92 overall, with a 65-56 record in league play and 7-4 in NCAA Tournament games. He led U-M to a Big Ten title in 2012, a runner-up finish in 2013 and has the Wolverines in position to win the conference crown this year.
Michigan won't win two of every three Big Ten titles, like the football program did under Schembechler, but there is far greater parity in college athletics today.
Beyond winning, Beilein draws the comparison to Schembechler because of the culture change he has implemented. When a program loses consistently, it adopts a culture of losing, always coming up one or two games short because the players don't know how to compete for a championship.
But Beilein changed that mentality, instilling a confidence in the Wolverines that has led to meaningful Big Ten games in February and March, and NCAA second-weekend expectations.
Best of all, he's doing it the right way, demanding excellence from his players on the court and off, while avoiding the recruiting black holes that led to Michigan's downfall in the first place.
As long as Beilein is on the sidelines, U-M is poised to be one of the Big Ten's best, a yearly NCAA participant, and a Final Four contender. And like Schembechler, Beilein is positioning the program to continue its success even after he retires.
Still, maybe drawing the parallel to Schembechler is sacrilegious, and if so, then comparing Beilein to another coaching legend, Red Berenson, may suit you.
Berenson after all inherited a program that was 69-76 in the four seasons preceding his arrival in 1985. By 1988, the Maize and Blue were posting a winning record and from 1991-2012, the Wolverines went to NCAAs every year, winning national titles in 1996 and 1998 and 11 conference titles.
Men of integrity, Schembechler, Beilein and Berenson restored Michigan to what it once was, and more importantly, began a new chapter of tradition, built on achievement athletically, academically and in the community.