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June 24, 2014

John Beilein ranked among NCAA's top 10 coaches

John Beilein is well on his way to becoming the winningest basketball coach in Michigan history, and with a resume of impressive accolades in his first seven seasons, Beilein has gained national respect, ranking ninth in ESPN.com's listing of the top 50 coaches in the game.

The list, which is being unveiled over five weeks, has already included four Big Ten coaches: Minnesota's Richard Pitino at No. 49, Iowa's Fran McCaffery at No. 33, Nebraska's Tim Miles at No. 32, and Ohio State's Thad Matta at No. 20.

Beilein ranks ahead of UConn coach Kevin Ollie (No. 10), Arizona's Sean Miller (No. 11) and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (No. 12).

Beilein is 150-94 in seven seasons, his 150 victories ranking fourth all time at U-M behind Johnny Orr (209 from 1968-80), Bill Frieder (191 from 1980-89) and Steve Fisher (184 from 1989-97). Beilein's winning percentage of 61.47 ranks fifth among Michigan coaches with at least five years on the bench.

Among Beilein's accomplishments, in 2012 he led Michigan to its first Big Ten regular-season title since 1986, and then led the Wolverines to another conference crown in 2014. He has also guided U-M to five NCAA Tournament appearances in seven seasons, including the Final Four in 2013 and the Elite Eight this past spring.

ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan details Beilein's rise through the coaching ranks in the article and notes that, perhaps, the most impressive work Beilein did was in 2013-14.

"Michigan wasn't supposed to be as good this past season. Not before the season, after [Trey] Burke and [Tim] Hardaway had left for the NBA," Brennan wrote. "Not during the season, when [Mitch] McGary, who could have done the same, was hobbled and then sidelined by back surgery.

"But Michigan was so, so good: The Wolverines ranked No. 1 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. [Nik] Stauskas was unleashed onto a role -- angle-exploiting pull-up combo sharpshooter -- that Beilein practically invented just for him. But for Aaron Harrison's repeat buzzer-beater, Michigan might have been back in the Final Four again.

"It took Beilein a lifetime to get to where he is now: indubitably successful, at the head of a well-funded high-major program, in charge of a tenacious group of assistant coaches and recruiters. And now, finally, the rest of us are getting to see just how good he really is.

"It's a strange thing to say about a 61-year-old man, but it feels like his career has only just begun."

Analysis: Presumably most of the coaches that will rank ahead of Beilein - Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky's John Calipari, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Kansas' Bill Self, Florida's Billy Donovan and Louisville's Rick Pitino - will all have a trump card as national championship-winning coaches. One of the other two will be Wisconsin's Bo Ryan. The eighth is Wichita State's Gregg Marshall.

One could argue that Beilein has done more with less at each of his stops, even at Michigan, than many of the coaches listed above, however, until he wins the ultimate prize, he will probably have to stand outside the top six, and that's fair.

Ryan probably beats Beilein on longevity (though if you add in Beilein's previous stops, Ryan would not), however the Badgers have not taken the next step under Ryan.

Marshall is a curious choice. He has led a mid-major team to NCAA glory as a FInal Four team in 2013 and had his team undefeated and ranked No. 1 for much of the past year until losing in the NCAA third round to Kentucky. But people have challenged whether WSU would be the program it is if not for play in the Missouri Valley Conference. He's a deserving pick no doubt, and like Beilein, has had success at a previous school (Winthrop) but he seems to be getting some hype for his very recent success. That's how it works sometimes.

There is no doubt Beilein will field more teams that will take a crack at a Final Four opportunity, and perhaps then, if he wins it all, the true genius of his coaching career will finally be appreciated.

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