Hokepoints: Beilein vs. All-Time, the Old Guys Comment Count

Seth April 1st, 2014 at 11:16 AM

08 bl01240913033805005_4bbce616dd_b220px-Ben_Oosterbaan

Beilein by Fuller, Orr and Ooster via Bentley.

I got this question from PeteM on the board: Where does John Beilein rank among Michigan's all-time basketball coaches?

The question is subjective since everyone has their own criteria. Mine: wins (total), winning percentage, Big Ten regular season titles, tournament success, All-Americans/NBA prospects, and general good guy-itude.

The Candidates:

Coach Seasons Wins Avg 30* B10 NCAA** AAs NBA
John Beilein 2008-'14 150 18-12 2 2.14 2 3†
Steve Fisher 1989-'97 185 21-9 - 3.00 3 7
Bill Frieder 1981-'89 189 20-10 2 1.13 2 10
Johnny Orr 1969-'80 209 19-11 2 1.25 4 7
Dave Strack 1961-'68 113 17-13 3 1.88 4 7
Bennie Oosterbaan 1939-'46 81 16-14 - - - 2
E.J. Mather 1920-'28 108 20-10 3 - 4 -

Non-candidates for completeness:

Coach Seasons Wins Avg 30* B10 NCAA** AAs NBA
Tommy Amaker 2002-'07 108 17-13 - - - 4
Brian Ellerbe 1998-'01 62 15-15 - 0.50 - 2
Bill Perigo 1953-'60 78 13-17 - - - 1
Ernie McCoy 1949-'52 40 14-16 - - - -
Ozzie Cowles 1947-'48 28 20-10 1 1.50 - -
Cappy Cappon 1932-'38 78 17-13 - - - -
George Veenker 1929-'31 35 22-8 1 - - -
Elmer Mitchell 1918-'19 24 17-13 - - - -

I kept Cowles out of it since this was getting long and he only coached for a few (wild) seasons, wherein he dragooned football stars and developed the pick and roll.


For ease, I call the 2013-'14 season "2014" etc.

* Rather than winning % I showed their average record over a 30-game season.

** NCAA tournament factor, equivalent to average number of tournament games his teams would play in. A 1.00 means his average team will make the tourney and go out in the 1st round. I took out the play-in rounds.

† This could as well be 7 or 8: Manny Harris was recruited by Amaker but played his entire career for Beilein. Stauskas, GRIII, LeVert, and McGary at least can be counted as future NBA players. It's too early to say the same for Walton/Irvin but it's not a bad bet either.

I ended up breaking this up into two posts because it was getting long, so here's the candidates chronologically through Johnny Orr:


Mather [via Wikipedia]

E.J. Mather (1920-'28)

Career at M: 9 seasons, 108 wins (67%), 3 Big Ten titles (1 outright)

All-Americans: Bennie Oosterbaan (1927 & '28), Richard Doyle (1926), Harry Kipke (1924)

Pros: Kind of pre-dates that.

Story: Took over a young program and went 3-9 his first year, then tied for the Big Ten championship his second, winning his last 8 games of the season to tie Purdue and Wisconsin at the end. The 1926-'27 season, when Bennie Oosterbaan lent his talents, was the best; Michigan went 10-2 in-conference and 14-3 overall. Soon after that season Mather had major surgery for cancer, and wasn't the same after that. Yost coached the 1927-'28 team in Mather's name; the cancer claimed his life that August.

Thing: Mather was also a Yost football assistant, and two of his players later became football coaches.

Better than a Beilein: It's tough to judge that far back or guess what the future might have held, but he didn't have a nationally competitive team until his 8th year so I'm comfortable putting him behind.

[After the jump it gets tougher]


Sally McCready

Bennie Oosterbaan (1939-'46)

Career at M: 8 seasons, 81 wins (53%), 0 Big Ten titles

All-Americans: none, but he was one himself

Pros: Recruited Bob Harrison, who starred for Cowles and played 615 games in the NBA.

Story: Bennie did just about everything at Michigan. He coached basketball while still an assistant for the football team

Thing: What Bennie is most credited for as a hoops coach was saving the team from the unwatchable drudgery of Franklin Cappon, who a quarter century before the shot clock, apparently believed time of possession was a thing.

Better than a Beilein: Yes but only because Bennie was better than everybody at everything ever, so no.


01 1965 Team -courtesy Ann Arbor District Library
via Ann Arbor district library

Dave Strack (1961-'68)

Career at M: 8 seasons, 113 wins (56%), 3 Big Ten titles

All-Americans: Bill Buntin, and Cazzie Russell three times.

Avg NCAA Tourney: 1.88

Pros he recruited: Cazzie (817), Rudy Tomjanovich (768), Ollie Darden (223), John Clawson (70), Craig Dill (65), Bill Buntin (42), and Dennis Stewart (12) played a combined 1997 games in the NBA and ABA.

Story: Former assistant under Perigo who rescued the moribund Michigan program by recruiting Ollie Darden and using him to lure Buntin and Cazzie Russell to Michigan. Their success convinced the school to build Crisler Arena. Played for Oosterbaan in the years bracketing his military service in WWII. Peaked in 1964 (23-5) when he made the Final Four, and 1965 (24-4) when he took the team to the finals and was was named coach of the year. Strack passed away earlier this year.

Thing: Was associate athletic director from 1968-1970 then took the AD job at Arizona, where he hired the first black head coach of a major university, but was also possibly involved in their slush fund scandal in 1980.

Better than a Beilein: His career compares favorably to Beilein's. Both guys oversaw a program renaissance that coincided with modernization of facilities, and both were great recruiters. His peaks were higher, but his lows lower, and many of Strack's accomplishments Beilein looks to best eventually. This one's close.


08 bl012409

Johnny Orr (1968-'80)

Career at M: 12 seasons, 209 wins (65%), 2 Big Ten titles

Avg NCAA Tourney: 1.25

All-Americans: Henry Wilmore (1972), Campy Russell (1974), Phil Hubbard (1977), and Rickey Green (1977)

Pros recruited (NBA/ABA games): Green (946), Hubbard (665), Russell(NTR) (566), Mike McGee(520), C.J. Kupec (147), Alan Hardy (60), and Wayman Britt (7). That's 7 players with a combined 2911 games.

Story: Was kind of basketball-Bo if Bo had taken the Texas A&M job. Strack brought in Orr in 1967 after his team finished last in the Big Ten, and Orr took over officially in '69. In 1971 Michigan finished 19-7 and 12-2 in the conference but got left out of the 25-team tourney (getting hosed by the NCAA was kind of an early-'70s Michigan tradition). In '74 Michigan tied Indiana for the conference championship and was a 1 seed in the tournament, losing in the Elite 8 to Marquette. The '75 and '76 teams also made it to the tourney while finishing behind the great Indiana teams, but in '76 the Wolverines made their tourney run, losing to Indiana (badly) in the national championship game. The '77 team won the conference but went out again in the regional final (Elite 8). Michigan dropped back to the pack after that.

Thing: When Iowa State called about his assistant Bill Frieder, and Orr learned what they were planning to pay, Orr took the job himself. Coach Orr passed away last New Year's Eve.

Better than a Beilein: Orr has the most wins of any Michigan basketball coach because of longevity, but Beilein has nearly matched him already in every category.


[to be continued]



April 1st, 2014 at 11:25 AM ^

Before this year it might have been a question, now it's just a formality of waiting 2-3 more years for him to pass the all-time wins mark and whatever other accolades and achievements happen along the way.


April 1st, 2014 at 12:03 PM ^

I agree.  The only reason Beilein doesn't look like the clear favorite is because his first few seasons bring everything down.  Even two more seasons from now, I expect almost all, if not all, of those numbers to be at the top.  How soon that happens depends heavily one who from the current team is still in college this fall.


April 1st, 2014 at 11:40 AM ^

From your Johnny Orr section:

"In 1971 Michigan finished 19-7 and 12-2 in the conference but got left out of the 25-team tourney (getting hosed by the NCAA was kind of an early-'70s Michigan tradition)."

It was a very different time in 1971, and conferences were limited to one team in the NCAA tournament (in other words, no at-large bids were available for conference runners up).  Ohio State won the conference championship with a 13-1 record, so 12-2 Michigan was simply ineligible for the NCAA tournament.  The real travesty in 1971 is that USC was 24-2 (their 2 losses were both to #1 UCLA) but was ineligible for the NCAA tournament because of the champion-only rule. 

The NCAA tournament did not allow conference runners up into the tournament until they expanded to 32 in 1975.


April 1st, 2014 at 11:57 AM ^

Fair enough; I interpreted "getting hosed by the NCAA" as "Michigan was a victim of the selection committee" rather than "Michigan was a victim of the NCAA's limit on the number of teams per conference permitted in the tournament."

And for football, it's more that Michigan was hosed by the Big Ten--both by the AD vote in 1973 (obviously) and by the Big Ten's rule that only 1 team per season may participate in a bowl game, keeping them out of the postseason in 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1974.


April 1st, 2014 at 1:25 PM ^

I wonder if what happened in 1974 was a reaction to the "Rose Bowl hosing," as you put it. As you said, Michigan and Indiana tied for 1st place that year, and they had also split the two games they played. So the Big Ten actually set up a special playoff game played in Champaign to determine who would get the conference's lone NCAA bid. Michigan won 75-67.


April 1st, 2014 at 1:56 PM ^

I was born in 1970 so don't have many memories back then but I think the wave to expand the tournament was probably getting bigger.  NC State and Maryland were considered two of the top teams, if not the top two teams, in the country in 1974 but only one could make the NCAA tourney.  NC State defeated Maryland in the ACC title game so NC State made the tourney (and won it) while Maryland had to stay home.


April 1st, 2014 at 12:14 PM ^

comparing him to some Hall of Fame coaches; I believe that he gets there eventually on the strength, especially, of a) his rather unique peripatetic career, capped off by high achievement at Michigan; b) his genius as an offensive coach, which--I think--needs to be seen as encompassing D a little, too (having bigs block out while guards rebound to set up run-outs); and c) good-guyness. Dean Smith-level good-guyness that is going to make the guy a saint in this state if he's not there already. Obviously he has a way to go with wins at a single school, even while his 400-plus put him in very select company career-long, but that's the only immediate comparative negative that I see. 

I'm not an Izzo hater, but people comparing the two careers, if honest, are going to have to note that Izzo's rise and prime matched up pretty directly with Michigan's fall and period in the wilderness. Not--honestly--that Ellerbee or Amaker are Izzo's equals, but we can't assume they are the coaches without the scandals. Amaker, meanwhile, is building his legacy elsewhere. While much maligned, I always thought the jury had to remain out forever on his potential here, given what he dealt with. 


April 1st, 2014 at 1:48 PM ^

While the final score in '76 looked bad we did lead by 5 at the half. And that team was a ball to watch. That was racehorse basketball and Green was electric.

And if Hubbard doesn't break his leg his NBA career looks a lot better and longer.


April 1st, 2014 at 1:57 PM ^

What are people's expectations for Donnal? I know he was a lower 4 star out of school but not sure what we should expect. Possible all-conference? average role player? Solid starter? 


April 2nd, 2014 at 8:02 AM ^

The NIT may have been equally prestigious as the NCAA tournament in general from about 1939-1952 (give or take)--I wouldn't say more prestigious, although it varied year to year which received more media attention, depending on the top teams in each tournament--but the NIT was certainly not prestigious in the Big Ten.  The Big Ten did not permit its members to play in the NIT until 1970, and the first Big Ten team to receive an NIT invitation was Michigan in 1971.

This was sort of a corollary to the rule that only one football team from the Big Ten may participate in the postseason (and only in the Rose Bowl); it was also true that only one basketball team Big Ten may participate in the postseason (and only in the NCAA tournament).



April 1st, 2014 at 2:52 PM ^

People don't realize what an illustrious basketball history Michigan has.  Just since the '60's alone:

- We've won the National Championship (1989),

- Played in 6 total NC games (1965, 1976, 1989, 1992, 1993, 2013),

- Reached 7 total Final Fours (1964, 1965, 1976, 1989, 1992, 1993, 2013),

- Made it to 12 total Elite Eights (1964, 1965, 1966, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2013, 2014),

- and reached 13 total Sweet Sixteen's (1964, 1965, 1966, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2013, 2014).

What's very interesting about Michigan's NCAA history is that once we reach the Sweet Sixteen, we are golden.  Only once (1988) did we reach the Sweet Sixteen and go no further.  Only five times did we "only" get as far as the Elite Eight (1966, 1974, 1977, 1994, 2014).  This year we were a close-your-eyes-and-hold-your-breath basket away from that number only being four.

That's a better record than such elite "Basketball Schools" as Arizona, Syracuse, and Purdue. 

You could easily argue that during most of our lifetimes, Michigan has been more of a Basketball School than a Football School.


I Bleed Maize N Blue

April 1st, 2014 at 3:43 PM ^

BTW, all tournaments wins are not quite equal. There used to be fewer teams and rounds. When the tournament was 25 teams or less, U-M had first round byes (so they started in what is now the Sweet Sixteen).

YR (# teams), W-L (click 1964 & 74 for links to Wikipedia NCAA Tournament pages)


1964 (25), 2-1, lost in Final Four to Duke

1965 (23), 3-1, lost in Finals to UCLA

1966 (22), 1-1, lost in "Elite Eight" to KY


1974 (25), 1-1, lost in "Elite Eight" to Marquette

1975 (32), 0-1

1976 (32), 4-1, lost in Finals to IU

1977 (32), 2-1, lost in "Elite Eight" to UNCC

Not even sure Elite Eight was a thing back then, but included for comparison.

Smash Lampjaw

April 1st, 2014 at 8:24 PM ^

The question was how does it feel to play against storied programs like Kentucky, and JB waxed eloquent about Cazzie, Phil Hubbard, Glen Rice etc. Twas brillig!

(edit: meant as a reply to M-dog.)


April 1st, 2014 at 7:45 PM ^

This is a great topic with great info - thanks Seth.

After looking at the charted numbers, I think Beilein might be the guy.  The detailed explainations, however, make me a little hesitant.

I do think that by the time he's done (and probably after just two or three more years really), Beilein will be unquestionably UM's greatest basketball coach.  

Which is awesome.

Team 101

April 1st, 2014 at 9:53 PM ^

The interesting think about Michigan basketball history is the peaks and valleys.  Between Russell land NTR there was a last place finish in the B1G.  Between the 1977 and 1985 B1G championships there was the dreadful 7-20 year in 1982.  Between the Championship and the Fab Five was a weak 1991 team.  Not to speak of the drought in the Ellerbee/Amaker era.



April 2nd, 2014 at 2:52 AM ^

The Beilein saga is not at peak until we start getting the kind of five star players you would think a great coach at a great school should. I look at next year and we have only one of the top 1oo recruits while OSU has 3 and Indiana 2. What are high school kids thinking ?