I was reading Brian's column today about the Indiana game and Poole and my mind kept coming back to the idea of how much I appreciate Brian's and Ace's basketball coverage and their admiration of John Belein. We all know Brian's ability to chart and explain plays in football is pretty much unmatched as far as I can tell, but what struck me was the deep down understanding of what makes Belein special as a coach(And person) in the article.
This, I think, is what John Beilein meant last year when he said that Poole was a strange player for him to coach. His career has been built by taking limited athletes and drilling them on the basics until they're the kind of regimented outfit that never finishes outside the top 10 in turnover rate. There's a certain mechanical aspect to what Michigan does. This is completely, obviously fine. But with limited exceptions its the system that makes the players go. These days NBA evaluations of Michigan players come with Beilein-is-too-good-at-systems disclaimers.
I don't need to go into the nitty-gritty here, but also want to hammer home the point that Belein isn't a great coach because he hammers home the basics. He isn't a great coach because he finds under-recruited kids who turn into NBA prospects within a few years(Caris, Nik, Trey, DJ Wilson, GR3, and of course Poole all have left/will leave as players drafted much higher than their recruiting ranking would suggest((I'm sure I'm missing a few))). He is a great coach because of the combination of those things, his system, and his ability to trust his best players to be the best version of themselves.
I remember Burke his freshman year getting pulled out of games for messing up sets on consecutive posessions and me being mad at Belein. I'm sure it happened last year with Poole, and I'm sure it happened with Darius Morris before both of them. Belein is a structured man with a vision and it has made him a special coach. But that hasn't defined his teams. He let's his players define the team. And once they gain his trust, he lets them be the best version of themselves.
Which brings me to the sad part of this post. What happens when he is gone? It makes me sad to think that we won't have tags referring to Belein finding a 2-star recruit and turning them into MAAR or Stu Douglas or Spike Albrecht. It makes me even sadder(?) that we probably won't have quotes from Brian like the one above.
There are only so many(read: none) coaches like John Belein. Ones who recruit under-the-radar prospects who blow up. Ones who recruit high character kids with talent and turn them into fire breathing dragons. Ones who run into the MF'ing locker room as a mid 60's y/o dude with a super soaker and all his players get stoked as hell. Ones who run an almost flawless offensive system who also bend that system to fit their personnel and let their players have "an overdose of swag". Belein will always be a "one-and-only" coach and person, and we should be grateful for what we have.
I meant to throw out a few options at the end of this post and maybe ask whether you guys thought we could find someone like him after he retires here, but the tone of this post changed as I started writing and don't think that that is appropriate.
I tried keeping this concise and not emotional, but I couldn't.