Monday, April 1, 2013

Beilein Could MAAC Connection In Title Contest

Former Siena men's basketball coach Paul Hewitt is the answer to the trivia question of which former MAAC men's coach has taken a team the deepest into the NCAA tournament.

Four rears after his 2000 departure from Siena, Hewitt got Georgia Tech to the 2004 championship game where it lost to UConn.

That particularly trivia question, though, might soon have a new answer.

If Michigan can win one game (against Syracuse on Saturday), its coach John Beilein would join Hewitt as former MAAC coaches to get to the NCAA event's title contest.

If Michigan can beat Syracuse and, then, won Monday's championship game (against the winner of Saturday's Louisville-Wichita State contest), then Beilein would stand alone, the first former MAAC head coach to move to and win a national championship.

Beilein coached at MAAC member Canisius from the 1992-93 season through 1996-97.

He moved from the MAAC to coach at Richmond (1997-2002), West Virginia (2002-07) , and has been at Michigan since the 2007-08 season.

Beilein probably is the answer to another trivia question. He has to be one of a very select group of college head coaches to never serve as an assistant at any level.

After his 1975 graduation from Wheeling College, he became a head coach at Newfane High School in Western New York. After three seasons there, he moved on to become the head coach at Erie Community College for four season, served in the same capacity at Nazareth College in Rochester for a season and, then, was the head coach of Division II Le Moyne in Syracuse for nine seasons.

Canisius gave him his first Division I opportunity in 1992.

Beilein isn't the only former MAAC men's head coach in this year's Final Four.

Tim O'Toole, the former Fairfield head coach, is in his second season as director of basketball operations (albeit, a non-coaching position) at Syracuse.

O'Toole coached the Stags for eight seasons (1998-99 through 2005-06). Upon his firing from that program, he had been out of coaching, but kept his hand in the sport by doing broadcasting work for St. John's and for ESPN.

Midway through last season Syracuse's DBO position opened, and O'Toole, who had been a Syracuse assistant for three seasons in the 1990's, was hired.

Ironically, the respective teams of the former MAAC coaches meet Saturday, but it is believed they have never previously been on opposite sidelines in the same game.

O'Toole took over at Fairfield the year after Beilein left Canisius.

But their respective teams meet on Saturday and one of them will move on giving the MAAC a representative in the upcoming championship game.

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