Saturday, November 30, 2013

USA Today Debate: Beilein Best Without NCAA Title

Every week "USA Today's" sorts section asks its network of college basketball writers to debate a topic related to the sport.

This week's debate: the best college men's coach without a championship ring.

And, a former MAAC sideline walker came up prominently.

That would be former Canisius coach John Beilein, now at Michigan.

Beilein coached at Canisius from 1992-93 through the 1996-97 season. He did good enough there to move on to coach at Richmond (1997-2002), West Virginia (2002-07) and has been at Michigan since the 2007-08 season.

He almost was disqualified from the debate this past April when he directed the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament's championship contest where his team lost to Louisville.

He is one of just two former MAAC men's head coaches to bring a team to the brink of an NCAA title. Paul Hewitt, formerly of Siena, also got to the title contest with Georgia Tech in 2004 before losing there.

In the "USA Today" debate, two of the five writers involved identified Beilein as the best college coach without a national title.

Here's a synopsis:

Nicole Auerbach of "USA Today," opts for Beilein. "He has quietly coached well at all levels -- and he's done it without much fanfare ... he's never been flashy about it, he's never tried to draw attention to himself ... considering the way he's ot the program on the upswing (fan ecitement, new facilities, highly touted recruits), it's hard to imagine that he won't get back to the Final Four sometime soon."

Paul Gotham of the "Pickin" website, also names Beilein. "...He has never backed away from a coaching challenge having had success at every step along the way ... He led Canisius to the 1996 MAAC title and a spot in the NCAA tournament ... the Griffs have not returned since ... Now in his 36th year as a head coach, he has had just four losing seasons.

Other choices ...

Randy McClure of "" checks in with Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

David Aldridge, via the "Duke Report," names West Virginia's Bob Huggins.

And, Scott Gleeson of "USA Today" picks Wisconsin's Bo Ryan.

We certainly have no argument with Beilein, arguably the best product from the MAAC. At least among those who moved on to other college jobs.

Beilein is the answer to another trivia situation. He is 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, N.Y. After three seasons there he became head coach at Erie Community College for four seasons, then moved on to be head coach at Nazareth College in Rochester for a season.

He moved from there to be the head coach at Division II Le Moyne in Syracuse for nine seasons before Canisius gave him his first Division I assignment in 1992.

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