“He was a dictator — not a coach”

John Beilein left over $12 million on the table to get out of the Cavs head coaching position, according to sources. That’s how bad the situation got in Cleveland for him. When you leave that much money on the table, you have to wonder what contributed to such a dramatic decision. It seems Beilein didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Money isn’t an issue; happiness comes first”

John Beilein, The Athletic

He just got started going through the tunnel. This was his first year into a five-year contract that reportedly paid $4 million per year, with a team option on the final year. The decision to bring him in was based on player development. The Cavs were obviously rebuilding, and the thinking was a successful college coach gives them the best chance to help their young players grow into stars. As it turns out, Brad Stevens is the exception, not the rule.

The main problem is, coaches are demigods in college programs. Often more prominent stars than their players, they get absurd amounts of money and make every decision. That dynamic is different in the NBA – here, the player rules. That’s where most college coaches fail to evolve and adapt. From the get-go, it was apparent Beilein didn’t realize what he was getting into.

As the Athletic story describes it, Beilein couldn’t accept the culture of the NBA player. Missing practice or games for mild soreness, complaining about practice or film sessions being too long, and not being able to retain basic information given by coaches. Make no mistake, Beilein isn’t the only coach shocked by this. A lot of former players now coaches, such as Steve Kerr, talk about the fact that they can’t have practice or film sessions last over 30-45 min before they lose the room. That’s not how it was when Kerr was playing.

“He was a dictator — not a coach suited for today’s NBA”

The Athletic

What used to be coaching is now considered a dictatorship. The difference from college is, in the NBA, the players make the distinction. The last straw was the infamous “thugs/slugs” film session. Beilein called players thugs, later claimed he wanted to say slugs and apologized. Still, there was no coming back from that. Players started playing songs that included the word “thug” whenever he was around, Bone Thugz-n-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and Tupac’s “Thugz Mansion” among them. Who would’ve thought that a 67-year-old college coach would have problems relating to and building relationships with a young NBA team?

Beilein wanted out, but it seems Andre Drummond helped Cavs management accept the reality of the situation. Just arriving from Detroit, Drummond quickly let the organization know that the atmosphere in Cleveland was worse than in Detroit, and it would be a factor in his free agency decision this summer. The timing still surprised most people involved, but Beilein obviously felt he couldn’t do his job anymore. The timing does let him take a short break and start looking for a job at the college level, something that is rumored to be a part of his decision.

J.B. Bickerstaff was promoted to head coach, the same as he was in Houston and Memphis. The Cavs may keep him, or search for a new coach. This latest episode of Cavs drama has the same writer/director as most of the ones in the past did. Until Dan Gilbert trusts his GM and lets him do his job, there’s no reason to believe a lot will change.