FILLING IN THE BLANKS
Beilein will likely have options
Several high-profile men's Division 1 coaching jobs have come open within the past couple of weeks, none more attractive than the University of Kentucky. Michigan and Iowa, two other high-profile programs, also have current vacancies with others likely to open when the dominoes start to fall.
One of the names frequently being mentioned to fill these vacancies is John Beilein.
Beilein was close to leaving a year ago, before returning to Morgantown. He has a buyout clause in his present contract, which could turn schools away. Last year, when he was under serious consideration by North Carolina State University, the buyout was $3 million. It drops $500,000 each year of his current contract, meaning this year it would cost teams an additional $2.5 million to pry him away from Morgantown.
However, that is not out of the question.
Beilein currently earns around $800,000 per year. Tubby Smith just signed with Minnesota for a reported $2.2 million per year. So if a team came in and offered Beilein 1.5 to 1.75 million for five years, even with the $2.5 million buyout, teams would be spending close to the same amount, or a little less, than Minnesota was willing to pay Smith.
Beilein isn't a sexy choice. He hasn't recruited the top 100 type kids and made his way to the Big East Conference as a poster child of a blue collar coach. Although he has never been an assistant coach, he paid his dues in high school, junior college and Division II coaching before landing his first Division I job at Canisius. From there he spent five years at the University of Richmond, before landing in Morgantown.
Though he still isn't a household name, he is very well respected amongst his peers and those with knowledge of the game.
"They are an extremely well-taught team," Bob Knight told reporters then, after WVU beat Knight and Texas Tech. "They cover well on defense for one another and pressure individually. On offense, they have good movement and they read very well."
That is high praise from a guy who rarely gives it. Say what you want about Knight, but he is one of the greatest basketball tacticians of all time. He knows his "stuff" and praise from him should not be taken lightly.
When the University of Virginia job opened a few years back, Howard Garfinkle, one of the most respected names in the basketball industry, wanted the Cavaliers to look at Beielin.
"Virginia should have hired Beilein two weeks ago," said Garfinkel. "He's the best coach in America today, except for maybe Coach K and Pitino. He's definitely in the top five."
Beilein has had 26 winning seasons in 29 years as a head coach. He guided both Canisius and the University of Richmond to the NCAA Tournament, before arriving in Morgantown. Since his arrival five years ago, Beielin has guided the Mountaineers to the Elite Eight and the Sweet Sixteen. This season, despite being predicted to finish 12th in the conference and with only six returning players and eight freshmen on the roster, the Mountaineers hold a 25-9 record and have reached the semifinal game of the NIT Tournament for the first time since 1981.
To put it bluntly: Beilein can flat out coach.
There have already been rumors in the Detroit papers and on University of Michigan websites that Beilein could be their top choice. He is a hot commodity. Be prepared to hear a lot of rumors within the next few weeks and keep your fingers crossed, because it will be tough for WVU to replace JB.