It’s been almost a month since the Pistons parted ways with coach and team president Stan Van Gundy. In that time, the Detroit brass headed by vice chairman Arn Tellem has hired former Memphis Grizzlies executive Ed Stefanski as a senior advisor as well as former NBA coaches Bernie Bickerstaff and Jim Lynam as consultants in the search for a replacement on the bench. All four were involved in interviewing Beilein, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and the Detroit Free Press’s Vince Ellis.
Beilein, 65, also interviewed for the Pistons job when they hired Van Gundy in 2014. He has amassed a 248-143 record at Michigan since 2007, including a pair of NCAA title game appearances, and he has coached at the college level since 1978, with stops at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia on the way.
Beilein makes $3.37 million annually and is signed through 2020-21. He and athletic director Wade Manuel recently discussed an extension that would keep him in Michigan for the rest of his career.
Who else is up for the Pistons job?
The Pistons also interviewed recently fired Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey on Friday, a meeting that was “impressive,” according to the Free Press. Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard — a famed member of Michigan’s Fab Five — will interview for the opening as soon as this weekend, and if he doesn’t land the head coaching job, he could reportedly be in line to serve as Beilein’s lead assistant.
What do we know about Beilein?
Beilein has a reputation for developing NBA talent. Despite not recruiting elite-level talent, his Michigan program has produced recent draftees Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert, D.J. Wilson and potential first-round pick Moritz Wagner in the past decade.
What’s more, Beilein has been lauded for developing a spread motion offense predicated on guard-heavy sets with a big in the high post and prolific 3-point shooting — two staples of the modern NBA. The Wolverines scored 110.8 points per 100 possessions and ranked sixth in Division I with 1,011 3-point attempts in 41 games this past season, when they lost to Villanova in the championship game.
The question is how that style meshes with a Pistons roster featuring All-Star bigs Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin in the frontcourt and counts Reggie Jackson as its best guard in a shallow backcourt. The Pistons did rank among the league’s five most efficient 3-point shooting teams last season, combining to make 37.3 percent of their attempts, but the offense as a whole rated below average.
Where hiring college coaches previously untested in the NBA had once fallen out of favor, the success of former Butler coach Brad Stevens on the Boston Celtics, who have reached consecutive Eastern Conference finals, has made it en vogue again. Former Florida coach Billy Donovan and ex-Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, both praised for running developed offenses, are also among recent NBA hires.
Beilein is significantly older than those aforementioned college-to-pro coaches. He’s also far more experienced, having developed his craft in college for the past 40 years. This might be his final chance to make the jump to the NBA. Or it might be a leverage opportunity in his negotiations with Michigan.
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