Report: John Beilein’s Coaching Style Is Alienating Players

Cavaliers players are rebelling against new coach John Beilein and believe he’s running the team like he’s still in college, according to Joe Vardon and Shams Charania of The Athletic. Some players have already tuned out Beilein and are seeking guidance from lead assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, the authors add.

“Guys drowned out his voice, and when guys start searching for the next in line for help, I believe you’ve lost them,” one player said anonymously.

“Our assistants are definitely more prepared for the NBA,” another claimed.

The 66-year-old Beilein is floundering in his first professional season after more than a quarter century as a successful college coach. The Cavs have dropped four straight games and 10 of their last 11, falling to 5-15 overall. They are coming off a 33-point loss to Pistons on Tuesday, which was followed by a Wednesday film session where both sides expressed their frustrations over what has gone wrong, according to sources.

Player grievances include “nitpicking” over fundamentals, “harping” during long film studies and Beilein’s alleged failure to understand the NBA game. Sources tell Vardon and Charania that the complaints run through the entire team and aren’t limited to any demographic.

The Cavaliers hired Beilein in May after interviewing nearly a dozen other candidates. He was given a five-year contract and was surrounded by a few experienced assistants. In addition to Bickerstaff, who has prior head coaching experience with the Rockets and Grizzlies, Cleveland brought in Andrew Lang and Dan Geriot, along with Lindsay Gottlieb, who is also in her first NBA season after serving as head coach at California-Berkley.

Beilein was chosen after a face-to-face meeting with team chairman Dan Gilbert because of his history of developing young players, who make up the core of the roster in the second year of a rebuilding project. With seven veterans on the final year of their contracts, there may be a lot of turnover by February’s trade deadline, which could give Beilein a fresh chance to gain the confidence of his team.

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39 thoughts on “Report: John Beilein’s Coaching Style Is Alienating Players

  1. mcmillankmm

    I’m sure it’s just the coaching why the Cavs are losing….nothing at all to do with the lack of talent on the roster

  2. rxbrgr

    Trade or cut all the vets. Embrace the suck and then get the young guys to LEARN.

  3. amk3510

    Not surprised. You can’t treat proffesonals like its college. Guys at the NBA level have earned the right not to “nitpick on fundamentals”. This is looking like Chip Kelly all over.

    • IslandFlava

      Totally agree! That is why college coaches usually fail in the NBA, can’t treat stars like kids, shouting at them & trying to control everything.

    • x%sure

      The HC travails of the Cleveland Browns provides numerous examples since the 80s.

  4. Meadowlark

    Beilein was a fine coach in minor league professional basketball (college) and should have remained there. Of course the Cavalier roster makeup would make any coach look bad.

    • Jason Lancaster

      According to the article, it’s every player as well as many on the coaching staff. I don’t think it’s an attitude problem.

      I think the Cavs hired a college coach, and college coaches aren’t very good at coaching pro teams. Outside of Brad Stevens, the last really outstanding coach to come out of college was who? Larry Brown?

  5. TJECK109

    Nitpicking over fundamentals? How dare he expect pros to do the fundamentals

    • hiflew

      Exactly. Maybe if the players actually stayed in college and learned their profession like every other professional in the world, he wouldn’t have to teach them how to play in the pros.

      • Dennid

        I agree. They get paid unlike college where they do pay attention to find fundamentals. Getting tired of professional cry babies. College game more fun to watch.

  6. x%sure

    Well The Athletic’s story is the first report I’ve heard of Beilein and it’s negative. The comment section there is interesting but overly reactive, reflecting fans who are Not Cavs fans.

    The players are indeed making mistakes so I understand Beilein “harping” though IDK what his points exactly are. Garland looks lost and KLove looks ignored. I do not see a Beilein connection.

    I liked JB Bickerstaff in Memphis, an honest talker, though some did not like him or the team’s direction (which probably was not his choice). Gottlieb seems alarmed but says the right things, about players looking for each other on the run.

    I think moving some vets would help… Thompson (used to James), Knight (stuck behind rookies), Delly misfiring. The vets are probably the ones making the story as they are likely looking for new jobs next year.

    A big deal was made of Beilein naming basketball techniques after wild animals. Mabe the team would screen more often if it wasn’t called, setting a polar bear!

      • x%sure

        It’s clearer now that KLove is not the priority… Beilein was hired for the youth coaching. Cavs have to pick an offer, I hope to a contender!

  7. formerlyz

    Essentially, the players that talked about how they want to be more like the Heat, are the same players that don’t want to work hard enough to pay attention to details, build habits, and build that culture they spoke of. Lol

    • x%sure

      Heat not referenced. Anyway, Pat Riley is very NBA experienced, Beilein not.
      Work level was mentioned regarding the Vegas league workouts, which got blamed for the Windler and short Garland absenses in the league.

      The Heat way is working after finally landing Butler and moving Whiteside!– A year late IMO but Riley finally did it.

      • formerlyz

        The players and coaches said similar stuff about wanting their culture to be like the Heat after both games they played recently, but obviously it wasnt true b/c otherwise, they wouldnt complain about building good habits

        Amazingly Whiteside, as you mentioned, would fit right in with those guys complaining about attention to detail

  8. johnnybadd2019

    Bellein was brought into teach the guys basketball. Of course he alienates older players he can’t keep tabs on them like he could in Michigan

  9. martevious

    Good for him!! NBA players are terrible when it comes to the fundamentals. College ball is more fun to watch. If they listened to his “harping,” maybe they would learn something!

    • Jason Lancaster

      Funny. When I watch college ball, all I see are constant defensive mistakes and missed opportunities. College teams look like a bunch of amateurs to me.

    • amk3510

      I can’t believe someone actually typed this out. I don’t know whats worse thinking NBA players are bad at fundamentals or college being more fun to watch. College players are worse than watching the G leauge minus the one and dones sprinkled in.

    • Strike Four

      Yeah, really good of him to make all his players hate him by running college plays in the NBA, a league that requires certain elements of fundamentals irrelevant.

      Is everyone really this bad at reading? The players who have been in the NBA longer but also have all been in college, all know the transition of styles both leagues play, college and the NBA are not the same, and he’s refusing to acknowledge this.

  10. mcdusty49

    My God he’s trying to get them to play fundamental basketball and watch film to add an extra dynamic to their game preparations? Who does he think he is, their head coach?

    • Strike Four

      He’s nit picking over certain elements that aren’t at all relevant in the current NBA environment.

      Old white guy college only guys are always bad at this. You only take his side because you liked him in college, it’s a whole different ballgame in the NBA, and he’s not adjusting.

      • mcdusty49

        I don’t like him or dislike him I’m just saying it sounds to me like he’s trying to coach a basketball team…and yes obviously talent is the most important but a well disciplined team playing team basketball would certainly be performing better than they are at the moment

  11. Strike Four

    A washed up, out of touch old white guy gets “ok, boomer”-d out of a job, ya love to see it!

  12. Appalachian_Outlaw

    The epic mistake here was giving this dude a 5yr contract before he’s proven he can coach the pro game, which goes on Gilbert and the franchise. Teaching college players is not the same as coaching men. What reason do the players have to respect this guy’s leadership?

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