John Beilein signed a contract extension that’d cover the next seven seasons, but his athletic director wasn’t certain he’d complete it. It just wasn’t clear how much longer a middle-aged Beilein would want to coach.
That was 14 years ago.
Since that extension with West Virginia, Beilein went to Michigan and built the Wolverines into a national power. Now, after 41 years as a college head coach, he’s headed to the NBA.
The Cavaliers hired the 66-year-old Beilein today, making him the oldest first-time non-interim NBA head coach in the league’s history.
Here are the oldest first-time non-interim (as defined by starting a season as a team’s coach) head coaches:
Hopefully, Beilein fares better than the other two people who first became NBA head coaches as sexagenarians.
After losing Red Auerbach to the Celtics in 1950, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks hired longtime University of Minnesota coach Dave MacMillan. But he coached just 23 games before getting fired.
At least he lasted longer than Jerry Tarkanian, whom the Spurs lured from UNLV in 1992. They fired him after just 20 games.
So, there’s not much history of success when old longtime college coaches jump to the NBA. Heck, there’s not much success by any coaches who first get hired so late. That above chart is filled with numerous disappointing tenures.
But Beilein will try to buck the trend.
Nearly 30 years ago, he was distraught thinking he’d never get a Division I job. Yet, he kept plugging away and ever-so-slowly climbing the coaching ladder.
Finally, he has made it this far.