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The View From Pluto: Time for the Cavs to Cut Their Losses with Coach Beilein

The Cavs hired John Bielein as head coach in May 2019.
The Cavs hired John Bielein as head coach in May 2019.

The Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly are ready to part ways with rookie head coach John Beilein. The 67-year-old is unlikely to rejoin the team when they return from the All-Star break on Thursday.

When the Cavs hired the longtime University of Michigan coach last May, WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto was cautiously optimistic that it could be good fit.

A struggle to adjust

The Cavs at the All-Star break have the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 14-40, behind only that of Golden State (12-43) for the worst in the NBA. The Cavs expected the team wouldn't win a lot of games when they brought Beilein in to coach a young team, but Pluto said Beilein has struggled to adjust to coaching in the pros. 

“The thought at 66, coming to the NBA, which is a totally different game and travel schedule than he was accustomed to after 42 years of being a head college coach, he was going to be in for it. But he wanted to try this.”

Beilein left Michigan after a 12-year, 428-278 run with the program, including two Final Four appearances. 

“This is a guy who wasn’t a college star," Pluto said. "He worked all the way up from junior high school varsity coach to Division I and he had tried to get the Detroit Pistons job. He always wanted to get to the NBA, sort of like, there’s always another mountain to climb. Well, he found one that’s too high.”

Beilein has struggled to connect with players and likely the vigorous schedule, Pluto said. "At the last home game before the All-Star break, he looked exhausted to me and sounded exhausted. And, he’s not used to losing. He never coached even 40 games in a season and the NBA season is 82."

Home court woes

Not only have the Cavs been losing, but they've been losing badly on their home court. They had lost 12 home games in a row before they won their final game before the All-Star break.

“People are paying money to watch this team. Now they don’t expect them to lose a lot, but they don’t expect them to lose at home by 20 to Golden State, or there was that game that they lost by 41. It was the Cavs' worst home loss in history," Pluto said. 

“I think John [Beilein] was overwhelmed and the players sensed it. He probably needs to recoup and figure out what he wants to do next," Pluto said. 

In addition to troubles on the court, Pluto said Beilein has been dealing with struggles in his personal life. Beilein's son, Patrick, stepped down from his head coaching job at Niagara University just seven months into his tenure, citing personal reasons. “I don’t know what the deal is there, but whenever you're dealing with personal reasons, it always affects the entire family," Pluto said. 

If Beilein and the Cavs part ways, associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaffwould take over. He interviewed for the Cavs' head coaching job. The Cavs hired him with the idea that he would, in time, succeed Beilein. "He’s been in the NBA since 2003 and his father was a longtime NBA coach. J.B.’s been a mediocre coach briefly for Memphis and Houston, but he’s been around. And that will probably help."

If the Cavs move on from Beilein, the next coach would be the sixth in seven years. 

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Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.