Beilein reached a deal with the Cavaliers on Sunday and informed Michigan’s administration of his decision to leave for the NBA on Monday morning, sources said.
The Cavaliers have been using the term “culture-driver” internally when discussing the possibility of hiring Beilein. He’s considered one of the elite offensive tacticians and teachers in basketball, a coach who has never been an assistant and climbed almost every level of basketball — coaching high school, junior college, Division III, II and 1. The final step in an odyssey that’s brought him an 829-468 college record has been the NBA — and now Beilein makes the leap.
He’s led Michigan to two Finals Fours and four Big 10 titles in his 12-year run in Ann Arbor.
Beilein, 66, has been entertaining thoughts about the NBA for several years and had detailed discussions with two franchises a year ago — Orlando and Detroit — before deciding to return to Michigan.
Beilein didn’t want to move his wife that far from Michigan, and the Pistons borderline playoff roster with little financial flexibility to make changes made staying in-state less appealing. Cleveland’s rebuild status, based on point guard Collin Sexton and a 14 percent chance — along with New York and Phoenix — to earn the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery were appealing to Beilein.
He is expected to join the front office and ownership in Chicago for the lottery and draft combine this week.
Beilein replaces Larry Drew, who finished last season after Tyronn Lue was fired six games into the campaign. Lue won a title with the team in 2016, but LeBron James left in free agency before last season, prompting the accelerated rebuild.
Cleveland general manager Koby Altman had long been intrigued by Beilein, and his assistant GM, Mike Gansey, has a close relationship and history with Beilein. Gansey played under Beilein at West Virginia, advancing to the Elite Eight with him as a Mountaineers player. Owner Dan Gilbert lives and works in Detroit, and despite his Michigan State loyalties, has long been an admirer of Beilein. Beilein has been reassured — even encouraged — that the franchise wants him to install his value system with the Cavaliers.
Talks with the Cavaliers had been running concurrently with the franchise’s search, which culminated with four final first-round interviews on Saturday in Denver, sources said.
The Cavaliers are planning to surround Beilein with an experienced staff of NBA assistants, sources said.
Beilein has run model programs in the college, free of scandal and impropriety. In recent years, he’s become increasingly frustrated with the nature of college basketball recruiting and the retention of top players. The impending loss of freshman Ignas Brazdiekis with Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole to the NBA draft dented what might have been a national championship contender.
Beilein’s son, Patrick, was recently hired as the coach at Niagara University — about a 3.5 hour drive from Cleveland.