John Beilein's first season coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers went as poorly as it possibly could. With a dismal 14-40 record, the Cavs are currently in the basement of the Eastern Conference, and several veterans -- 2016 champions Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson among them -- have reportedly tried to orchestrate midseason exits. After reports surfaced during the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday that the Cavaliers would be unlikely to bring him back next season, Cleveland officially announced that Beilein resigned as head coach Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement published on the Cavaliers website, Beilein talks about how difficult this season has been for him, specifically the amount of losing the team has endured. The former Michigan coach also mentions that he will stay with the organization in a different role, but it has not been made clear what that entails.
The full statement reads:
Over these last nine months, I have given my all to this organization, but after much reflection, I have decided that it is best that I step back and resign from my position as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and assist the organization in a different capacity," said Beilein. "I am very grateful to Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman and the entire Cavaliers organization for the opportunity they have provided me.
This was a very difficult decision for me, but I want to be clear – this was my decision to step down and I truly appreciate the understanding and support of the front office during this time. I find losing very challenging and this year has taken a much bigger toll on me than I expected. I grew concerned for the consequences this toll could potentially take on my own health and my family's well-being down the road. I was not certain I could be at my best for the remainder of the season and in the future. That would not be fair to the players, coaches and support staff.
I also would not be doing this now, during the season, if J.B. Bickerstaff was not ready and capable to assume the head coaching role immediately and continue the rebuilding process that we have started. For 45 years and more than 1,300 games, my journey as a basketball coach has been a dream come true. I have never been afraid of a challenge and have given each one my all – sometimes to the detriment of my own well-being. I want to thank my wife, Kathleen, for being by my side and I appreciate the outpouring of support from family, friends, and colleagues during this time. I look forward to being able to spend more time with my wife, kids and grandchildren over the coming months.
As previously reported, the Cavs will promote associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to the head-coaching position, which would make him the sixth coach Cleveland has had over the past seven seasons. Beilein and the team discussed the coach potentially stepping down during the NBA All-Star break, and those talks continued through Wednesday when a final decision was made. Beilein, who joined the Cavs in May of 2019 on a five-year deal worth approximately over $4 million per season, reached a financial settlement with the team that will pay him a portion of this season's salary on his way out, according to Wojnarowski.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman spoke highly of Beilein in the statement released by the Cavaliers, calling him one of the more "accomplished coaches" in the game, and understanding his decision to step down.
John Beilein is one of the more accomplished basketball coaches in the history of our game and while it's unexpected, we understand and respect his decision to step down as head coach of the Cavaliers," Altman said. "I was excited about the development of our young players, who have all shown growth and maturity under Coach Beilein. We are thankful for the time he spent as head coach with the Cavaliers and are looking forward to his continued contribution. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking on important long-term decisions to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. I would like to thank the incredible fans of the Cavaliers for their support in both good and challenging times. Building a strong culture will continue to be the top priority here at the Cavaliers.
A number of factors have reportedly led to Beilein's rough season in Cleveland. He helmed one of the best programs in college basketball at Michigan, so losing at this level is obviously a stark contrast for the coach. His son, Patrick, also resigned from his position as head coach at Niagra for what has been called "personal reasons," and that has reportedly weighed on the elder Beilein as well.
Adding to the tension was controversy earlier this season in which Beileinduring a film session. He explained that he meant to say "slugs," and he apologized to the team, but the damage was done. Such an incident likely left a lasting impact on the locker room.
Cleveland cycles through coaches faster than any other team in the NBA. Beilein is the team's sixth since LeBron James left in free agency for the first time in 2010. No Cavs coach has lasted more than three full seasons since then, including Tyronn Lue, who won a championship for them in 2016.
Team owner Dan Gilbert is just as hard to please when it comes to general managers. Koby Altman is the first one he has ever granted a contract extension.
Beilein was hired ostensibly to help develop an extremely young Cleveland roster, but former lottery picks Collin Sexton and Darius Garland have been largely underwhelming together this season. Whether that duo can work together for the long haul remains to be seen, but it looks as though that determination will be made by a new head coach.