Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is John Beilien fireable this year?

On Monday, I wrote that, basically, my patience with John Beilein was wearing thin. It may be that we tasted the good life too early with Beilein (NCAA Tournament berth in his second year) that makes the descent of the team during the previous two years more painful. But the Wolverines have unquestionably regressed. Whether that's because of graduating talent (Sims and Harris' early departure), a tougher schedule, or a less lucky team, I don't know. But in my opinion, it's time for Dave Brandon to start looking around and at least surveying the field of possible coaching candidates.

This, however, was met with objections from commenters.

Michigan hasn't had a winning record in the Big 10 all along. Its a bad start this year but they can still get in the neighborhood of wins they've been at for the last few years (8, 5, 9, 7). You can point to NIT vs NCAA or whatever, but this program has been hovering around as a below-average Big10 team since Fisher left.

I don't think this team competes for the conference title anytime soon. Thats true regardless of if you keep Beilein or not. I don't think you should EXPECT that yet. How about just getting a winning record in the Big10 first?
Well if your expectations were "bottom of the Big Ten" and they're playing "bottom of the Big Ten but have been surprisingly competitive and some of the young guys (Morris, Hardaway, Smot) are ahead of schedule," then where's the beef? If your objection is that we're at the bottom of the Big Ten after four years then you probably should've written this article before the season and not after the team is fulfilling your expectations but has almost upset a half dozen good teams with Matt Vogrich playing real minutes.
Like the guy above said, get above .500 in the conference first, then we'll talk about titles. If Beilien can get this program to the point that it makes the tournament 50% of the time, has a seven man rotation of top 100 guys (a top 50 here and there would be nice) and becomes a decent brand again, he will have succeeded. I expect 5-7 years of that before he retires, and then I think the next guy in will be the one that wins titles.
In the aftermath, I largely agree with all of the comments: Beilein is probably the right guy for the moment, with the hope that eventually, Michigan will start working its way up the Big Ten latter. Conference titles are currently unrealistic. But I'm still unsettled that this is the mindset of fans in a coach's fourth year, especially in basketball where one recruit or one recruiting class can significantly turn around your fortunes.

It's not fair to compare Rodriguez and Beilein, so I won't use "We fired Rodriguez, we should fire Beilein" as an argument. But the question I wonder is this: What would it take for Beilein to be fired this year? (Or at least for fans to call for his firing?)

Michigan is currently 1-6 in the Big Ten with 11 games remaining. They've played Syracuse*, Kansas, Ohio State, and Minnesota close but have come up short in all four games. But they've also been blown out by Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, and Northwestern. The schedule for the rest of the year isn't particularly easy, and with Michigan's ability to collapse against anyone, pulling out wins down the stretch might be difficult.

Sports are not a cut and dry exercise, but if we were to handicap which games Michigan might/should win for the rest of the season, we see that there's very real possibility that the team ends up between 5-13, and 2-16 in conference:

Date Opponent Expected outcome Date Opponent Expected outcome
1/27 at MSU L 2/16 at Ill L
1/30 vs. Iowa W 2/19 at Iowa L
2/3 at OSU L 2/23 vs. Wisc L
2/6 at PSU ? 2/26 at Minn L
2/9 vs. NW ? 3/5 vs. MSU L
2/12 vs. Ind ?

These are pure estimations of the outcomes based on the performance of Michigan and their opponents to date. Games @PSU, NW, and Ind are all left as question marks as teams that Michigan should be able to beat, but the Wolverines have either lost to already and now face them at home (NW, Ind) or play on the road (PSU; Michigan has been an exceptionally bad road team this year). Games @OSU, MSU x2, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minny are all ones that look out of reach.

So if Michigan really does plummet to the bottom of the Big Ten this year and end the season with 1-4 wins in conference, at what point is Beilein no longer the coach of the moment? During Beilein's tenure, Michigan finished 5-13, 9-9, and 7-11 in conference. If they make another significant dip this year, down to (or possibly below) Beilein's first year at Michigan, is he still a viable candidate going forward? It's one thing not to win conference championships (which I'm fine with at this point), but a team that has shown regression over multiple years is another thing entirely.

I still say that next year has to be a make or break season since this one is very likely dead. But is there any way that you start calling for Beilein's head this year if the team crumbles down the stretch and ends up in the Big Ten cellar?

*Syracuse's recent swoon does not speak highly for Michigan's near upset.


agaerig said...

If you're going to go about noting how Syrcause is in a slump you should also probably give Michigan credit for hanging with an Ohio State team that remains undefeated and just decimated a good Purdue club.

I would be pretty disappointed if we only win one more conference game the rest of the year but I wouldn't necessarily be calling for Beilein's head. I would expect to be a competitive NIT team next year and a tourney team the year after. That's "on schedule" for me with this roster, this coach, and this program in 2011.

AG said...

I think the consensus is that next year is make or break for Beilein. He'll have a more talented, more experienced, and more physical team than this year vs. a weaker Big Ten. He will have a brand new practice facility and massive upgrades to Crisler to sell to recruits.

But if he can't get it done, if he keeps letting things like Amir Williams to OSU happen, if he keeps finishing 1st with recruits parents and 2nd with the players themselves, people are going to start wondering what a more up-tempo coach who puts more emphasis on defense and rebounding can do with the pieces assembled.

I think Beilein will make the tournament next year. I always believed the purpose of the Beilein hire was to have a competent coach who can get the most out of a school with limited recruiting potential until we can catch up to the MSU's and Ohio State's of the Big Ten in terms of basketball culture. let's hope those new facilities make a difference, because I can't stand hearing another instant-impact big man say "Beilein can't get me into the NBA" or another kid from Flint/Saginaw say "MSU is my dream school."

AG said...

This just in, Beilein is officially un-fireable.

Andy said...

I think the only thing that will get him fired THIS season is massive roster mutiny or attrition. They're just too far down this road to fire him this season. But, if they implode and lose a Morris, Hardaway, Smotryz, or Brundidge, then I will be open to having the discussion.

Looking at this season, they are 12-9 at this point in games that count (I'm assuming you can't count the Concordia game for post season eligibility). There are nine games remaining, bringing the season total to 30. So, UM needs to win 4 more games in the regular season, or 3 regular season and one BTT game to stay at .500 for the year. That may not get them NIT, but it will get them one of those other tournaments, and I think they'd accept that bid this season.

The way I see it, three games are essentially "must win." Indiana, Northwestern, and at Iowa. Lose any of those, and it's over for this season. I would put @OSU and @Ill as the only games left that are totally out of the question for a W. I'm fine with Beilein getting next year to see what happens with his upgraded roster in a weakened BT (pray for two games against Nebraska), but I'd be more confident if they could grab enough Ws this season to get to the post season.

Anonymous said...

One interesting thing about being "first with parents, second with recruits:"

In football recruiting, that can really work. A significant portion of Notre Dame's good 2011 class fits that profile, with the best example being 5* Stephon Tuitt.

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