Stuckey: Mourning College Basketball’s Loss of John Beilein, A Bettor’s Favorite Coach

Stuckey: Mourning College Basketball’s Loss of John Beilein, A Bettor’s Favorite Coach article feature image

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: John Beilein

  • John Beilein left Michigan on Monday to join the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers as head coach.
  • Beilein was one of the best X's and O's coaches in all of college basketball, and his betting results speak to that.
  • He's the third most profitable against-the-spread coach in all games since 2005 and got even better in tournament settings.

Monday, the college basketball world was stunned after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a Monday morning bomb — Michigan head coach John Beilein is leaving Ann Arbor and heading south on I-75 and east on I-90 to Cleveland to coach the Cavaliers.

For my money, John Beliein was the best X’s and O’s coach in college basketball. His pregame and in-game adjustments separated him from the pack. That skill set especially stuck out during tournament settings when coaching becomes even more critical with short turnarounds.

Beilein’s Michigan squad won the Big Ten Tournament in 2016 as a No. 8 seed (the lowest to ever to do so) and then repeated the following year as the No. 5 seed. Only one other team in the history of the tourney won as lower than a No. 5 seed (Iowa in 2001).

In fact, since 2005, John Beilien is the most profitable postseason coach in all of college basketball. His teams went a silly 44-24-3 ATS (64.7%) — covering by an average margin of almost four points per game, per BetLabs. 

A $100 bettor that backed Beilein blindly over that span would have profited over $1,800 for an ROI of over 25%. If you isolate the NCAA Tournament, Beilein is even better at 24-12-3 ATS (66.7%).

If you look at all games, including the regular season, only two other coaches were more profitable to bettors since 2005.

I fell fully in love with Beilein during his tenure at West Virginia. I particularly loved his team with Kevin Pittsnogle bombing threes and Mike Gansey at the top of the 1-3-1 zone.

I assume the Gansey connection played a role in Beilein’s decision, as his former player is now the assistant general manager of the Cavaliers.

College basketball lost one of its best coaches today and one of the most reliable to bet on — especially in a tournament setting. He will be especially missed in Ann Arbor.

Michigan was already going to have to deal with the departures of Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews into the NBA Draft (and possibly Iggy Brazdeikis). This may also hurt recruiting in the short term.

The immediate question will be about highly-prized recruits Jalen Wilson, who did already sign a letter of intent, and Cole Bajema. Michigan’s loss could be another team’s gain. Kansas might get its revenge for that Trey Burke shot in the tournament a few years back.

The recruiting and transfer decisions could come down to who succeeds Beilein. I tend to think UM will stay in-house, but it could want to land a big name (Billy Donovan’s name will surely pop up). I’ll leave the speculation up to others while I mourn the loss of one of my favorite coaches.

In more uplifting news, the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament, also known as the best day on the sports calendar, is only 310 days and 23 hours away. Not like I’m counting or anything. See you at the Westgate.

I probably won’t have a Michigan ticket in my pocket.