by Jim Buzzerd
I don’t typically watch a lot of NBA basketball, but this time of year the playoffs are in full swing and I’ll tune in from time to time. If I had to pick one player who piques my interest in the game it would be Golden State’s Stephen Curry. His long range shooting is almost magical at times. Most of the Warriors playoff games so far have been late starts and I’ve not been able to stay up for anything close to their entirety.
As compelling as the Warriors-Rockets second round series was, I could not stay awake for last Friday’s game six in Houston. I made it to halftime and the Warriors were somehow tied without Kevin Durant in the line up and Curry being held scoreless with three fouls and 0-6 shooting while nursing a dislocated finger on his left hand. It would have been worth the effort to stay up. Curry erupted for 33-second half points, 23 in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors closed out Houston to advance to the Western Conference finals against Portland.
In other NBA news, former West Virginia University basketball coach John Beilein was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers as their new head coach on Monday. This is somewhat surprising news in that Beilein is 66 and has reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with the Cavs. Only NBA coaches Greg Popovich and Mike D’Antoni are older.
Beilein came to West Virginia in 2002 after Dan Dakich was on the job for eight days and backed out of his deal. The WVU basketball program was a mess back then and John Beilein did a great job getting the program back on its feet. His five-year record at WVU was 104-60, but his first two seasons were 14-14 and 15-13. While the next three seasons were great seasons, there were persistent rumors that Beilein was looking to head to greener pastures.
It’s been said the buyout clause in his contract kept Beilein from taking the N.C. State job following the 2006 season. When Michigan came calling a year later the buyout did not scare off the Wolverines and Beilein coached in Ann Arbor for 12 seasons and appeared in two national championship games.
Interestingly, it was Beilein’s relationship with former Mountaineer player Mike Gansey that was instrumental in his being hired. Gansey is an assistant general manager for the Cavs, but it was at Gansey’s wedding in 2014 where Beilein met Kolby Altman, then a 31-year-old assistant GM of the Cavs. Gansey was Director of Development League Operations.
Altman was impressed with Beilein and in 2017 Altman was named the Cleveland general manager and made Gansey his top assistant. Cleveland was 19-63 last season, so Beilein will have plenty of challenges in front of him. Beilein has no experience coaching in the NBA and his college success was largely without high profile recruits, so watching how he adapts to the NBA game and its players will be interesting.