Jan. 5, 2005
When the topic is the big-time coaches in college basketball, familiar names and Hall of Famers often are mentioned: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Texas Tech's Robert Montgomery Knight, Temple's John Chaney, Arizona's Lute Olson, North Carolina's Roy Williams, Maryland's Gary Williams, UConn's Jim Calhoun, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton ... and the list goes on and on.
Let me share the name of a guy who doesn't get much publicity, but he can flat-out C-O-A-C-H! Most of America doesn't know who he is, but if you ask his peers they'll tell you his teams are always prepared and solid fundamentally. They can play in every phase of the game.
|Raise your hand if your squad's in the Sweet 16.|
I'm talking about West Virginia's John Beilein (pronounced BEE-LINE).
If he had equal talent to most, he'd get the "W" every time. His Mountaineers have sent shock waves through college basketball so far this season, going 10-0 for the first time since 1959-60, when a guy named Jerry West was lighting it up in Morgantown.
Many college basketball insiders feel that Beilein is one of the masters on the sidelines. West Virginia entered this week as one of seven remaining unbeatens in college basketball.
Beilein took over at West Virginia from Gale Catlett in April 2002. I'm not sure what the expectations were then, but the Mountaineers were picked to finish in the bottom tier of the Big East this season.
Don't tell Beilein that! His team already has won at NC State and at LSU, to go with a home win against a ranked George Washington squad. That bodes well when the NCAA Tournament selection committee evaluates performance come March.
This shouldn't come as a shock when you consider that in 26 previous seasons as a head coach, Beilein has enjoyed 23 winning seasons. The past two seasons, with mainly freshmen and sophomores, his teams have been extremely competitive in posting a 31-29 record. Then came this season's explosion.
Beilein was so impressive in five seasons at Richmond, averaging 20 victories per campaign during his tenure. Now he's in the national spotlight in a tough conference.
West Virginia gets it done in team fashion, demonstrating all the parts of the game that coaches talk about at clinics.
Beilein is a teacher who takes great pride in making sure his players execute efficiently in their offensive sets. The right people shoot the basketball at the right time.
You will hear the name Beilein often in the headlines, baby!
Dick Vitale coached the University of Detroit and the Pistons before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.