John Beilein is a pretty good college basketball coach. He has a career record of 415-260 — good for a respectable .615 winning percentage. He’s had success at each of his four stops, completing the somewhat standard progression of the college coach. He started at Canisius, a small mid-major, moving on a bigger mid-major in Richmond. Success there got him a job at a BCS program in West Virginia, and his tournament successes got him a job at a big program, Michigan, on a bit of a reclamation project. He’s just a few months removed from nearly winning a National Title.
I’ve followed Beilein’s teams from afar since those mid-2000s runs with West Virginia, because those were some of the most entertaining college teams I can remember. The Mountaineers employed that harrying, manic 1-3-1 defense and took a crap ton of 3s. They had some great characters and names I’ll never really forget, like Kevin Pittsnogle, Mike Gansey, Joe Herber, D’Or Fischer, his son Patrick. At Michigan he’s been able to recruit much better talent, and the Wolverines have played more of a traditional style that fits the Big-10.
Despite always having an interest in Beilien’s teams, I won’t profess that I’m some sort of expert on his style or anything. I’m not sure exactly why this is the case, then, but after the Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway, Jr. I got to wondering about the success of Beilein’s players at the professional level. It’s not pretty.
Here are the guys who played under Beilein at either West Virginia or Michigan that have gone on to played professionally, as far as I can tell (I’m not sailing too crazily-deep into international waters or way back to his days at Canisius or Richmond here, so there may be some I’ve left out):
Kevin Pittsnogle: The 6-11 tattooed, goateed wonder played four years at West Virginia, all under Beilein, from 2002-2006. He busted out during the team’s tournament run to the Elite 8 in 2004-05, then averaged 19.1 points the following year. At 6-11 with the ability to shoot from deep, there was an outside chance that Pittsnogle could have an NBA career. It didn’t materialize. He wasn’t drafted, and the Celtics waived him before the 2006 season after signing him as an undrafted free agent. He took to the CBA (which was incredibly still around?) for a season, then was taken by the Austin Toros in the 2007 D-League draft after a brief stint in France. He split that season between the Toros and the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. According to Wikipedia, Pittsnogle’s weight gain and desire to teach re-shifted his focus away from basketball. He attempted a comeback in 09-10, averaging 15 and 7 for the Thunderbirds before retiring due to personal reasons.
Mike Gansey: Gansey played under Beilein for two years from 2004-06 after transferring from St. Bonaventure. He was a key piece of the Mountaineers’ two tournament runs, but like his teammate Pittsnogle went undrafted in 2006 (for what it’s worth, NBADraft.net’s Mock in 2006 projected Pittsnogle and Gansey to go in the high-middle of the 2nd round). He latched on with the Miami Heat on their 2006 Summer League roster but was waived before the season. Soon thereafter hebattled a life-threatening staph infection, but beat it and returned to basketball in 2008 with the D-League’s Anaheim Arsenal. He played two seasons in the D-League, bouncing around Europe in between, finishing up in 09-10 with the Erie Bayhawks (the Knicks’ current D-League affiliate!) with a pretty solid 18-8-2 line in 27 games. He decided to go the front office route, being named the Director of Development League Operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers in August of 2012. I do not know if he still holds this position, but I am holding out hope that one day he becomes the GM of the Knicks, because why not.
D’or Fischer: Another member of the West Virginia team that made the Elite 8 in 2005, Fischer was a decent Big East big man in his two years under Beilein. He played one year in the D-League in 2005-06 for the Roanoke Dazzle (seriously, Roanoke?), averaging 6 and 5. He’s been playing overseas ever since, making stops in Belgium, Spain, Israel and Ukraine, where he is now with BC Donetsk.
Joe Alexander: We get to the first player on the list with actual NBA experience! Whoops.
Alexander played his first two collegiate seasons under Beilein and spent one more year at West Virginia after Beilein bolted for Michigan. Alexander was a pretty good college player. He averaged 17 and 5 during his junior year, shooting 46% from the field. He wasn’t much of a threat from the perimeter, but was always very athletic. I guess the Milwaukee Bucks saw enough from him that they decided to use the 8th overall pick in the 2008 draft to clean up dog crap by taking Alexander with it. You can always play the “they could have taken…” game, but, you know, JOE ALEXANDER!!!
The Bucks could have taken Brook Lopez (I guess they were still holding on to Andrew Bogut at the time), D.J. Augustin, Marreese Speights, Roy Hibbert, Javale McGee, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, George Hill, Mario Chalmers, Nikola Pekovic…holy crap, we get the point. In two seasons from 2008-10, Alexander played in a whopping total of 67 games, averaging 4 pts. and under 2 rebs. He tried to latch on with the New Orleans Hornets but was cut in November of 2010, went to the D-League from there where he actually played pretty well (averaging 20 and 9 in ’11 for the aptly-named Texas Legends). From what I can tell, he’s out of professional basketball. In semi-related news, the Milwaukee Bucks are still terrible.
Ekpe Udoh: Udoh only played one season under Beilein, his sophomore season and Beilein’s first with the program in 07-08. Hard to judge him as a “Beilein” player, since he transferred after that year (which he averaged 6 pts, 5 rebs and almost 3 blocks) to Baylor. Udoh was taken 6th overall in the 2010 draft by Golden State but has never lived up to any potential that comes with being selected that high. He was traded in March of 2012 to the Bucks, where he is now. He has career averages of 4.6 pts and 3.5 rebs with a PER of 11.5. Again, pretty underwhelming.
Manny Harris: Harris was a freshman in Beilein’s first season at Michigan and played three years under his guidance. He was a pretty highly-regarded prospect coming into college and right away looked like he could end up a pro. As a frosh he averaged over 16 pts and made the All-Big Ten Second Team. His sophomore season was his beast and most efficient; he made the conference’s First Team and helped led Michigan to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. He decided to forego his senior season to enter the 2010 draft, but — and this appears to be a trend with Beilein’s players, for some reason — went undrafted. Harris did, however make the NBA; he signed with the Cavaliers in 2010-11 and played in 54 games as a rookie, averaging almost 6 pts in 17 minutes per (remember, the 2010-11 Cavs were a terrible team). He bounced between the D-League and the Cavs throughout 2011-12, was waived at the end of the season, but we’ll point out that he recorded his only NBA double-double on April 20, 2012 against the Knicks. He’s now playing in Ukraine. According to his Wikipedia page, his actual name is Corperryale L’Adorable Harris. “Manny” is a nickname. Awesome.
Darius Morris: Morris played two seasons under Beilein at Michigan. He made a huge leap between his freshman and sophomore seasons, upping his scoring average from 4.4 to 15 and his assists from 2.6 to 6.7. He momentarily owned Michigan’s single season assists record, dishing out 235 in 2010-11, surpassing some pretty good point-guard company in Rumeal Robinson and Gary Grant (Trey Burke broke the record last season). Bucking the trend a little here, Morris was actually taken in the the draft he entered, 2011, 41st by the Lakers. We’ll see if he can stick around or if he takes a similar career path to Harris — the Lakers recently declined to extend him a qualifying offer, so he’s now a free agent. He’s averaged 12 minutes, 3.6 pts and 1.4 assists in 67 career games. But hey, he averaged 45 points and 13.5 assists per-36 minutes in the 2011-12 playoffs, so there’s that!
So there you have it. Again, this is not to make some sort of judgment about Beilein’s coaching ability, or make the case that he can’t prepare players to play in the NBA. Maybe that’s the truthbut I don’t know, I’m simply pointing out the fact that he’s never coached a player that ended up being a success in the NBA. Obviously there is a very, very good chance that both Trey Burke and Hardaway, Jr. end up being the best NBA players that played for Beilein in college. There are probably others on the way, as well, as Beilein is coming off a great season and has Michigan back as a top program. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III figure to enter next year’s draft, and both have a chance to stick in the pros.
But it’s quite interesting to simply note that there hasn’t been one good pro who played under Beilein, to this point. It’s not like there weren’t possibilities, with high draft picks used on players in Alexander and Udoh (again, if we’re counting him). I’d put money on Burke being a pretty solid pro, and I think I speak for Knicks fans everywhere in hoping that Hardaway, Jr. is, too.