Michigan head coach John Beilein was on the podium in Washington D.C. this morning to preview the Wolverines’ upcoming season at Big Ten Media Day. Watch Beilein’s full remarks in the embedded media player above.
JOHN BEILEIN: It’s great to be here again, and I mean that sincerely, because there are so many — I think now after ten years, have associations with a lot of you and a lot of the coaches. You don’t get to see each other in this less intense situation. So it’s really good to be able to do that and see not only I consider a lot of you and a lot of the other coaches my friends. Not just the enemy or working associate. So it’s good to be here.
We’ve had 10 days of practice. We’ll have our 11th day tomorrow. We’ve tried to use every hour that we could, every minute that we could use in soft dummy and hard dummy and weights and film, and in actual practice to get us out. So that by October 15th it’s the normal start date we can go, okay, now let’s go. So got a good blend of some maturity. We need our first and second-year players to really develop if we’re going to be good. Give us some depth, and give us perhaps some starter minutes.
Then we’ve got to stay healthy. That’s been the key the last three years that has got us. We’re able to survive two of those three years, but this would be one year where injury is going to be difficult, if we have some significant injuries, just like it has been two of the last three years. All three of the last three years.
Q. I guess when people look at this team, it’s the same lineup back from the NCAA Tournament. That lineup potentially finished eighth in the league. Why can this year be better than that?
JOHN BEILEIN: Well, we’ll find out. I think when you’re in a league like this, as you remember, when we went to the National Championship Game, we finished fifth in the league. You’re trying to win the league championship. Because I think if you win the league championship, you can win the NCAA Championship. But the whole idea is play in this league, trying to win a championship, get to the NCAA Tournament, and see what you can do in that tournament. A better second half against Notre Dame, and we were considered last year a heck of a year because we would have been advancing again. So this one can be better if we are injury-free, we play better defense, we show more court awareness for our guys and sort of moxie when they go through slumps that they can get themselves back out, and then we coach them better.
But if all those things happen, we could be a better team. Some of those things don’t happen, we cannot be.
But I think you ask any of these teams in here that making the NCAA Tournament is what they want to do, because it’s the only way at this level, making that tournament you’re seen as having a successful year.
Q. Coach, you talked about being here for many, many years. But your first trip to Washington, the tournament will also be held at the Verizon Center. What are your thoughts about the league pushing its way eastward, including league offices in New York?
JOHN BEILEIN: Yeah, when I first heard that, that was like, okay, this is different, this is something really unique to be able to do this. I think it’s been a fantastic idea to do this. As I’ve learned more about the Big Ten, I’ve learned more about Michigan, obviously. The number of people that we have, when I walk out on these streets of Washington, D.C., New York, the amount of Go Blues I see here is incredible. I may hear — obviously, in Ann Arbor you may hear that a lot, but you may not hear that in other parts of the country.
We are here in this area, especially Michigan. We’re in this area. We love coming back where our fans are and giving our kids a different venue, but the families and our fans a different venue.
I think we’re going to have the people that have always traveled with us in NCAA Tournaments are going to be here. But we’ll have a whole other group of people that are experienced in Big Ten tournament for the first time.
Being here with this media, I’m sure we have many of the same media here that have always come to these. But I’m sure we have new media as well because of the location.
That change, as you know, I embrace change. This change is good.
Q. You have quite a few seniors coming back this year. Does that impact how you coach them compared to other seasons?
JOHN BEILEIN: They certainly have had a lot of experience. For right now they’ve got a lot of minutes. They’ve got a lot of successful minutes, but they’ve also experienced the adversity that I think you have to have. You have to have it in order to be hungry enough to be at your best. So this group of seniors has seen some — they’ve won a Big Ten championship outright. They’ve been within a shot away of the Final Four. At the same time, they’ve lost to New Jersey Tech and Eastern Michigan in a four-day period. That wealth of that knowledge with also just what the coaching staff knows and what the coaching staff’s trying to develop I think is invaluable, if used correctly, for our success this year.
Q. What have you seen from your freshmen so far now that you’ve been able to get on the court with them a little bit more?
JOHN BEILEIN: Yeah, ten practices I’ve seen what I’ve seen for probably 42 years from first-year players. A lot of confusion. A lot of I’m a step late. I’m trying to figure this out. Wow, how can I do all these things? How can I think about all these things at one time? And the game is very rushed, and I can’t quite catch up.
Then I’ll see something that will say, okay, now I get it. Or they’ll just make a play and then I’ll say, okay, now I know why you’re here. So there’s still a lot of fact-finding going on and learning curve. We’re learning from them right now a little bit how to coach them. Who is responding to what. And that’s what I’ve seen. I’m not going to say, oh, man, this guy looks good or this guy looks good. I’m saying they all look the same. They’re confused with all of this, between playing hard every minute, having to think every minute, and then being coached by four guys that all have been in sync for me and making corrections on some things they already thought they were pretty good at. They thought they already played hard, but we’re telling them you’re not. So all those things sort of blended in after 11 minutes. So there’s still a long way to go in finding out who they are.