John Beilein, college hoops Hall of Famer, turns doubt into prosperity

Back when John Beilein began teaching and coaching basketball at New York’s Newfane High School in the 1970s, he remembers one of the questions his longtime wife Kathleen posed on their first date.

“She (asked), ‘What do you want to do?'” Beilein recalled. “I’m very confident of myself — but I’m a high school coach — and I said, ‘You’re going to see me on TV in one of those plaid sports coats that Dean Smith wears and I’m going to be a Division I coach.’”

Turns out, Beilein sold himself short. Following a career that started at the junior varsity level, ended in the NBA and spanned four decades, Michigan’s all-time winningest coach was among the nine newest members inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this past weekend.

Beilein won everywhere he went at the college level and built winning teams at each stop along the way. He racked up 829 collegiate wins, received numerous coach of the year honors and had 20-win seasons at four different levels — junior college, Division III, Division II and Division I.

As he climbed each rung of the coaching ladder — from Erie Community College to Nazareth (Division III) to Le Moyne (Division II) to Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia, and Michigan (Division I) — he had to overcome a similar obstacle: Doubt.

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