Report: John Beilein exits as Cavaliers head coach, replaced by top assistant J.B. Bickerstaff

Jack Baer
Writer

John Beilein’s tenure as Cleveland Cavaliers had coach is over after half a season, and the team didn’t have to look far to find his replacement.

Cavaliers assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff will take over as head coach after Beilein says goodbye to staff and players at the end of the All-Star break, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

It appears Beilein and not the Cavaliers is triggering the exit, which means the coach will be walking away from a contract with four guaranteed seasons at an annual salary between $4 million and $4.5 million, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Jason Lloyd.

Wojnarowski also reports reports that Bickerstaff will take over as full-time head coach for the Cavs, not just as an interim coach.

Beilein’s NBA career was short and turbulent

Hired last summer after more than 40 years of coaching at the college and high school level, Beilein was an odd choice for the Cavaliers job given that he was 66 years old at the time and had zero experience coaching at the professional level.

Between reports of players unhappy with his “nitpicking” coaching style, him apologizing to players after calling them thugs and a heated exchange with veteran center Tristan Thompson, Beilein’s transition to the NBA was beyond turbulent. That was reflected in the Cavaliers’ record of 14-40, currently last in the Eastern Conference.

What’s next for Beilein is up to him. He could go back to the college level almost immediately, as there would likely be no shortage of teams looking to reproduce the results he had at Michigan. He could take some time off from coaching after what has likely been a draining year for him. Or he could just retire at 67 years old.

What is abundantly clear is that NBA teams aren’t going to come calling for Beilein anytime soon.

J.B. Bickerstaff is in line for a major promotion. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)

Bickerstaff’s third time as midseason coaching replacement

This should be a familiar feeling for the 40-year-old Bickerstaff.

This will now be the third time Bickerstaff has been promoted from assistant to head coach in the middle of a season. Previously, Bickerstaff has served as the interim head coach for the Houston Rockets after the firing of Kevin McHale in 2015 and as full-time head coach for the Memphis Grizzlies after the firing of David Fizdale.

Bickerstaff has a career head coaching record of 85-131 across three seasons. He was hired as Beilein’s top assistant last summer in Cleveland, where his father Bernie Bickerstaff is a senior basketball advisor.

Per Wojnarowski, Bickerstaff was hired with a plan in mind of him succeeding the 67-year-old Beilein, but the transition is obviously happening sooner than anyone expected.

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