Michigan's John Beilein debunks his label as a 1-3-1, system coach -- says he's always changing
ANN ARBOR -- Before the season began, ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg described the 1-3-1 defense as Michigan's "bread and butter."
Apparently Greenberg -- a former head coach at Virginia Tech, South Florida and Long Beach State -- hadn't seen much game tape on John Beilein's club lately.
Long described as a system coach who primarily used the 1-3-1 defense as an equalizer against bigger teams, Beilein's philosophy on just about everything has changed over the past few years in Ann Arbor.
Despite the fact that several still don't seem to notice.
"I never tried the 1-3-1 defense for the first 20 years (of my career), but changed because we had a need (at West Virginia)," Beilein said Monday on his weekly radio show. "(We) changed to using as much man-to-man as we do now (at Michigan), changing because the game is changing. We never used the ball screen as much as I do now.
"That's what I pride myself on, being a student of the game, and being able to adapt."
At West Virginia, Beilein ran an offense that featured several high-level outside shooters, and emphasized constant passing along the perimeter.
Today at Michigan, the Wolverines allow point guard Trey Burke to keep the ball in his hands for the bulk of just about every possession, something WVU coach Bob Huggins referred to as "good coaching" Saturday in New York.
Michigan uses the 1-3-1 at times now, but is mainly a man-to-man team -- which is nothing like Beilein's Mountaineer clubs.
All for the sake of change.
"There was a time that the 1-3-1 was really working," he said. "(At West Virgina) we had the second best shot blocker in the country (in) D'or Fischer (who was) blocking four shots a game. Putting him in the middle of the 1-3-1, and it works.
"It worked. When we came here, it wasn't working as well. The personnel wasn't right. The Big Ten passes and shoots better, I think, than other leagues. So it was keep doing it, or change? Become a better man-to-man coach. That's what we've tried to do."
Beilein remarked how he was somewhat taken aback last week when a national media member asked him if he decided to finally let his teams start running on offense.
The perception of Beilein's offensive system was that it was very deliberate, very slow-paced and not something high-level athletes would necessarily thrive in.
But perception isn't always reality.
Just ask Seth Greenberg.
"We have run on every rebound for 35 straight years" Beilein said. "The different issue is now, we're getting 5 to 10 more defensive rebounds per game. We great outlet passers, a terrific point guard and wings that can fly. It just looks different. There was never a time at West Virginia where we (got a rebound) and said 'don't run.' "
"But now when we get it into halfcourt, we're not stupid. You just played 30 seconds of hard defense to get the ball, don't do something stupid and jack a shot. Those first seven or eight seconds, we're trying to score … but if it's not there, I don't care if it takes one pass or 10 passes, get a good shot. Less shots, more points.
"Have I changed? Every year."
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