Editor's note: During the next five weeks, we will reveal the top 50 coaches in college basketball as decided by our ESPN Forecast panel. Today we unveil No. 9: Michigan's John Beilein. On Wednesday, we release No. 8.
In 2007, at age 54, John Beilein became the head men's basketball coach at the University of Michigan. He was well-known for his five years at West Virginia, probably best for the deep 2004-05 tournament run he made with Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle. But as much as anything else, Beilein was known for his unusual tactical style.
The system that took a seemingly outmanned West Virginia group to the brink of 2005 Final Four came out of nowhere, and seemed fully formed. Gansey and Pittsnogle were perfect centerpieces for the 1-3-1 zone defense and the two-guard front -- an old-time offense more out of fashion than Latin. In reality, Beilein picked it up in the course of his atypical 30-year rise to the top of his profession. The two-guard front was smart, precise, almost unassuming. The system mirrored the man.
Beilein began his coaching career at Newfane (N.Y.) High School in 1975. He was 22. His first job was his first as a head coach, and it's worth noting as much because this would become a theme. Beilein didn't know what he was doing back then, he's since admitted, so he did what all of the other coaches were doing: flex offense, straight motion, set plays, man-to-man. He tried on different identities. He coached like a man in his 20s.
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