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Awkward family reunion

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This is going to be hard for Patrick Beilein and he knows it. Walking out onto the Crisler Arena floor, looking around and seeing everything that once was familiar.

His mother, Kathleen, will be sitting in a different spot. The benches are on the other side of the court from his time at Michigan as a graduate assistant. This used to be his home, and now he returns as an opponent, as the director of basketball operations for Bradley.

One thing will be the same. The man coaching on the other bench: his father, Michigan coach John Beilein.

"I don't know what to expect, what the feeling is going to be like," Patrick said. "It's part of basketball and the profession that I chose. It should be interesting.

"Even though I'm the director of operations, I still feel, although I'm not a full-time assistant, it's going to be a strange feeling. But I work for Bradley."

What the Beileins will experience is rare. The Knights -- Bobby and Pat -- never faced each other. Neither did the Drews -- father Homer and sons Bryce and Scott.

There are some families, though, who have. Former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton coached against his son, Scott, when Scott was an assistant at Oral Roberts and more recently, it happened to the Martellis.

Phil Martelli was the head coach at St. Joseph's when his team faced Rutgers on the day after Thanksgiving last season. One of the Scarlet Knights assistants was his son, Jimmy.

It was a feeling, Jimmy said, the Beileins might not yet really understand.

"It's not anything that you would ever go through prior to or again," Jimmy said. "You can shake hands and be friends with some of the assistants or head coaches. But it is different when you go on vacation with them and see them eating breakfast for 18 years of your life.

"It is different. It is nothing that you can prepare for. I will say that given time, a month, two months, three months, after the season, they can reflect on the season and that particular moment, and it is really special."

John Beilein said it'll be easier for him to look past the familial relations to focus on coaching because Patrick is an assistant. Yet in the same moment, he admits watching or checking the score of every Bradley game on his phone to see how his son is doing.

Patrick admits to rooting for Michigan all the time. He knows most of Michigan's staff and was the graduate assistant when current seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass were freshmen and sophomores.

When the Martellis played, Phil could barely look at the Rutgers bench because he didn't want to see his son.

Even the timing of the games is similar. The Martellis played the day after Thanksgiving and Jimmy ended up declining an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner at an aunt's house to keep things from being uncomfortable.

Patrick will remain in Ann Arbor, Mich., after the game to spend Christmas with his family. But both father and son admit it could be a little bit different depending which team wins.

"It is different," John said. "This will be a tough one to look at him for the next three days if they beat us, but we'll have to turn around and make it better. Maybe something that'll happen in this game that will help us win the next game.

"I won't hold anything against Pat, for sure, but it won't be as good a Christmas."

The holidays also mean more family members than normal will be in town, although it is toughest on the mom/wife.

Judy Martelli, Jimmy's mom and Phil's wife, told her son she planned on going shopping on Black Friday for the first time ever, because it'd be less stressful than watching family members coaching against each other.

Kathleen Beilein, wife of John and mom of Patrick, declared her allegiance.

"Patrick knows how proud of him that I am for following his dream to be a college coach," Kathleen wrote in an email. "But I will have to wear my maize and blue."

She even joked perhaps the two coaches can watch film of the game together over the holiday break. While that's unlikely, the experience will be special.

More than a year after the game a picture of the Martellis hugging in the postgame handshake line remains as a screensaver on Jimmy's computer.

St. Joseph's might have beaten Rutgers, 76-70, but it is something he won't ever forget.

"People say it's corny and this and that, and obviously we lost, and I remember that we lost," Jimmy said. "He reminds me that we lost. But that postgame hug, to do that on a Division I court and with so many family members in the stands watching you really work and how far you've come and a dream of yours, not only my dad's dream of being a head coach this long, but my dream of being an assistant at the highest level of the Big East, it was special. It was really special.

"It wasn't in that moment, but it is now, and not something many families would get to experience, let alone share the way we did."

Patrick is prepared, even if neither father nor son is fully ready for the emotions that could overtake one or both of them.

"It's definitely going to be memorable," he said. "I'm definitely going to be able to look back and cherish the moment of coaching against my dad."

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.