“It’s in the genes.”
That’s how Lockport’s Molly Maigret, John Beilein’s sister, explains the family’s devotion to each other and her brother’s men’s basketball team — Final Four-bound Michigan.
In fact, her brother’s secretary has been inundated this week in Ann Arbor, Mich. with so many Lockport-area family members calling about tickets, she reportedly asked the coach, “And exactly how many brothers and sisters do you have? Oh, I can tell this is gonna be a great day.”
Not as great as Sunday, when Michigan advanced to the prestigious Final Four — Beilein’s first as a men’s college basketball head coach — by defeating Florida, 79-59, in Arlington, Texas.
Several Beileins were there, of course, including John’s roommate of 18 years growing up in Newfane, his brother, Joe Beilein, of St. Louis.
Driving hundreds of miles and back to one of John’s games is quite normal, after all, Molly says, for the sports-crazed Beilein-Niland family of Western New York, most of whom are headed to Atlanta for this weekend’s NCAA tournament semifinal and final.
“Out of about 100 Beileins and Nilands, I’d say that at least 60 percent are going to Atlanta,” said John’s nephew, Niagara County Community College men’s basketball head coach and Appleton native Bill Beilein, who watched Friday’s amazing Michigan come-from-behind overtime win over Kansas and Sunday’s big win over Florida with his wife and family in Syracuse.
“The Syracuse radio guys were just awful,” Bill said. “I didn’t like the way they were discrediting Michigan. But Friday night’s game was amazing the way it transformed — and the fact that we were watching my uncle coaching — we were all glued to the television screen.”
Joe Beilein, who was at the Kansas game on Friday night, said Michigan had been the victim of so many buzzer-beaters this year, he thought, trailing by double digits late in the game, that it was a fitting time for a major reversal of fortunes.
“When it got down to trailing by five with 30-40 seconds left, I said, ‘Okay, we’ll need a bit of a miracle, but we’ve lost some real tough games at the buzzer and I think we’re going to get some pay back,’” Joe Beilein said.
Molly said after enjoying Michigan’s latest win for a day, John’s already back to business — beating Syracuse on Saturday. Tip-off is 8:30 p.m. for the game between the Wolverines (30-7) and head coach Jim Boeheim’s Orange (30-9). Saturday’s other Final Four matchup at 6 p.m. pits Wichita State (30-8) vs. Louisville (33-5).
“We are all having such a good time with this. I had the flu and watched the weekend games at home with my husband, but we’re planning on going to Atlanta. I know (former Niagara County Sheriff) Tom (Beilein) and his wife are going. We’re just so proud of John and everything he’s accomplished. He’s such a humble man. He never forgot about the place he grew up nor the people he grew up with, especially his basketball junkie family.”
John Beilein’s coaching career began at Newfane, then moved upward on to Erie Community College, Nazareth, LeMoyne, Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia, then Michigan.
Bill Beilein said he likes Michigan’s chances against the Orange.
“His teams have always kept the turnover margin down,” Bill Beilein said. “I think the biggest difference now is the rebounding factor. They have a great chance to beat Syracuse. Michigan scores points and Syracuse struggles to score points — and you need to score points to win these basketball games.”
Joe said the big difference in seeing his brother after the game on Friday was his attitude about the rest of the tournament.
“Back in 2005, when he got to the Elite 8 with West Virginia, he was extremely happy to be there, but this time around, he wants to win it all,” Joe Beilein said. “The Final Four is a defining moment for any college coach, let alone that coach being your brother.”
“John’s very focused on Syracuse right now. His goal is to win a championship, not just getting to the Final Four,” Molly said. “He’s going to try and get his team in the same mindset, all on board, all focused on the big task at hand. Go Michigan!”
The winner of Saturday’s games will play for the national championship at 9 p.m. Monday.