Patrick Beilein steps down at Niagara

James Neiss/staff photographerIn this April 2 file photo, Patrick Beilein was introduced as the 22nd head coach in the history of the Niagara University men’s basketball program at a press conference at the Gallagher Center. Beilein resigned Thursday, 30 weeks after his hiring.

LEWISTON — Patrick Beilein was never going to be long for Niagara University men's basketball.

Seven months, though? That beat even the wildest under.

Beilein, the 36-year-old son of Burt basketball legend John Beilein and one of the most well-known young coaches in the country, shockingly resigned from his post as NU men's basketball head coach Thursday morning, citing "personal reasons" in a three-paragraph statement just 210 days after his hiring on March 28.

"It is with heavy regret that I must inform the entire Purple Eagle nation that effective today I have resigned my position as the head men’s basketball coach at Niagara University. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to become a Division-I head basketball coach, but unfortunately, that dream must be put on hold," he said.

"Personal reasons I can no longer take lightly have led me to step away from my dream job. Going forward, I must give singular focus to dealing with these issues, so that I can become the man that I strive to be.

"In time, it is my hope that I can be more open about my ongoing circumstances, but in the meantime, I thank you all for respecting my family’s need for privacy and for all of your continued support."

Neither Director of Athletics Simon Gray nor Greg Paulus, who was named interim head coach Thursday afternoon, would share details of the departure in a short — 10-plus minutes combined — media session Thursday held at Dwyer Arena, away from NU's basketball headquarters in the Gallagher Center.

"Patrick resigned," Gray said. "I'm not going to comment on any of the assertions that are out there."

Paulus was asked for a timeline of the Beilein situation to open his interview and quickly said, "that's something I'm going to stay away from in regards to that."

With the big questions effectively dodged, Thursday's interviews provided few answers outside of a couple housekeeping notes:

• Beilein tendered his resignation officially Thursday morning, Gray said. He had been "dealing with" his personal issues, and "ultimately decided today he needed to focus on it."

• The rest of the staff remains in place under Paulus, Gray said. Brett Ervin and Bryan Smothers are still assistant coaches, and Madison Hahesy is still director of basketball operations. Paulus' promotion leaves one open assistant coach spot, should Niagara choose to fill it.

• Beilein met with the players Thursday, with Gray present at the meeting. Gray said he has "no indication that the team roster will change in any way."

•••

Niagara's loss is Paulus' gain. The former Duke guard and Syracuse quarterback has spent nine seasons as an assistant coach, with stops at Navy, Ohio State, Louisville and George Washington.

Paulus, 33, had been serving as the Purple Eagles' lead assistant since his hiring. When Beilein was out of town recruiting, or when he was sidelined following back surgery in September, Paulus ran practices.

"Greg's done a very good job since he came to Niagara University in exerting his leadership," Gray said. "He's been at the highest level of college basketball, both as a player and a coach, and we are excited for his leadership and taking this forward."

Paulus acknowledged that he has a "great opportunity," though it doesn't come without great challenges. He'll have to guide the remainders of Beilein's staff, as well as a few players who came to Niagara to play for a Beilein.

"Our goals and objectives and how we want to improve each day is something that is consistent, and we're going to focus in on those areas," he said.

Paulus said his thoughts went "right to the players" when he heard the news of Beilein's resignation.

"I think the relationship between the coaching staff and our players is very strong," he said. "And having a chance to spend the last couple of months with our players and really get to know them away from the court and work with them on the court has been a lot of fun."

To prepare for his new role, Paulus will try to take as much as he can from his impressive list of mentors, which includes Mike Krzyzewski and Thad Matta.

"I've been fortunate to work at some terrific institutions and universities and with some tremendous leaders, and those different experiences, whether that's responsibility-wise or whether that's just as you go through a season, you learn so many different things," he said. "But I feel prepared, and the opportunity to represent this university is something that I'm grateful for."

Follow sports editor Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.

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