John Beilein celebrates 20th anniversary of Canisius’ 1996 NCAA team (video)

By Nick Veronica

Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein was back at Canisius College on Sunday as the school honored the 20th anniversary of its 1996 NCAA Tournament team, which Beilein led to the only MAAC Tournament championship in program history.

Beilein, joined by former Griffs Binky Johnson and Damone James, sat down for a press conference before the game to remember the 1996 team as well as the 1995 and 1994 teams, which earned NIT berths.

“I’ve been back I think one time since I left,” Beilein said. “It’s emotional for me right now.”

Beilein, local Western New Yorker from Newfane, recalled thinking coaching at Canisius was the “destination” job (4:30). But after five years, he realized if he ever wanted to advance up the coaching ranks, this was his chance to leave. So he left for Richmond, and then West Viriginia and finally Michigan.

Worked out for the best, huh?

“You never know,” Beilein said. “Any good Jesuit-educated guy knows you better follow God’s will.”

Beilein also offered some strong insights into coaching and shooting percentages, and how players can earn the “green light” in games through practice (9:55).

Beilein said his players need to shoot “like 37, 38 [percent]” on 3-pointers or reconsider shooting.

“It’s an individual thing about which guys get that shot,” he said. “Some guys have green lights. … So I would say it depends on the shooter. [Michigan sophomore] Duncan Robinson has an absolute green light. I’d love to see Derrick Walton shoot even more. But I can’t tell that to everybody on the team.

“They have shooting drills they have to do to be able to have a green light. You just have to do that. If they could make these numbers in practice, they’d have a green light. Now if they have problems in a game where they can’t make them when the lights are on, then you have to back off and rethink it. But you can’t be doubting their shots in the game.”

[RELATED: Remembering the Griffs ’96 NCAA team as postseason drought ends]

Beilein said he still follows the Griffs and joked that hiring Jim Baron – who coached at rival St. Bonaventure while Beilein was at Canisius – was like bringing in Darth Vader.

Beilein planned to apologize to his former players this weekend for being so tough on them, but when they saw him, they all thanked him for challenging them to get better. Skip to 5:20 for James’ tale of how Beilein making the team practice on Christmas Eve changed how they thought about hard work.

“Coach was ahead of his time,” James said.

UPDATE: Beilein addressed the crowd at halftime after his players were introduced. Here’s what he said:



Marist names Mike Maker basketball coach, replacing Jeff Bower

By Nick Veronica

Mike Maker

Mike Maker

Mike Maker was named the new basketball coach at Marist today, filling the void created when Jeff Bower left earlier this month to become the general manager of the Detroit Pistons.

Maker comes from Division III Williams College, where he put up an impressive 147-32 record in six years as head coach while reaching two national championship games.

Maker has 26 years of head coaching experience, including 17 as a Division I assistant. He worked under former Canisius coach John Beilein at West Virginia from 2005-07. This is Maker’s first Division I head coaching job.

Marist’s Executive Vice President, Dr. Geoffrey Brackett, said in the school’s press release that Maker was “unanimously endorsed” by the search committee.

“We will implement a team first approach and unique style of play that highlights character, intelligence and skill, a direct reflection of our student body as a whole,” Maker said in the release. He will be introduced in an 11 a.m press conference at Marist’s McCann Arena on Wednesday.

Maker is the 11th head coach in Marist history and the third in the last three seasons. Bower spent only one season at Marist after replacing Chuck Martin, who was 48-118 in five seasons.

Marist’s best player, Chavaughn Lewis (17.3 ppg, second-team all-conference), must decide if he’ll play for his third coach or transfer. The Red Foxes are looking to build on their performance from last season, when they earned the 6-seed in the conference tournament and boasted the MAAC Rookie of the Year, Khallid Hart (14.7 ppg).