John Beilein holds court on coaching in the spotlight

Michigan State basketball coach John Beilein spoke with LSY! teen reporter Rebecca Wojcinski at an awards dinner for DeSales school in Lockport, New York. Both of them are DeSales alums.

Michigan basketball coach John Beilein spoke with LSY! teen reporter Rebecca Wojcinski at an awards dinner for DeSales school in Lockport, New York. Both of them are DeSales alums.

A coach is a team’s ultimate leader. It’s the coach’s job to help players perform through everything, from troubles to triumphs. If the team is popular, the coach also has to help athletes handle the spotlight.

That’s the job of University of Michigan basketball coach John Beilein, whose team last year reached the NCAA Final Four. Coach Beilein grew up in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area and recently came back to accept the Distinguished Alumni Award from his former school, DeSales.

“I try to remember my roots all the time,” he told me during an interview before the awards dinner. “These are dreams that have come true.”

Following is an edited version of our conversation.

Rebecca Wojcinski, LSY! teen reporter, Mount St. Mary Academy

What would be the best strategy for athletes to handle the spotlight?

Coach Beilein: It depends on the level, obviously, but as they get there I think they have to embrace the blessings that they have — that they have these great opportunities because of God-given athletic talent. At the same time, there are so many talented people out there, but it may not be in athletics. There are a lot of people that are blessed. They’re just blessed in a different way, but not more than others. They ought to take those blessings to the most of their ability.”

How do you handle the spotlight?

Coach Beilein: I try to remember my roots all the time and that these are dreams that have come true. But at the same time, I will always want to have a brand say of being very humble, of being someone that I really believe I should be. Humble — an attitude of gratitude towards what my position has brought to me, and just try to take each day like day-to-day. Like this is a little bit of a purpose in life, to be able to coach and teach and live the life that I live.

What are the pros and cons about the spotlight?

Coach Beilein: The pro is that, obviously, you get to touch a lot of people and if you’re doing the right things maybe you could be a great model for a lot of people. The con would probably be is that you really are always in a big lens, you’re always in a big camera. You cannot afford to make mistakes at any time, let alone in public.

What do you thing the step I that most people miss when they are trying to become successful?

Coach Beilein: Embracing the process along the line and realize that it’s day-to-day. Everybody wants to get there and not embrace the process. It’s the things that are happening when you didn’t know they were happening are really special. They’ll come around 20 or 30 years from now when you’re much older and you’ll look back at those days and say, “Oh, that’s why I got to here. It was that little thing that happened 25 years ago.” I’m not great at embracing the process. I’m thinking about the next game the next day. That’s something I wish I didn’t miss out on and I’m trying to avoid in the future.

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