NBA Rumors: Former Cavs Coach John Beilein Was A ‘Dictator’ Toward Players Before He Resigned, Report Alleges

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein scowls during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

After entering the All-Star break with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers parted ways with head coach John Beilein, who posted a 14-40 record in his NBA coaching debut. Toward the end of his tenure, various rumors swirled around his strained relationships with multiple players. Now, a new report has emerged suggesting that the former University of Michigan head coach had a hard time transitioning from the world of college basketball to the NBA, where he allegedly ruled the Cavs with an iron fist.

Citing a report from Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd, and Joe Vardon of The Athletic, Bleacher Report wrote that one source close to the Cavaliers described Beilein as a “dictator,” a man whose coaching style made him a less-than-ideal fit for the NBA. The insider went on to add that players had a problem with the “tone” used by the 67-year-old coaching veteran while leading the team, also noting that he supposedly nitpicked fundamentals, spoke in a “harping” voice during film sessions, and was simply not able to adjust to the offensive and defensive schemes used in the league.

As further cited, The Athletic‘s sources discussed what appeared to be the “final straw” for a lot of Cavs players — the time when Beilein allegedly referred to them as “thugs” while in the middle of a film session. One source told the publication that a number of players tried to troll their coach by playing songs that had the word “thug” in the lyrics whenever he was in earshot.

“He insisted later he meant to say slugs, and he tried to apologize the next day, but a number of the players never really embraced his explanation. In fact, some of them thought it was an insult to their intelligence.”

Separately, SB Nation also quoted the same story from The Athletic, writing that the Cavaliers found it strange that Beilein named plays after animals, with a curl play getting nicknamed “polar bear” under the controversial coach’s system.

“You don’t go pro to do that kind of thing,” one of the outlet’s sources reportedly said.

While the Cavs were able to acquire two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond from the Detroit Pistons ahead of the February 6 trade deadline, he reportedly observed during a conversation with his new teammates that the situation in Cleveland is “worse” than how things were in Detroit.

Following Beilein’s exit, J.B. Bickerstaff will reportedly take over for the rest of the season as interim head coach. It’s still unclear, however, whether or not the team will hire a more permanent replacement in the offseason.