John Beilein was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers in May of 2019, and his tenure with the franchise ended less than a year after he reportedly struggled with his transition to the NBA.
Not helping the situation was him mistakenly calling his players “a bunch of thugs” in a film session that pretty much ended any type of growing relationship with his team going forward.
Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported 24 hours after his resignation that a number of players made sure he never forgot those comments as they constantly trolled him with music that had the word thug in it.
“a number of the players never really embraced his explanation. In fact, some of them thought it was an insult to their intelligence, one player told The Athletic.
“There was no coming back from that,” he said.
Instead, multiple players began playing songs that included the word “thug” whenever Beilein was within earshot, sources said: Bone Thugz-n-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and Tupac’s “Thugz Mansion” among them. As the team boarded the bus a few days after the incident, one player was intentionally playing Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug” with Beilein a few feet away. Other players blasted songs with the word “thug” loudly during workouts in the facility. Players did this to make light of a very tough situation, according to one team source.
“The worst part to me was not owning that he said it,” one player told The Athletic.”
Beilein’s explanation made the situation worse:
“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” “I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”
Prior to joining the Cavaliers, he spent 12 years as head coach at Michigan, leaving with a 278–150 record and nine NCAA tournament appearances.
“I love the position the team is in to build and grow and this was something I felt was the perfect fit for me,” Beilein said at the time of his hire in Cleveland. “With hard work and dedication by all of us, we will grow this team day by day and reinforce a culture of success that sustains itself with strong core values. Cleveland is a great city with amazing fans and I am really looking forward to calling Cleveland home for years to come.”