Michigan appreciates past, relishes future
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA — Some of the friends had traveled many miles, and the families from points scattered all around the country, brought together for the night and the game by one man.
Two hours after coming up short in the biggest game of his long career, Michgian coach John Beilein walked into his team’s hotel and managed a slight smile when he saw the crowd of more than 100 people there to welcome Michigan back. The smile grew as he got closer and could make out individual faces.
There were the Albrechts, a few hours removed from their son’s breathtaking 17-point half. The Robinsons, after a season of alley-oops to their son. The rest, the families of back-ups and stars alike, also waiting to clap for the coach. And, of course, some buddies from way back when.
Few words were necessary, but Beilein said them anyway. He told his dear friends and his players’ parents how he’d been trying to build a successful program the right way. He told them how the Wolverines made so much progress this season. He told them, emphatically, “The best is yet to come.”
Beilein’s wife, Kathleen, stood quietly off to the side against the wall, watching her husband shake hands and hear people tell him that he’d just had a heck of a season.
Thirty-one wins to just eight losses. His first Final Four, his first title game appearance – and Michigan’s first since 1993. His best recruiting class had blossomed into arguably the best freshman class in the nation at the exact right time.
The way the NCAA tournament works, every team except one finishes with a loss. Only one locker room was filled with smiles instead of red, puffy eyes when the clock struck midnight Monday night. It was easy to forget what these Wolverines had accomplished amid a sea of tears, falling because of shots missed, a foul not given, little mistakes here or there. Nik Stauskas’ eyes had seemed redder than anyone else’s in the Michigan locker room. Caught in the bright lights of television cameras, Stauskas stammered through some answers after scoring just three points in … [For more on Behind scenes, Michigan appreciates past, relishes future, click here.]