Point/Counterpoint: Who should have won Big Ten Coach of the Year?

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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John Beilein

I grew up an Ohio State fan, and most of my family in the Buckeye State will hate me for arguing that John Beilein should be Big Ten Coach of the Year. But to my Uncle Bob (whose command for his dogs to go potty is “go to Michigan”), I’d apologize and say it’s not even close to an argument.

Just look at the guys Beilein and the Wolverines lost after last season’s runner-up finish. Last season National Player of the Year Trey Burke left Ann Arbor for the NBA draft, as did Tim Hardaway Jr. Mitch McGary, the sixth man on last season’s team, hasn’t played a meaningful game this year because back surgery.

Those are three HUGE losses for Beilein’s crew. But still, he’s found a way to bring Michigan to the No. 8 spot in the country after a six-week absence from the AP top-25 poll.

That turnaround itself is enough for Beilein to win this award. He had to take an incredibly disappointing and underachieving team (preseason No. 7) early on and turn them around — which he did.

The regular season Big Ten champions Michigan is prepped to make a run through the Big Ten Tournament with its second-straight Big Ten Player of the Year leading the way between the stripes.

Take a peek at the production Beilein has gotten from Nik Stauskas, among others. The Canadian guard averaged 11 points per game last season and finished with 17.4 this year. Caris LaVert averaged 2.3 per game last year and averaged 13.4 in 2013-14. Yes, jumps like that are partially because of the absence of Burke, Hardaway, and McGary, but it’s also largely because of coaching.

The talent is there, but the development of some of his players — LaVert, for example — is undeniable. A great coach brings out the best in his players, which Beilein has done this season.

High expectations coming off a great season, the loss of key contributors, and the return to the top of the Big Ten should give the Michigan man another accolade to his quickly growing collection. And garner some angry words from my family.

— by Danny Payne

Tim Miles

“I see we’re picked 12th out of 12 again. It’s not just you guys [the media], it’s everybody. And like anybody, you take that to heart a little bit.”

Those were the words that came out of Tim Miles mouth at Big Ten media day on Halloween last fall — he had a point though.

Nebraska managed to win just five conference games last year and didn’t appear a threat to compete in a Big Ten that was perceived to be stronger than the previous year.

That’s what makes the Cornhuskers’ run to a fourth-placed finish in the Big Ten so impressive and what makes Miles the easy choice for unanimous Big Ten Coach of the Year.

The second-year coach is leading one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, if not the country. The Huskers have won 10 of their last 12 outings to propel themselves into the NCAA Tournament picture. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS’s Jerry Palm both have Big Red taking part in the Big Dance as of Tuesday.

Sophomore transfer Terran Petteway has been a godsend for Miles, leading the Big Ten in scoring at an 18 point per game clip. He received a well-deserved spot on the first-team All-Big Ten squad.

It’s not shocking that the team is doing so well, Miles has demonstrated that he’s great coach. The most shocking thing about this turnaround is how the culture around Nebrasketball has changed.

It’s no secret that Nebraska is a football school, but the campus and greater Lincoln area have embraced this team. Pinnacle Bank Arena has been rocking of late and has been a fortress the second half of the season. Miles’ squad hasn’t dropped a game there since Jan. 9 against conference champion Michigan.

“I love the commitment from our administration; I love the fan support and I believe in our guys,” Miles said at media day. “So I don’t think we’re going to end up 12th. I think it’s going to be a good thing.”

It is a good thing. In a conference full of coaches easy to detest, it’s awesome to see a nice guy do great things.

— by Kevin Glueck

Bo Ryan

Bo Ryan does more with the talent at hand than any other college coach in the country — which should give him the title of best college coach in the nation, let alone the Big Ten.

Even without the flashy recruiting classes that some of his Big Ten peers enjoy, he still has managed to lead the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament every single year he has been in charge in Madison, and the team has never finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten standings.

To put it in perspective, before Ryan, Wisconsin had never won more than 22 games in a season — this year, the Badgers have won 25, and they still have the conference and NCAA Tournaments.

On top of that, Wisconsin played the second toughest schedule in the country and finished its season with nearly as many wins over Top-25 opponents (5) as losses (6).

Ryan has run one of the most consistent programs in the Big Ten, and this consistency comes from his ability to motivate his team and the system he’s able to engrain into his players.

Year after year, the players may be different, but Ryan’s coaching philosophy remains the same — and his teams buy in. He recruits to that system and coaches and trains accordingly.

While Ryan might not be the first person that comes to mind when it comes to candidates for Big Ten Coach of the Year, with such undeniable success at Wisconsin, it’s hard to see how anyone couldn’t consider him the best, especially considering his team rebounded from a 1-5 stretch in the middle of its conference season with to win eight of its final nine games.

Give Tim Miles or John Beilein the same job at Wisconsin, and see if they could transform the program to the level that Ryan has.

— by Katrina Do

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