JOHN BEILEIN is heading into his fifth season as the basketball coach at the University of Michigan.
He was at West Virginia in the same capacity for five years. They were, by any standard, five successful years. He cleaned up the mess left by Gale Catlett. He took the Mountaineers to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, including an Elite Eight berth in 2005. His team won an NIT title.
Then he left. Since then, Bob Huggins' teams have soared with four NCAA tournament appearances, a Sweet 16 spot and that memorable Final Four run.
Time flies when one is having fun, eh? Beilein has been gone that long?
The answer is yes. Gone and, to some degree, forgotten, save for when the Wolverines are on the tube. Beilein is also caught up in his own world, but on Tuesday I caught up with the former Mountaineer coach.
"Doing OK," Beilein said. "We have a young team - a young team still with only two seniors and [Darius] Morris gone [to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA draft]. We still have a long way to go."
That's Beilein, always wrapped around the team. The question asked was: How's it going? The coach, though, is slowly rebuilding UM's program from the charred remains of the Fab Five scandal of 20 years ago and subsequent NCAA punishment. Beilein had the Wolverines in the NCAA tournament last season for the second time in three years after the school missed the event for 11 straight years. This past March in the NCAA tourney, Michigan crushed Tennessee 75-45 before falling to Duke by 73-71.
In addition, 44-year-old Crisler Arena is getting a facelift. The coach has already landed a contract extension through 2016. (Earned, by the way, in the midst of the Rich Rodriguez turmoil.) And Beilein remains classy. Less than a week ago, he thanked UM's fans and university employees for supporting a high school basketball recruit, Austin Hatch, critically injured in a plane crash.
Of course, not all WVU fans look at Beilein as classy. The news he was leaving Morgantown wasn't received well. The coach then fought WVU over his buyout, eventually settling to pay $1.5 million via $300,000 installments every April through 2012. ("He has one payment left," said WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons. "It's never been an issue. He's always been on time.")
Beilein certainly seems to have no hard feelings. He was asked to sum up the experience taking into account both the success and the buyout fight.
"I had two sons graduate from West Virginia," said the coach. "I had five very special years there."
"I miss Cheat Lake and my boat. Very fond memories of our time there."
"I hate to even address that," Beilein said. "At West Virginia there were several memories, whether it was the  win over Florida in Charleston or the [2005 Sweet 16 double-overtime] win over Wake Forest. The [2005 Elite Eight overtime] loss to Louisville still sticks out. There was the NIT championship.
"That Wake game ... I remember someone questioning our style of play and I said, 'Ever see Chris Paul's last college game? The score was 111-105.' And that was us. Sounds like we got up and down."
He pointed to WVU's two-year sweep of UCLA: Mike Gansey's decisive steal at Pauley Pavilion and Ted Talkington's lift in Morgantown to push the Mountaineers past the then-No. 2 Bruins. Also, he recalled WVU's 2005 sweep of Pittsburgh "with Kevin Pittsnogle shooting 3s."