We sang. We cheered. We lived vicariously through Jordan Poole's smiling face. From all corners of the country, ghosts of tailgates past descended upon San Antonio, joining together to catch a glimpse of the final game of John Beilein's latest miracle creation. It was glorious and sad and fun and excruciating.
I didn't stay for One Shining Moment like I did back in '13. As the streamers fell from the rafters, Jordan Poole wouldn't have a chance to blow confetti off of Jim Nance again, and I was ready to go home. This is not my first lopsided affair, and in my experience there's something cathartic about blowouts. My peace with the result had been made shortly after halftime.
We never thought we'd be playing in April. We didn't think we'd be playing in April 2013 either, which is crazy because that team had twice the individual talent. But at some point, you need to realize that John can take anyone and have them playing in April. It's time we stopped being surprised and learned to appreciate and revere John Beilein. He's the best Coach Michigan has ever had, in any sport. So there, I've said it. John recruits character over stats, develops talent like no one else, and emotes just the right amount of Bo. "The Team The Team The Team" is chanted at the end of every huddle. And Beilein, when pressed about not getting "his" championship, paraphrased Bo when explaining what success is to him, doing his own version of "success is when those players come back and we see what kind of husbands and fathers they are."
I've watched OSM at least ten times since returning to Ann Arbor. There's a lot of Michigan in there. Caught up in my local tunnel vision of Michigan's NCAA tournament run, which was buoyed by the terrible "NBA does NCAA" coverage on TBS, I was isolated from the national attention and broader perspective.
This was a big fucking deal.
Somewhere there's a kid who just decided he only wants to play for the Wolverines, like a younger and more German version of Mo Wagner did back when Trey and Mitch led us to the Finals. And there's hordes of kids that saw something perhaps more important than just success, and that is success with class. From Mo Wagner halting his celebration of the shot of the tournament to console a Houston Cougar, to Jordan Poole giving respect to Sister Jean on his way off the court, to the flurry of post-finals interviews of Michigan players, each of which mostly contained praise for how great Villanova was. This team, so much greater than the sum of its parts, played with huge hearts, amazing togetherness, and a child-like spirit. No one had more fun in March than Michigan. This team, a derivative of one that was forged of near tragedy a year earlier, is the absolute embodiment of their Coach, a man that has changed, adapted, and stayed ahead of a game that has passed so many others by (Hi Tom!). And he's done it with faith, hard work, and occasionally a super soaker.
As the John Beilein narrative devolves into the backhanded complement "best coach to not have a championship," I remind you that John is not done, and does not need your charity. Michigan will be back, probably sooner than later. And they will do it better and cleaner than most, without whining, and without excuses or finger pointing.
This is Michigan Basketball.