The Cleveland Cavaliers and John Beilein are finalizing a contract settlement that will end his brief franchise tenure as head coach, likely as soon as Wednesday, league sources told ESPN.
Both management and Beilein want to dissolve the partnership only 54 games into his five-year contract and are working through financial settlement terms on the four guaranteed years of his contract, sources said. Beilein’s deal has an average annual value of more than $4 million, sources said.
Associate head coach JB Bickerstaff will be promoted to head coach on a full-time basis, sources said. He was hired as part of an eventual succession plan with Beilein, who came to the NBA after 40-plus years in college basketball.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman and Beilein began discussing the possibility of the coach stepping down before the end of the All-Star break last week, and feelings on both sides escalated the past few days, sources said.
After signing a five-year contract upon leaving the University of Michigan, Beilein, 67, has been increasingly unable to adjust to a dramatically different world in the NBA. Cleveland ownership and management were determined to see through a difficult start with him, but it has become increasingly apparent to the front office and Beilein that the partnership is headed to an inevitable split.
Friends and associates of Beilein have described him as unhappy — even miserable — since the move to the Cavaliers. The losing that comes with a rebuild, as well as several skirmishes in public and private with players, has played a part in the rapid deterioration of his tenure, sources said.
Beilein had to apologize to his team after a January film session in which he referred to his players as “no longer playing as a bunch of thugs.”
Cleveland is 14-40, the worst record in the Eastern Conference and behind only Golden State (12-43) for the worst in the NBA. Management expected the team to lose a significant number of games as it rebuilt its roster around a younger core, but Beilein has struggled to connect with NBA players and has had several missteps along the way that have shaken players’ confidence in his leadership, league sources said.
Altman hired Beilein with the hope that his well-regarded history as a teacher on the college level would infuse the Cavaliers with a strong program for player development and his storied offensive sets. Opposing teams realized early that Beilein had scrapped his offense shortly into the season and retreated to more traditional NBA sets.
Beilein was sought-after in the NBA, and he discussed job opportunities with Detroit and Atlanta in recent years.
He has a career record of 571-325 as a college coach. He made the NCAA tournament in his last four seasons at Michigan, including a Final Four appearance in 2017-18.