Bruce Pearl on Michigan
The Tennessee men's coach, along with others, once was denied the opportunity to be a Beilein imitator.
"I really like that 1-3-1 zone John runs, so three or four years ago we called him and told him we wanted to visit with him about it,'' said Pearl, who isn't shy about borrowing good ideas from coaches at the NBA and college level.
"John said, 'I'll send you all the tape you want, and I appreciate your interest, but generally speaking, we don't visit with other people about what we do,' " Pearl said. "I was thinking about going to a 1-3-1 zone because our team was about to get longer.''
Pearl's No. 9-seeded Vols (19-14) are about to play Beilein's No. 8-seeded Wolverines (20-13) at 12:40 p.m. Friday as they open the NCAA tournament in a second-round game in Charlotte, N.C.
By then, UT hopes to be familiar with Beilein's complicated, guarded - and highly successful - ways.
Beilein, 58, is the only active coach to have achieved 20-win seasons at four different collegiate levels: junior college, NAIA, Division II and Division I.
Prior to his ongoing rebuilding effort at Michigan, Beilein was at West Virginia (2002-07), leading the Mountaineers to an Elite Eight, a Sweet 16 and an NIT championship.
No doubt, Beilein is the college basketball version of Auburn football offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, having designed innovative schemes with spread concepts that have been successful at all levels.
In Monday's practice, the Vols' scout team enjoyed eye-popping success against the starters while running Beilein's offense. Reserves Jordan McRae and Renaldo Woolridge buried numerous open 3-pointers off passes from guards Tyler Summitt and Michael Hubert.
"Just putting it in today on our scout team, those guys were successful running that offense against us,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "That offense is tough to check.''
The Vols' basketball IQ and court awareness will be tested like never before this season.
"It's tough; they set a lot of screens, they read screens well, they do back-door actions. There's a lot they can do,'' UT senior Josh Bone said. "It's not just one play; there are a variety of movements, and you have to stay focused.
"I hope we can come up with something that can stop them.''
The Vols have plenty of experienced minds working on it; Pearl's not the only UT coach who has studied Beilein in past seasons.
UT director of video scouting, Houston Fancher, formerly head coach at Appalachian State from 2000 to 2009, is another admirer of Beilein's schemes.
"John was at Richmond (1997-2002) when I was at Appalachian State, and they beat us so bad one year we put in his offense the next season,'' Fancher said. "We finished second in the nation in scoring offense, behind Kansas, running his offense.
"But John won't tell you how he does what he does; he'll send you the tape and make you figure it out for yourself,'' Fancher said. "This is an offense he made up himself, all the way back when he was a high school coach (1975-78).''
UT associate head coach Tony Jones said he remembers the first time he saw Beilein's unorthodox ways, when he was an assistant at Buffalo and Beilein was at Canisius (1992-97).
"Impressive,'' Jones said. "They do a lot of things that we'll have to be ready for.''
Pearl said he's thankful the Vols play Michigan on Friday instead of Thursday.
"We haven't seen anything like this all year,'' Pearl said. "A lot of the principles you need to have in the SEC, being away from your man, toward the ball and up lines, you have to throw all that stuff out when you go up against that Princeton-Georgetown (motion offense) stuff.
"We went against it, we taped it, so now we'll put their action in our scout tapes and show the guys how we guarded it, where we guarded it well, where we struggled against it,'' he said.