Niagara Gazette

Sports

April 8, 2013

BEILEIN'S BACKERS

WNY watches as Newfane native coaches in NCAA Men's Final

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Beilein said players from his coaching stops at Erie Community College, Nazareth, LeMoyne, Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia have also descended on Atlanta and jumped on the Maize and Blue bandwagon.

One of those ECC players, former University at Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon, said “it’s hard to describe how uplifting it is, and how inspiring it is to have been there in his second year as a head coach and see all of the values, all of the virtues, and now see them getting the exposure of being in the national championship game.”

Mike Ennis, owner of Danny Sheehan’s Steakhouse and a childhood friend of John Beilein’s, estimated Beilein had more than 40 family members in the stands Saturday and more than 100 people attended a Sunday morning Mass that Beilein helped to organize with Niagara coach Joe Mihalich.

“John has this huge extended family and this huge network of coaching friends and admirers,” said John Murphy, voice of the Buffalo Bills and a classmate of Beilein’s at DeSales Catholic. “Even a rival coach like Joe Mihalich has a stake in John. People who love his story and have crossed path over the years, there’s so many of them here rooting for him.”

“This is our Super Bowl,” Ennis said. “We’ve followed John for 35 years and this is his moment, his ‘One Shining Moment,’ as Murph would say. It’s been a great ride for John and for the rest of us.”

The group of DeSales graduates runs about a dozen deep. Since Beilein left Canisius, they have taken an annual bus trip to see their friend coach. Counting Saturday’s win, Beilein’s teams are 14-1 with that crew in the crowd. The lone loss came in the first year of Beilein’s rebuilding job at Michigan, at the Carrier Dome, to a Syracuse team that was headed for a national championship.

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