By Ashley Dunkak
ANN ARBOR (CBS DETROIT) – Michigan head coach John Beilein refuses to entertain the idea of what his program might look like, what it could have achieved, had NBA-bound sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III elected to stay in school, or had last year’s stars Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. not gone pro.
“I don’t even think about it one bit,” Beilein said, shaking his head and smiling wryly. “It was like the mistake – it was like the guy after the Tennessee game last year that asked me, ‘What if you would have lost that game? How would you have felt?’ I don’t want to answer that question! Why do I have to answer that question? So no, I don’t even think about it. It is about who do we got, let’s go. And I’m excited.”
Michigan advanced to the national championship game in 2013 and followed up that unprecedented run by reaching the Elite Eight round in 2014, only losing to eventual national runner-up Kentucky. Visions of what the same Michigan group could do with all its members a year older and wiser tempted Stauskas and Robinson to stay, but ultimately their lifelong dreams of playing in the NBA won out.
“I don’t know if there was any formal conversations, like ‘Let’s get together and talk about it,’ but it was definitely mentioned even throughout the year, just thinking about if all of us were to come back, with us making the run that we had these last two years, just imagine what it would be like,” Stauskas said. “We would all be excited to do that, but at the same time, me and Glenn just felt like, like I said, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we couldn’t pass up on this right now.”
Robinson said he seriously considered returning to Michigan and credited the coaches with presenting him his options and the risks that would accompany either decision. He said he is ready to prove he can play professionally, but even so, leaving his teammates is not easy.
“We hear a lot of talk, ‘What if we would have stayed?’ ‘What if Trey and Tim would have stayed?’ This season could have been way different, but … everybody has their goals and their dreams to complete,” Robinson said. “I think Michigan has done a great job of setting us up to reach those goals.”
Michigan fans, of course, would likely appreciate players staying, and Robinson said he has heard as much from many people, particularly on social media.
“I was hearing a lot of negative talk on Twitter and all that stuff. I honestly do hope – people, I don’t think they’re going to completely understand the situation, but the Michigan family lasts a lifetime, and I hope that people will see that,” Robinson said. “It’s not a goodbye to Michigan at all. It’s just a beginning. We aren’t playing anymore, but we’ll be alumni of this school and loving it just like we were playing.”
For Beilein’s part, while seeing players leave for the NBA may not make his job easier, he said it does not present a unique problem or necessitate any sweeping changes in his approach.
“There isn’t this huge adjustment because I can remember teams at Canisius where all of a sudden we had a transfer or we had, all of a sudden we’re looking and you have five seniors, and now who’s on the team? Who’s coming back? And how do we build this thing?” Beilein said. “It’s a different model, but it’s the same versatility you have to have as a staff to, all right, where are our holes, how do we plug them?”