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Patrick Beilein's move to lead struggling Niagara program was 'the perfect fit'

Patrick Beilein joined his family in Anaheim, Calif., earlier this week as his father, John, prepared for the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with the Michigan men’s basketball team.

Well before the Wolverines tipped off Thursday night against Texas Tech, Patrick Beilein prepared to take over a new program, even from more than 2,500 miles away. Niagara announced Patrick Beilein as its new men's basketball coach Thursday.

It’s Patrick Beilein’s first Division I head coaching job. He recently completed his fourth season as men's basketball coach at LeMoyne College, a Division II program in Syracuse.

"It was the perfect fit, the right time for everything," he told the News on Thursday. "The chance to go in there and rebuild, this is something I enjoy doing. I enjoyed doing that at LeMoyne, and I'll look at it that way when I'm at Niagara."

Beilein replaces Chris Casey, who was fired March 11, four days after the Purple Eagles lost to Monmouth in the first round of the MAAC Tournament. Niagara was 13-19, and finished in a three-way tie for last place in the MAAC at 6-12.

Patrick Beilein, 36, led LeMoyne to three Division II NCAA tournaments, and he was 77-41 overall and 55-25 in the Northeast-10 Conference.

He also follows a path his father took in coaching; John Beilein coached at LeMoyne from 1983-84 to 1991-92, until he became head coach at Canisius. John Beilein was 89-62 in five seasons at Canisius, and took the Golden Griffins to the 1996 NCAA Tournament and to the NIT in 1994 and 1995.

Patrick Beilein said he will be on campus early next week to meet with players and to start assembling his staff at Niagara.

The challenge for Beilein at Niagara will be taking over a program that has struggled in recent years. The Purple Eagles have had only one winning season since 2013, and have finished no higher than third place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in that span.

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"I look at this as a way for me to get better as a coach," he said. "We will immediately change the culture, offensively, defensively and off the court. That will be a challenge in itself, to do that. It will take time. But I have no doubt that the guys who want to be there and who will do that, they will be around. They’ll see wins come from that."

A 2006 graduate of West Virginia and a former guard for the Mountaineers, Beilein spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan from 2008 to 2010, was an assistant at Dartmouth in 2010-2011, and was the director of basketball operations at Bradley University in 2011-2012. He coached at West Virginia Wesleyan College from 2012 to 2014, was an assistant with the Utah Jazz of the NBA during the 2014-15 season and became Le Moyne’s coach in June of 2015.

Niagara Athletic Director Simon Gray said Beilein was at the top of the athletic department’s list of potential candidates for the opening.

“I’ve known about Patrick through the years, and I’ve followed the trajectory of his career, and I thought he would make a good fit,” Gray said. “He’s doing an excellent job on the court, in the classroom and in the community. He’s won as a head coach, and we believe he can translate it to the MAAC.”

Gray was the director of athletics public relations at Richmond from 2001 to 2005, which overlapped with John Beilein’s final season at Richmond in 2001-2002.

Gray said he believed in the quality of the Beilein family as coaches and as individuals, and the emphasis the Beileins place on building within the college community and the local community.

What impressed Gray about Patrick Beilein was ability to be an innovative coach.

"His teams, you can tell, have been successful," Gray said. "He knows how to win, offensively, and defensively. He does a lot of his father's things but has is own angles, and he coaches teams who win and peak in the right time.

"The goal will be to win the MAAC championship, and that will come. What we need to do is stabilize the program, first."

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