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Ex-Michigan coach John Beilein apologizes to Cavs for mistakenly calling them ‘thugs’

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DETROIT – Former Michigan basketball coach John Beilein is apologizing after mistakenly using the word “thugs” during a recent meeting with his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

ESPN reports Beilein shocked his players during a film session on Wednesday after saying the team was no longer “playing like a bunch of thugs." Beilein tells ESPN that he meant to say “slugs.”

Beilein, 66, said he understands why the word “thugs” would be offensive to his players. The Cavaliers players left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed as they dispersed out of the meeting, ESPN reports.

“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein told ESPN on Wednesday night. “I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”

Beilein reached out to players individually to explain the mistake.

The Cavaliers are in Detroit on Thursday to play the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Beilein’s Cavs are 10-27 in his first year as an NBA coach. He left Michigan last year after more than 40 years in college coaching.

The gaff follows reports of Cavaliers players unhappy with their first year coach, even suggesting assistant coaches are better equipped for the NBA.


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