Too many leaders? Michigan basketball coach John Beilein says there's no such thing
AnnArbor.com file photo
But so was sophomore forward Jordan Morgan.
With Alexander attempting to address the team during one of the Wolverines' early preseason workouts, Michigan coach John Beilein couldn't help be distracted by Morgan's secondary lesson to freshman forward Max Beilfeldt.
Was Morgan speaking out of turn? Maybe. But is that necessarily a problem? Not really.
"We've got a lot of incredible teachers right now, I'll say that," Beilein said with a smile earlier this week. "This is a good problem to have."
Beilein has seen this all before.
He returns 12 players with game experience from a season ago, and though it may not be senior-laden, Michigan's roster is filled with veterans that understand his style and system.
During a film session earlier this week, senior guard Stu Douglass stopped Beilein during a lesson and requested he play back a recent clip.
Beilein obliged, and then turned from instructor to observer as Douglass expounded a lesson he'd brought up earlier in the day to freshman guard Carlton Brundidge.
"Leadership is plural," Douglass said. "It's not going to be just one guy out there screaming at everybody. Everyone has to take accountability for themselves and hold their teammates accountable.
"Everyone trusts everyone. That's as simple as I can put it."
Beilein is entering his fifth season at Michigan, and the number of veterans with an understanding of his system reminds him of a few teams gone by.
He compared this year's Michigan squad, from a depth and veteran standpoint, to his fourth team at West Virginia and his fourth and fifth squads at both Richmond and Canisius.
Beilein's fourth team at West Virginia finished third in the Big East and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in March. At Richmond, Beilein's fourth squad won a regular-season league championship and won 22 games. At Canisius, his fourth team won 19 games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
During Beilein's fourth year at Michigan, the Wolverines won 21 games and made the second round of the tournament.
This season, he has a roster that features only two scholarship seniors (Douglass and Zack Novak). Novak and Douglass are the team's unquestioned heartbeat, but not its only leaders.
Morgan started every game last season as a redshirt freshman, as did classmate Tim Hardaway Jr., who is Michigan's returning leading scorer and a member of the John Wooden Award preseason watch list.
Sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz averaged 17.8 minutes per game a year ago and made 24 starts. Classmate Jon Horford didn't play all that much, but did get into 29 games and has a year under his belt in Beilein's system.
Add in junior guard Matt Vogrich, the team's most accurate 3-point shooter a year ago, and Michigan appears to have more seasoned voices than it knows what to do with.
"We're just trying to make it easier for the coaching staff and trying to make sure they know that we're engaged into the game," Hardaway said. "We're the ones playing on the court, not them.
"Myself, Evan and everyone else are just trying to make it easier for our coaching staff."
Michigan has self-admitted leaders all over the place. Two heads are better than one. And whether it makes for a noisy huddle or not, 16 heads are certainly better than two.
"We'll take that any time," Beilein said of his vocal veterans. "We can always channel it down."