Patrick Beilein's most immediate memories of Buffalo don't revolve around basketball. They center around the Bills and the Sabres, two teams that Beilein continues to follow, more than 20 years after he left the city to follow his father's path as a college basketball coach.
His memories also center around the backyard ice rink he and his family built in the winter, where he and the neighborhood children played pickup hockey games.
The Beilein family, however, is synonymous with hoops, not pucks, and Patrick went into the family business of coaching basketball. His father, John, coaches the Michigan men's basketball team, and from 1992 to 1997 coached at Canisius, where he led the Golden Griffins to the NCAA Tournament in 1996. Patrick's grandmother, Josephine, hails from the Niland family, one of the more accomplished basketball coaching families from Western New York.
Aptly, basketball brings Patrick Beilein back to Buffalo. The 35-year-old is in his fourth season as coach of the Le Moyne College men's basketball team, which faces UB at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Alumni Arena.
"It's just fun to see where Nate Oats has taken that program, with Bobby Hurley beginning that momentum and Nate continuing it," Beilein said of the Bulls (7-0), who are No. 17 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll. "It's such a sports town, and I still follow the Bills and the Sabres, but college basketball means a lot to the people in Western New York. To have Buffalo and what they did last year, beating Arizona in the NCAA Tournament, basketball is coming back, with all the Big 4 teams."
Le Moyne (5-3) qualified for the NCAA Division II Tournament in the last two seasons under Beilein, and reached the Elite Eight in March before falling to West Texas A&M.
"The Northeast 10 is such a challenging conference in Division II," Beilein said. "The ability to reach the NCAA Tournament is huge for us, and it's so difficult to do it, I don't care what level you're at. To reach the tournament the last two years, for our kids, for our college, that's been the exciting part. I don't think of it as an accomplishment, but it's something that is exciting for everyone in Syracuse."
Beilein could have fast-tracked through coaching in men's basketball. Instead, his path is similar to that of his father. John Beilein coached at Le Moyne from 1983 to 1992.
A former guard and a 2006 graduate of West Virginia, Patrick 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.
He was a finalist in May to become the coach at Siena College, and turned down the opening at Marist College, according to the Times Herald-Record of Middletown.
But by working in smaller programs and at the NBA level as an assistant, Beilein learned that coaching isn't just about working with players. It is about managing administrative, non-basketball tasks while juggling recruiting responsibilities and overseeing personalities.
For Beilein, working as an assistant was about observing other peoples' coaching methods and putting his stamp on them.
"It can be a little difficult, to have John be that successful, and for Patrick to be the way he is as a coach," said Bill Beilein, Patrick's cousin and the men's basketball coach at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn. "You've also got to take the techniques and teachings John has passed on, and his success, and pass that along to your group.
"But Patrick was smart about it, too. When he got done playing at West Virginia, he observed other programs and even did some time in the NBA to find out if coaching was the path he wanted to take, and to make it his path."
Patrick Beilein explained the fundamental principle of accountability that he instills in the Dolphins: Do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do.
It's similar to what his father instills in his players at Michigan and what he has done during more than 40 years of coaching college basketball: constant teaching, maintaining an even keel individually and as a team, and a consistent pursuit of personal and athletic growth.
"I always knew my dad was a great coach, but he develops kids so well," Patrick Beilein said.
"Coaches sometimes get so caught up in wins and losses, but it's not all about the Xs and Os. If you have kids who buy into the little things, you can teach them how to grow. It's something that happens off the court, and if you do those things off the court, it'll translate on the court."