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NBA head coach says he apologized for making 'thugs' comment about his own team

NOAH TRISTER
The Associated Press
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein.

DETROIT – Cleveland Cavaliers coach John Beilein said Thursday he has apologized after reportedly using the word “thugs” during a film session with his players the previous day.

ESPN.com, citing unidentified sources, reported that Beilein suggested during a Wednesday film session that his players were no longer playing “like a bunch of thugs.” Beilein told ESPN he had meant to say “slugs” in reference to the team’s effort level.

Beilein repeated that explanation Thursday after his team’s shootaround in Detroit, where the Cavaliers face the Pistons on Thursday night.

“I was saying: ‘We’re making a lot of mistakes mentally, and we deserve better because we’re really playing hard right now. We’re not playing like slugs. We’re playing hard,’” Beilein said. “And somehow that word came out.”

Beilein said he called the players afterward to explain the situation, and he said he apologized.

“There was really positive reinforcement from the guys this morning and last night. Very understanding, but it’s something that certainly they understand that it was serious,” Beilein said. “Something that shouldn’t have happened.”

It’s been a rocky start for Beilein, a wildly successful college coach who left his job at Michigan to take over the Cavaliers before this season. Cleveland is 10-27 entering Thursday’s game, and there have been hints of dysfunction along the way.

About a month ago, a report in The Athletic cited unidentified players saying that Beilein was being tuned out. More recently, star forward Kevin Love had a verbal exchange with general manager Koby Altman. Love also threw up his arms in disgust several times while on the floor. Love later said he was “acting like a 13-year-old.”