With the team off to a 10-27 start, head coach John Beilein was berating the team during a film session, and told the players that they weren’t playing “like a bunch of thugs.”
The word thug has a racial connotation and with many of the team’s stars like Collin Sexton, Tristan Thompson, and Darius Garland being Black, it was not received well.
Citing league sources, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that players “left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed.”
Beilein later tried to explain the statement to ESPN, saying that he meant to say the “slugs.”
“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 explained. “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.”
One of the team’s biggest stars, Kevin Love spoke up about his coach’s misstep and believes he had no ill will.
“I don’t think there was any malice or intent to upset us. … At the end of the day as a person, he’s a good man and he misspoke. He owned up to it, came in this morning to apologize and now we’ve moved on,” Love told reporters Thursday.