Cavaliers coach John Beilein on Wednesday told his players they had until recently been playing like "thugs," according to ESPN. Beilein, after receiving internal backlash for the film session remark, attempted to clarify later in the evening that he meant to refer to the team as "slugs."
Beilein, 66, reached out to players individually Wednesday night to try to explain his perspective. The term "thug" is widely viewed to carry racist undertones, particularly when coming from a senior white man to a group of younger, predominantly black players.
"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. "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 is in his first season with the Cavaliers after a successful 12-year run coaching the University of Michigan. He signed a five-year contract over the summer.
Cleveland has been plagued by dysfunction under his watch, with star Kevin Love outwardly angry about the state of the team, players sniping at one another anonymously and trade rumors hanging over another underwhelming start.
The Cavaliers will face the Pistons in Detroit on Thursday night.