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FINALS WATCH: 'Saving Private Ryan'

Monday - 4/8/2013, 11:13pm  ET

Michigan head coach John Beilein watches play against the Louisville during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ATLANTA (AP) -- Here's something you may not know about Michigan coach John Beilein.

He has a family tree to rival just about anyone: His extended family helped to inspire the Oscar-winning Steven Spielberg film "Saving Private Ryan."

In the film, a band of soldiers is ordered to track down and send home the lone sibling -- played by Matt Damon -- left alive after all his brothers had been killed in World War II.

The story is based on the Nilands, a family from upstate New York, who happen to be cousins of Beilein's mother. One of the brothers was shot down in the Pacific, and two others were killed shortly after the invasion of Europe, so a fourth brother was found in Europe and sent home.

Another brother also made it back, a departure from the Hollywood version of the story.

"I was born in '53," Beilein said. "That happened in the early '40s. I grew up with that story and didn't think much about it until I watched the movie, until I had children of my own, and could only imagine what that family went through.

"Now it hits me of how unique that was and what great stock we all come from."

-- Dave Skretta -- http://twitter.com/@APdaveskretta

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NCAA Finals Watch follows the Final Four games and all the activities surrounding the event as seen by journalists from The Associated Press from across Atlanta. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.


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