Luke Yaklich built up Michigan from a defensive liability to a defensive powerhouse. Now, he’ll try to work that same magic at Texas.
Shortly after coach John Beilein left Michigan to become the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Yaklich, too, will leave after accepting a position as an assistant coach of the Longhorns, per a report from CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein. A call to Yaklich went unreturned and a Michigan spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Yaklich also interviewed for the Wolverines’ head coaching job on May 17, but was not offered the position. Instead, the job went to former player Juwan Howard — known as a defensive guru during his time as an assistant with the NBA’s Miami Heat. Beilein was primarily an offensive coach, necessitating the presence of someone like Yaklich to serve as a defensive coordinator of sorts. The same isn’t necessarily true of Howard.
Losing Yaklich hurts in more ways than one. He was a teacher at his core, and his specialty was getting even the biggest skeptics to care about defense. When he got buy-in at Michigan, the defense turned around in just one season. Having two defensive stalwarts in guard Zavier Simpson and center Jon Teske still in tow, and a new coach in Howard who has defense as his calling card, may prevent too big of a defensive drop-off, but a ripple effect could come in other ways.
When a head coach leaves in the offseason — especially in mid-May — it’s often the first domino that can lead to assistants subsequently finding new positions, as Yaklich did, and often causes a string of decommits and transfers who realize that the program no longer looks like the one they originally committed to. Yaklich was a strong recruiter who formed bonds with many of his players, and some could decide that without Yaklich, they’d rather be elsewhere.
Yaklich was originally hired from Illinois State prior to the 2017 season. With him, the Wolverines finished their seasons ranked third and second, respectively, in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. In 10 previous seasons under Beilein, they had never finished better than 37th.
Reports have stated that Howard is looking for an experienced assistant to round out the first-time head coach’s staff.
But replacing Yaklich will be a mammoth task and now, the clock is ticking for Howard to do just that.