After losing two assistant coaches to head coaching jobs, the Michigan men’s basketball team’s coaching staff makeover is underway.
In a move first reported by the Detroit News and ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and later confirmed by the athletic department, Michigan coach John Beilein has hired Oakland assistant coach Saddi Washington and former Wright State head coach Billy Donlon to fill the vacancies on his staff.
The coaching change is the first for the Wolverines in six years, with Beilein and assistants LaVall Jordan, Bacari Alexander and Jeff Meyer making up a steady foundation that guided Michigan to five NCAA Tournament appearances. But, pursuing what Beilein called “long overdue” opportunities, Jordan accepted the head coaching job at Milwaukee a month ago, and Alexander was hired by alma mater Detroit two weeks later.
“We are forever grateful for the fine work that LaVall Jordan and Bacari Alexander brought to our program over the past six years,” Beilein said in an official statement. “Their departures, however, have opened up a great opportunity for our staff to grow. Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington are exactly who I felt we needed to be able to continue our success and compete for more Big Ten championships.”
Beilein had mentioned in recent weeks that he would be looking for fresh ideas and defensive-minded coaching from his new assistants, and he hopes Donlon and Washington can provide exactly that.
Both new hires also bring a wealth of experience to the table. Washington, who played at Western Michigan, has served on Oakland’s staff for 10 years and has worked as both the recruiting coordinator and post players specialist. Recently, he helped Oakland land under-recruited 5-foot-9 guard and Detroit native Kay Felder, who led the nation in assists last season and was fourth in scoring before declaring for the NBA Draft this offseason.
“Saddi and I have known each other since his days at Western Michigan when I coached against them,” Beilein said. “We have also talked a lot of basketball in my nine years at Michigan. Saddi is an outstanding teacher of the game, and I love that he can coach multiple positions.
“He has established great relationships as a recruiter both in and out of the state of Michigan. His poise and presence remind me of LaVall, and I know he will be a great asset to our program.”
Donlon, meanwhile, spent 10 seasons at Wright State, working as an assistant coach for four years before being promoted to head coach in 2010. As head coach, Donlon led the Raiders to a 109-94 record but was fired in March. Like Washington, he crossed paths with Beilein as a player when his alma mater, UNC-Wilmington, played against Beilein’s Richmond teams in the late 1990s.
“I have known Billy for almost two decades, and I love his passion and IQ for the game,” Beilein said. “He has tremendous experience as a player, assistant and head coach at the Division I level. Improving our defense is a huge goal for us, and defense is one of Billy’s specialties. He is also excellent in skill development, and that has been a key to our success at Michigan.”
The announcement came as the first incoming move in what has been an offseason of attrition for the Wolverines. In addition to the departures of Jordan and Alexander, Michigan lost four players as transfers: senior guard Spike Albrecht (Purdue), sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins (Central Florida), and sophomore forwards Kameron Chatman and Ricky Doyle (undecided).