According to a report from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, Michigan’s Luke Yaklich is expected to accept a job as an assistant coach at Texas. Brendan Quinn of The Athletic later confirmed Rothstein’s report, noting that the agreement is “not official, but in the works” as of Tuesday night.
The news comes just over two weeks after John Beilein’s decision to sign a five-year contract as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach. Yaklich, 43, to Austin for an interview with Longhorns’ coach Shaka Smart and athletic director Chris Del Conte on May 16.
Following Beilein’s sudden departure, U-M athletic director Warde Manuel hired Juwan Howard, who starred for the Wolverines as a member of the Fab Five before embarking on a 19-year NBA career. After retiring in 2013, Howard joined the Miami Heat’s staff, where he primarily coached the team’s defense.
Yaklich revived Michigan’s defense after a four-year stint at Illinois State, adding a dimension to the program in the process. While most Michigan teams under Beilein’s tutelage were known for offensive development, Yaklich made defense a key ingredient of the Wolverines’ identity. Michigan finished last season with the nation’s second-best adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
In four seasons with the Longhorns, Smart has never finished with a top-10 defensive rating. According to KenPom, he’s compiled three final rankings outside of the top-20, with the lowest being No. 40 in 2015-16. Yaklich’s impact should pay immediate dividends.
Yaklich was a key cog in U-M’s trip to the 2018 championship game and its record-setting 17-game win streak to begin the 2018-19 season.
From Yaklich’s perspective, the move is easy to understand. Beilein was an offensive-minded coach, so Yaklich’s voice as a defensive guru was the ideal complement. With Howard’s defensive mind now at the helm, Yaklich may have seen his voice muffled. Howard will inevitably bring fresh ideas to the program — ideas that could potentially contradict the pillars Yaklich has established over the last two seasons.
With Yaklich packing his bags, Howard is now left with assistants DeAndre Haynes and Saddi Washington from Beilein’s staff. Quinn’s report also included intel that Washington will be staying put in Ann Arbor, while Haynes’ status remains up in the air.
Coming off his third year as an assistant with Michigan, Washington has primarily worked with the program’s big men. He’s played an instrumental role in the progressions of Moe Wagner, D.J. Wilson and Jon Teske, while Colin Castleton showed flashes of potential in the second of last season. Prior to arriving in Ann Arbor, Washington spent 10 years as an assistant at Oakland.
Though Yaklich’s departure is a tough pill to swallow off the bat, the retention of Washington and strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, who Howard announced would be staying with the program last week, should provide some continuity to bridge the Beilein and Howard eras.