basketball assistant coach search
These names had been rumored for a couple days and now they are official:
Donlon was just fired from Wright State after a six-year tenure. His axing was controversial, to say the least, after Donlon saw his charges to 22-13 season and 13-5 conference mark, and the conference tournament final. I mean, this is a hell of a resume to fire for a low major*:
Three years after he was named the Horizon League coach of the year and three days after he led his Wright State team to its third 20-plus wins season in four years, a tie for the most league wins by a WSU team and the third appearance in four years in the title game of the league tournament, Donlon was fired as the Raiders’ basketball coach.
Donlon and Wright State had a rough 2015 but the years surrounding it were all 20-win seasons featuring excellent defense considering WSU's place in the basketball firmament. Here are some key stats from his tenure:
|Year||Adj D Eff Rk||2PT % RK||BLK % RK||TO% RK||REB RK||FTR RK|
Donlon's teams played a high-foul, high-TO style that made them somewhere between respectable and just about as good as a low major can rank—with the exception of 2015. He's never had any shot blocking because of the nature of coaching at Wright State, but three of the last four years he's outperformed a ton of teams. (FWIW, His offenses were universally horrible. That doesn't matter because Beilein.) Donlon looks like the "defensive coordinator" I was advocating once LaVall Jordan left. Beilein:
"I have known Billy for almost two decades, and I love his passion and IQ for the game. 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."
If he can get Wright State into the top 60 three times in the last four years he's probably pretty good in that role.
The obvious catch is that free throw rate. That is emphatically not how Michigan plays right now, and it's an open question just how much rope Donlon will have to deploy his style of D. Beilein is notoriously persnickety about fouls. Insert hours-long autobench complaint here.
Meanwhile, Washington has been at Oakland for a decade, helping the Golden Grizzlies have disproportionate success in the Horizon League. He almost got a job in Ann Arbor during the last staff shakeup. I don't know much about him other than the fact that Sam Webb believes he'll be an excellent recruiter; unlike Donlon he doesn't have a helpful Kenpom page since he was an assistant.
*[Article states that Wright State pays its assistants less than the rest of the Horizon and doesn't have a full time strength coach; they are mid-major only if that's your term for literally every non-big-time CBB program.]
ESPN's Jeff Goodman reports that Bacari Alexander is finalizing a deal to become the head coach at Detroit, his alma mater:
Detroit and Michigan assistant Bacari Alexander are finalizing a deal, sources told ESPN.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 20, 2016
After LaVall Jordan took the head job at UW-Milwaukee earlier this offseason, Michigan now has two open assistant spots to fill. After Jordan departed, MLive's Brendan Quinn put forth a list of potential candidates:
A handful of names, based solely on context clues, are already emerging.
Florida assistant coach Darris Nichols, a former Beilein player at West Virginia, looks like a logical candidate. Patrick Beilein, the coach's son and current head coach at Le Moyne, is an obvious possibility. Former U-M director of program personnel C.J. Lee, a current assistant at Marist, could return. Others to keep an eye on include Iowa State assistant Cornell Mann and current U-M director of player personnel Chris Hunter.
At the same time, few would be surprised if Beilein passes on all of the above and goes elsewhere. Beilein could go off the grid or dance on the periphery.
In Jordan's absence, Chris Hunter has filled in on a temporary basis; this increases the chance he'll get the job on a permanent basis. With two spots now open, Michigan should move to fill out their coaching staff soon. Beilein has previously said he expected to replace Jordan in May.
On the roundtable this week:
- Craig's back!
- Spring football revelations and omens
- What to do with pending basketball coaching openings
- Red returns: y/n?
THE USUAL LINKS
The departures are not over for the basketball team. Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan has taken the head coaching job at UW-Milwaukee:
Milwaukee has hired Michigan LaVall Jordan, sources told ESPN.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 7, 2016
Meanwhile, Bacari Alexander is being heavily rumored as the next coach at Detroit. A coaching shakeup seemed inevitable after the last couple years, and it's probably for the best. Michigan can reset, and now they've got one, maybe two, guys who would be obvious candidates for the head job when Beilein retires.
We'll see what direction Beilein goes in with the new assistant slots. If I was king of the universe I'd suggest he hires someone who's been around the Wisconsin or Virginia programs to be a de-facto "defensive coordinator" for one of the spots. The other one is like whatever man, but just get some dude who's helped some real good defensive teams and get out of his way.
Michigan Men's Basketball Coach John Beilein sat down with the media yesterday, along with LaVall Jordan, the newest member of his staff. After the jump, check out what Beilein thinks of conference expansion.
Beilein on Jordan
- Beilein insists there was no tampering in the hiring of LaVall Jordan. From this point forward, any conversation with Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins will take place coach-to-coach. The two haven't yet spoken, and apparently there was some misunderstanding. Beilein has tried to get ahold of Hawkins, but hasn't been able to yet.
- Coach went through the process recently, and interviewed both Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan. Alexander ended up landing the previous opening because Beilein thought it was important to get a coach for the bigmen. When another position opened up, Jordan was the obvious choice. No other candidates were interviewed.
- Both new coaches have Michigan ties, which was an important part of the selection criteria.
- The coaching staff is entirely new since last summer. It's been good to have the new hires spaced out, so each guy got caught up to speed before the new guy was hired. It would have been tough to replace all three at once.
- Refusing to say whether his staff needed an overall after the last couple years, Beilein said "I really like this staff now. This is a good staff."
- The rest of Beilein's staff (non-coaching positions) will hopefully be filled promptly. He hopes to get started on it this weekend.
Jordan on Michigan
- When LaVall was growing up in Michigan, the Wolverines were a big deal. "With Glen Rice and Rumeal, and then moving forward, you know."
- Jordan coached one year with fellow assistant Jeff Meyer before, and had a lot of connections to all of Michigan's coaches, so it was a natural fit. "The people had a big part to do with my excitement."
- Jordan was not called by Beilein about the (second) staff opening. When he heard about the opportunity, he had a discussion with Coach Hawkins, and made a decision. "The one thing none of us can control is timing." Jordan was surprised there was an issue raised by Coach Hawkins.
- "I'm fired up. I know these guys; I know they're good guys. I believe in this program, in this University, and I'm excited. I know the guys on the roster, and the young talent, and what Michigan is capable of."
- When LaVall was an assistant at Iowa, he had the responsibility of scouting Michigan for the Hawkeyes. "Don't hold it against me. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
- Jordan recruited Michigan at both Butler and Iowa. He gained the commitment of Devyn Marble at Iowa. He also had opportunities to make connections in Indiana and throughout the midwest. Michigan will allow the opportunity to broaden, and recruit nationally.
The official release and John Beilein's thoughts on conference expansion can be found after the jump!
So there's this new assistant coach, right? Who is he?
Bacari Alexander hails from Detroit, where he attended Southwestern High School. He played at Southwestern under coach Larry Price.
Following his high school career, he moved on to Robert Morris outside Pittsburgh. There he was an All-Northeast Conference freshman in 1995. He spent only two years at RMU, averaging 8.2 points and 4.5 assists in his 55 games.
From Robert Morris, Alexander transferred to Detroit-Mercy. He played two years as a Titan, averaging 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in his 62 games played. UofD won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference both of his seasons with matching 25-6 records and played in the NCAA tournament. He made the All-Conference Defensive Team as a senior. YouTube-age:
Following a short stint in the Pistons' front office, Alexander returned to the court as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. He played with the team for two years and was inducted (along with all former Globetrotters) into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Alexander started his coaching career with six years at his alma mater. The Titans never made the NCAA Tournament with Alexander on the coaching staff at Detroit, but they advanced to the NIT following the 2002 season. In 2005, they nearly upset Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Horizon League Tournament to make the Big Dance.
From Detroit, Alexander moved on to Ohio University. In his lone year at Ohio the Bobcats went 20-13 (9-7 MAC) and advanced to the second round of the CBI Tournament.
Alexander has spent the last two years in Kalamazoo coaching Western Michigan's frontcourt. He coached two Broncos, spectacularly-named Flenard Whitfield and Nathan Hutcheson, to All-MAC Freshman honors. Western went 10-21 in Alexander's first year with the team, but their 7-9 conference mark was enough to win the MAC West. They improved to 18-15 last year with an 8-8 mark in conference, good for second in the West.
Before leaving Western Michigan, Alexander helped the Broncos ink JuCo bigman Caleb Dean:
“I felt real comfortable with coach Hawkins and coach (Bacari) Alexander played a big part in it, too,” said Dean... “They made me feel comfortable. That was pretty much a wrap.”
From Michigan's official release, Alexander sounds genuinely excited about the opportunity in Ann Arbor:
"My family and I are very excited to be part of the Michigan family," said Alexander. "As a native of the State of Michigan, I feel very fortunate to be associated with such a great program. For a lack of better terms this is a match made in heaven for me.
"I am anxious to start working with this young and developing team, and I am eager and motivated to recruit the kind of student-athletes that will put Michigan back to the top of the Big Ten."
Michael Rothstein's extensive profile on AnnArbor.com provides insight as to what Alexander will bring to the program, especially as a recruiter:
“I’m a grass-roots guy. I’ve done very well in recruiting the national urban areas of the United States, let alone Detroit,” Alexander said. “I’m a PSL product and a lot of times it helps with regards to recruiting because people tend to embrace their own. So that can be, that has been an advantage.
But he'll also help to mold Michigan's current big men, filling the duties he's performed at previous coaching stops, and that John Mahoney has been performing at Michigan for the past few years:
“The thing that’s nice about that particular situation, with the youth of the frontcourt in particular, is you get a blank canvas, very similar to what I had inherited during my time at Western Michigan,” Alexander said. “We had a young group and we gave them a baptism by fire and that’s going to be needed in a grueling and physical Big Ten conference.”
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Alexander will be charged with teaching a very inexperienced group of big men when he arrives in Ann Arbor. DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson graduate. Ben Cronin left the program early in the season due to medical issues. That leaves a set of four freshmen. Jordan Morgan and Blake McLimans redshirted last year; Michigan has just signed Jon Horford and Evan Smotrycz.
Horford is likely bound for a redshirt unless there's a dire need for him to play. Smotrycz may play more of a wing-forward role in John Beilein's perimeter-oriented offense. That means McLimans and Morgan will be the focus of getting guys ready to play right away in the post. Alexander's pedigree the past two seasons (albeit on a smaller stage) is a sign that he's capable of getting at least one of them ready to go.
Down the road, Alexander will help with in-state recruiting, particularly in Detroit. He's a Detroit native (who grew up a Michigan fan), a Detroit Public School League graduate, and a charismatic recruiter. He's also known as one of the best-dressed coaches in the NCAA, which is apparently something people track. Who knew?