Michigan Hires Billy Donlon, Saddi Washington

Michigan Hires Billy Donlon, Saddi Washington

Submitted by Brian on May 4th, 2016 at 4:14 PM


These names had been rumored for a couple days and now they are official:

University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein announced today (Wednesday, May 4) the hiring of Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington as assistant coaches for the Wolverines.

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
2016 58 136 311 42 22 341
2015 173 267 275 124 154 257
2014 39 154 192 6 83 272
2013 30 165 300 15 68 314
2012 92 335 300 4 90 321
2011 107 335 342 12 111 276

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.]