Luke Yaklich, Zavier Simpson and Michigan's Defensive Transformation

Submitted by BuckNekked on March 6th, 2018 at 4:59 PM

Great article here from Rob Dauster at

Just five years removed from teaching social studies in Joliet, Ill., Yaklich was sitting in his new office in a new building at a new job when Beilein, who may one day wind up in the Hall of Fame, strolled in, sat down down and posed the question that may end up defining Yaklich’s time in Ann Arbor

“What do you think we need to do better?” Beilein asked. “I need to learn how to teach defense.”

Imagine that.



March 6th, 2018 at 5:04 PM ^

Meanwhile, Izzo walked into the moral philosophy professor’s office and said, “ What do you think we need to do better? I need to learn how to teach ethics.”


March 6th, 2018 at 5:27 PM ^

I really hope that Warde gives Yak whatever he wants so he can take over once JB retires. I think he's the best assistant that JB's ever had and he's going to be one hell of a head coach.


March 6th, 2018 at 5:55 PM ^

Couldn't agree more.  I don't know how much longer Beilein has, and if it's 5 more years, I don't expect Yaklich to stay that long, but we need him another couple years to learn Beilein's offense (at least, as much of it as he can).  Give him a big raise, Warde.


March 6th, 2018 at 6:39 PM ^

would be to have Yaklich run the show and have one or two offensive coordinators.  They still wouldn't be as good as Beilein but would like to get as close as possible.

About former players, there's a big difference between being able to execute your coaches instructions and being able to design the gameplan.  Being a smart player is like being a good line cook that can execute the meal. It's the coach or the chef that conducts everything.

The fact that Marist is terrible isn't encouraging about CJ's coaching acumen.  Would like a guy with more proven success.  Hope he gets there or gets an opportunity to get there if he's not being given enough control of that team's offense.


March 7th, 2018 at 1:18 AM ^

he had an absolutely atrocious single season in Milwaukee (went from being a solid 20-13 and 114th in kenpom the year before he arrived to 11-24 and 259th in kenpom).  I think there was a lot of roster turnover and some things going on that maybe get him a pass for that year, but at best that season gets an incomplete grade, certainly not a good one.

And at Butler he's essentially maintained the status quo with a veteran squad that he inherited from a very good coach in Holtmann.  Credit to him for not ruining a good situation but it's not that hard to take a well coached group and keep it going for a year or two (see Greg Gard).  Will be interesting to see how the next couple of years go for him.

Robbie Moore

March 6th, 2018 at 5:39 PM ^

When Donlan left. I thought the defensive improvement toward the end of last season was about Donlan and since he left we would regress. WRONG. I think Yaklich is an upgrade as defensive coordinator.

Also, what highly successful 64 year old would recognize the need to fundamentally alter how he handles his business? Who is OK with new ideas and giving new people the latitude to run with them? That's a level of flexibility and ego management you seldom find at any age. And it will be the core reason Beilein will achieve his greatest successes after 40 years of coaching.

Steve in PA

March 6th, 2018 at 6:29 PM ^

I freely admit I was down on him because his teams didn't play defense.  But, when a veteran coach is willing to learn and grow even at the twighlight of his career great things can happen.



March 6th, 2018 at 6:32 PM ^

that Beilein is great 1) for his offense and 2) for eventually swallowing his pride as a defensive coach and getting help?

To agree on the second point necessarily means you have to recognize that people frustrated with our bad defense, soft style and lack of rebounding for much of his tenure were justified.  We didn't need better players or athletes, we just needed to play harder and smarter (which is what I always used to say).

The man himself admitted he needed to learn how to teach defense.

No more "where are the Beilein haters now" posts.  I admittedly hated the way he coached defense (but certainly never wanted him fired), and so did he, and now the defense is coached very differently so there's nothing to hate.  This program is firing on all cylinders, and it's a beautiful thing.


March 6th, 2018 at 6:49 PM ^

averse than we used to be.  I also don't mean to imply that everything he did on defense was bad.  Putting guys on the line is a bad thing to do, so he's always been correct about that. But there's a sweet spot such that you're playing hard enough to take advantage of your seven fouls and making things difficult on the offense.  That's where we are now.

And most of what he did at his previous stops was a smart way to cover for his teams lack of athleticism, i.e. run a junk zone that teams rarely see to try to force turnovers to get stops.  It also allowed him to focus on coaching offense because zones aren't that hard to coach.  At his tiny schools with no budget for good assistants that the most efficient use of his time.

But when he came to Michigan to play in the Big Ten with other elite coaches that could tear apart that zone, he had to go man.  He just didn't know how to do that very well.  Huge credit to him for recognizing it and making really smart hires.  The true measure of a leader.

snarling wolverine

March 6th, 2018 at 7:32 PM ^


No more "where are the Beilein haters now" posts. I admittedly hated the way he coached defense (but certainly never wanted him fired),


I agree that those threads aren't terribly productive. But it's true that a lot of posters didn't just want him to change up a few things - they wanted him gone, period (probably to be replaced by an "ace recruiter" who would now be in FBI trouble).    

It just goes to show that fans should give an accomplished coach a chance to turn things around instead of assuming that firing him is the only answer.  When you've done what Beilein's done in his career, you should get a longer leash.


March 6th, 2018 at 8:53 PM ^

I know Stringer Bell is a good poster around here, but he was leading a chorus of naysayers in spite of the fact that he couldn't name a better option to coach the team.  Basketball is a different sport than basketball and requires more patience.  On top of that, JB is doing this without getting near the shady recruiting line which any "upgrade" at coach would've crossed.  

It's amazing how many doubters he had given Michigan's history, the point the program was at when he took over, having Izzo not only in conference but in state, the nature of what leads to college basketball success and then after the Burke teams the unrealistic expectations which he seems to be exceeding yet again.  Amazing.


March 6th, 2018 at 9:16 PM ^

I'm continually surprised at how many fans apparently don't like our offense.  There also remains a vocal contingent that insists on playing two big men at all times.  Even though much of the country has copied (or tried to copy) Beilein's approach by now, some of our own fans refuse to believe it's sound strategy.  It's odd.




March 6th, 2018 at 11:34 PM ^

they come from old school philosophy of two big guys has to be on the floor but when in reality, NBA has gone small for years and NCAA has followed suit. Post up is the least efficient shot and JB has been ahead of the curve in terms of shot selection which is 3s and layups/dunks. He knows how to get players open at 3 pt line or get them to the rim.


March 7th, 2018 at 1:32 AM ^

outright calls to fire the guy (there were a few of those, but seemed like the vast minority to me), but I could be mistaken. 

I do know Maizen was one that was convinced we needed to recruit at a Duke/UK level to be good and that was completely wrong.

In any case, those threads are counter-productive and are annoying that they come out at our most celebratory moments.  It's like, just enjoy the wins, why do people need to call out Stringer Bell (who I actually thought was mostly correct in his assessments if overly pessimistic) and Maizen at those times?

As for "giving an established coach a chance" I mean, of course we fans can't fire anyone but I have no problem with pointing out areas for improvement on a message board meant for those types of discussions. 

Like with the football staff.  I don't think anyone in their right mind is calling for Harbaugh to be fired or doesn't think he's the guy for the job, but most everyone is rightfully upset about the offense the past couple of years. Need to right the ship in a season or two or take a Beilein-like look in the mirror and let go of some control.


March 7th, 2018 at 2:42 AM ^

“The smartest thing is I stopped coaching it so much,” Beilein said of his team’s defensive improvement. “I let other people become the voice of it. I wanted one guy, that’s all he thinks about all day long.”

I'm waiting for this now:

“The smartest thing is I stopped coaching it so much,” Harbaugh said of his team’s offensive improvement. “I let other people become the voice of it. I wanted one guy, that’s all he thinks about all day long.”