SAN ANTONIO — John Beilein kept the band on tour, from New York to Kansas to California to Texas. Now Warde Manuel says he’s fighting to keep the group together for as long as he possibly can.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Michigan’s athletic director told Land of 10 a few minutes after the Wolverines topped Loyola-Chicago 69-57 to reach the title game of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
“They just got here. Who wants [these assistants] to leave after one year? And who wants Saddi [Washington] to leave after two years, you know?
“Now if they get a head-coaching position and all that, that’s different — that’s one thing. But to leave for another assistant job, that’s not what we want to happen.”
College basketball’s silly season is nigh, and when athletic directors with struggling basketball programs need a kick in the pants, they usually start by looking at the top. At the age of 65 and with a contract extension that runs through 2021 (more on that in a second), Michigan coach John Beilein probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
But first-year assistant/de facto defensive coordinator Luke Yaklich, maybe the biggest non-playing star of the 2018 Big Dance after Loyola’s Sister Jean, is a different story.
Speaking of coaching possibilities for @MSUBearsHoops or @UEAthletics_MBB what about Michigan assistant & former @Redbird_MBB assistant Luke Yaklich @CoachYak come back to @ValleyHoops Just throwing that out there, no inside info.
— Harry Schroeder (@FatherHarry1) March 16, 2018
Ditto Washington. And assistant DeAndre Haynes, potentially.
Both Yaklich and Haynes were on Illinois State’s staff at this time last year, and you better believe administrators in the Missouri Valley Conference — and similar mid-major circuits where basketball rules — have been paying attention to the brass-knuckles, gritty defensive style that’s fueled Michigan’s 9-0 March.
“I’m not worried,” Manuel said.
“But I always think about the head coach … we sit in meetings. We see it. Y’all see it. When you have success like this, people start coming after your assistants. You get me?”
Hell, yeah, we do.
Call me nostalgic. Summer 2009, Argonauts are playing at Joliet Township vs JT, Coach Yaklich, and Anthony Shoemaker. JT ran this play to seal victory. Had Coach Yaklich draw it for me at end of game. Still in coaching folder. pic.twitter.com/ADxzstZiRO
— Argo Boys Basketball (@ArgoBoysHoops) March 27, 2018
“So I have to sharpen my pencil,” Manuel continued. “That’s fine. That’s what the president and the board [of regents] pay me to do, is think about these things.”
He’s thought about more money and more years for Yaklich, Washington and Haynes. He’s broached contract talks with Beilein, who currently commands the Big Ten’s second-highest annual compensation at $3.37 million, behind only Tom Izzo at Michigan State ($4.36 million).
“We have, a little bit,” Manuel said. “And we haven’t put a time frame on it.”
He nodded at Beilein, huddled with reporters a few feet down the Alamodome hall.
“But look at him. He’s energetic. He’s — what is he, 63, 64, something like that?”
“And, for me, I hope he’s around for quite some time.”
Actually, Beilein is the kind of problem more athletic directors would like to have in the springtime. He’s taken Michigan to two NCAA Tournament national title games in six years. He’s won back-to-back Big Ten Tournaments.
His teams have quietly leaped over Izzo’s March bar in Izzo’s state. His players want to dance with him …
— Jon Sanderson (@CampSanderson) March 25, 2018
… and his peers respect the hell out of him. When a preseason poll taken by CBSSports.com of more than a 100 coaches asked which big-time program head “does everything by the book and operates completely within the NCAA’s rulebook,” Beilein finished first.
A generation ago, the Wolverines were mad, bad, sexy, flashy and rebellious. The program paid for those salad days with its soul.
Now they’re the gold standard, men of honor, good guys finishing first.
“I don’t have a timeline. I don’t think he has a timeline,” Manuel said of Beilein. “And we haven’t talked about it because there’s no need. I’m not, and never have been since the day I walked in, interested in any change … and he’s not talked to me about it.”
Still, it never hurts to, you know, keep those pencils sharp.
“I tell my staff, and I tell young administrators all the time: When you have success like this, it makes administrators have to do some work,” Manuel said. “And that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.
“Don’t get me wrong. It makes me have to think about, ‘OK, how do I have to shore up and look at where we are, from a head coach [standpoint], assistant coach, other positions?’ But, in particular, the head coach and assistant coach positions, when you have success like this. Because when you have success like this, other people want to come.”
And want to call.