Bacari Alexander speaks about his new position as head men's basketball coach at the University of Detroit.
Detroit — Bacari Alexander had a goal of leading a Division 1 college basketball program by age 40.
He accomplished that goal — by one year.
On Friday, Alexander, 39, officially was named Detroit’s basketball coach, returning to the school he helped make consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 1998 and 1999.
“I’m a pretty regimented guy, I admit to that, and one of the things I identified early in my career is that I wanted to become a head coach by age 40,” said Alexander, who began his coaching career 15 years ago as an assistant for Perry Watson at Detroit. “I turn 40 in September, so this couldn’t have been a more perfect time for me.”
Detroit athletic director Robert Vowels said he had 115 applicants for the job, which opened up after Ray McCallum was fired this month following a 16-15 season. McCallum guided the Titans to consecutive 20-win seasons and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012, but went 44-52 the last three seasons.
“We looked at what we wanted and I talked about Detroit-centric, we looked at folks who had some type of connection with the university, the city, the school systems so that’s how we started weeding people out,” Vowels said. “But, we wanted to look at the national picture, too, because we had folks who won national championships, Final Fours, Final Eights, assistant and head coaches.”
Alexander has some experience in all facets — except a national title.
After his time in Detroit (2001-07), Alexander moved on to Ohio (2007-08), followed by Western Michigan (2008-10). He landed at Michigan in 2010, spending six years at the school and helping the Wolverines reach the national championship game in 2013.
And it’s that experience Titans fans hope turns the tide.
“What I’m looking to do is re-establish a culture that mimics all the elements of winning, my five core values which are unity, perseverance, appreciation, integrity and diligence, along with our identity,” Alexander said.
While he also realizes he must get some of the talent out of the Public School League in Detroit, Alexander also believes he must attract players from other parts of the state.
“I think we need to have a combination of things,” Alexander said. “I think we need to get into the PSL, I think we need to get into the Detroit Catholic Leagues, the metro state leagues. I think we need to go to the east and west sides of the state.
“One of the things that I learned while coaching and evaluating talent at Michigan was that the state has a real interesting track of talent in the 2017 classes and beyond so it seems like there’s some resurgence of talent emerging. We’ve just got to go out there and turn over every rock.”
Alexander also believes in the players currently on the roster.
He sees the strength in wing players Chris Jenkins (12 points, 5.7 rebounds) and Paris Bass (18.4 points, 8.0 rebounds). And, shooting guard Josh McFolley is a player to watch, along with incoming freshman Corey Allen, a Mr. Basketball finalist.
“I’m real excited,” Jenkins said. “(Alexander) used to recruit me in the eighth grade when he was at Western. He also recruited me when he was at Michigan my sophomore year of high school (at Detroit Jesuit). Ultimately I went to the University of Colorado for my freshman year in college, but we still maintained our relationship.
“I talked to him before he talked with the team this morning. As the team captain, as the spokesman of the team I went to him first. I think he’s going to change this place.”
Said Alexander: “As we get into questions of style and play and how we’re going to look on the floor ... we’re going to play fast with responsibility in terms of taking care of the basketball. They will have a ton of freedom offensively. They will have zero freedom defensively.”
Alexander also has the blessing from Watson.
“I’m elated,” Watson said during a phone interview. “It’s a home run.”
Getting to know ... Bacari Alexander
Position: Detroit coach
Birth date: Sept. 15, 1976 (Detroit)
High school: Detroit Southwestern
Colleges: Robert Morris, Detroit (Bachelor’s of science in business administration and finance)
Stats: Robert Morris — Played 55 games; named to the Northeast Conference all-newcomer team in 1995. Detroit — Played 62 games, helping the Titans win back-to-back Midwestern Collegiate Conference titles; two NCAA Tournament appearances; named to the MCC all-defensive team as a senior
Family: Wife, Kesha, son, Mekhi
2001-07: Detroit assistant
2007-08: Ohio assistant
2008-10: Western Michigan assistant
2010-16: Michigan assistant