Matta's late firing creates havoc, especially at UM

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Michigan coach John Beilein, center, has lost assistant Jeff Meyer, left, to Butler and assistant Billy Donlon, right, is reportedly going to leave for Northwestern.

If it seems there's a whole lot of late-in-the-game coaching changes in college basketball, your eyes aren't deceiving you.

And you can blame Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.

Smith waited more than two months after the national championship game and nearly three months after Ohio State's last game of the 2016-17 season to fire head coach Thad Matta.

And that sent off a ripple effect across the Midwest, a tsunami that has particularly affected Michigan and coach John Beilein.

Shortly after Matta was fired, Butler coach Chris Holtmann took the job to replace him. Butler then landed Milwaukee head coach LaVall Jordan, who wasted little time in adding to his staff a mentor from his days at Michigan, assistant Jeff Meyer, a Butler alum.

That's one strike against Michigan.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee had an opening to fill and tapped Northwestern assistant Patrick Baldwin.

That created an opening under Chris Collins at Northwestern, and that job has reportedly gone to Michigan assistant Billy Donlon, a lifelong friend of Collins' and a former Northwestern ball boy.

Meyer spent nine seasons under Beilein, while Donlon spent only one, but it was a good one, as the Wolverines grew on defense.

The defections leave Beilein with just one assistant in the thick of recruiting season, which is not an ideal situation. They also leave Beilein without a former head coach on staff, though that could change as he hires two more coaches.

And when he hires, he's certainly to land two men with good resumes, leaving holes on other coaching staffs. Beilein now has lost four assistants over the last two seasons, with Jordan leaving last year for the Milwaukee job, and Bacari Alexander also leaving last year for the head coaching job at Detroit Mercy.

That's nothing, of course, compared to the revolving door at Oakland, where coach Greg Kampe now has lost six assistants in the last three years, including Cornell Mann (Missouri) and Drew Valentine (Loyola of Chicago) this offseason. Valentine, the Golden Grizzlies' chief recruiter, left extremely late in the game.

Kampe hired Detroit native and longtime Bruce Pearl right-hand man Tony Jones to replace Mann, and is searching for Valentine's replacement. One name that has been mentioned, and a candidate who has interviewed, is former Michigan State star Charlie Bell, a member of the Spartans' 2000 national championship team.

Bell has recently coached in the NBA's D-League (now the G-League), and has the endorsement of longtime Kampe confidant, Tom Izzo. That said, the coaching experience is limited. Of course, Valentine's experience was limited, too, when Kampe took a chance on him.