Saddi Washington: 'Very tough' to turn down Western Michigan, stay at Michigan

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Western Michigan essentially has publicly acknowledged what hasn't exactly been a state secret: Michigan assistant Saddi Washington was at the top of the list to be the school's next men's basketball coach.

And Washington called it "very tough" to not go after the position, given his ties to the school.

Michigan assistant coach Saddi Washington (center) will not pursue the head-coaching vacancy at Western Michigan.

Washington, a former Western star, took his name out of the running Wednesday, and on Thursday, had nothing but praise for athletic director Kathy Beauregard.

"It was a very tough but honest conversation to not pursue the job considering my love for the university and my admiration for he as a longtime friend," Washington told The News.

"But this quality of life decision was the right one for my family and I.

"Kathy is the best and great at what she does and I have no doubt she will make a great hire in the best interest of the basketball program."

Washington and Beauregard were scheduled to meet face to face sometime in the last week, but plans got canceled as the coronavirus outbreak has essentially shut down the globe.

They chatted on FaceTime recently.

On Thursday, Beauregard called the development "disappointing," but said she respected his decision.

"We are disappointed he will not be a part of our search as we move forward," Beauregard said in a statement, first sent to The News.

"Western Michigan is extremely proud of our very own Saddi as he has chosen to continue as a member of the University of Michigan coaching staff.

"We will absolutely continue to support each other in our professions."

Western hasn't yet talked to any other candidates.

Washington, 44, has spent the last three seasons on staff at Michigan, two under John Beilein and one under Juwan Howard. From 2006-16, he was an assistant coach at Oakland, developing a reputation as one of the state's premier recruiters.

Washington, a Lansing native, played at Western Michigan from 1994-98.

He was Western's primary target to replace Steve Hawkins, who led the Broncos to two NCAA Tournaments, but whose contract wasn't renewed last week, ending his 17-season run as head coach in Kalamazoo.

Hawkins made $385,000 in base salary his last season; Washington makes $330,000 at Michigan.

Western could now turn to someone like Ferris State's Andy Bronkema, who won a Division II national championship two years ago, or Jay Smith, the former Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Kalamazoo College head coach who's also on staff at Michigan. Smith had health issues late in his K-College tenure, and it's not clear if he wants to be a head coach again. Former WMU, Central Michigan and Oakland assistant Cornell Mann, a Michigan native and another good Detroit recruiter, could also be considered; he's currently an assistant coach at Missouri. Loyola-Chicago assistant coach Drew Valentine, a former player and coach at Oakland, might be an outside-the-box name to watch.

None of the assistants on Hawkins' staff are considered candidates for the head-coaching job.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984