After 12 seasons at Michigan, basketball coach John Beilein is leaving for the NBA, to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
With John Beilein headed to Cleveland to take his shot at the NBA, it’s now up to Michigan and athletic director Warde Manuel to find his replacement.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, Beilein has elevated the program to a level where the Michigan job is now seen as one of the premier positions in college basketball. So, any call Manuel makes, no matter who the coach is, it will require serious consideration.
There is no level too high for Michigan to reach on this one. Outside of Mike Krzyzewski — he’s not leaving Duke for any job — there is no call Manuel shouldn’t make. That doesn’t mean it has to be a big name to be a good hire, but there are no limits on this one.
With that, here’s a look at some names that Manuel might have jotted down at some point.
Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s hard to argue with Donovan’s record at the college level after he led Florida to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006-07. But after three straight first-round exits from the NBA playoffs with the Thunder, there have been rumblings about his job status. Also, he was reportedly a target for UCLA after it fired Steve Alford.
Jay Wright, Villanova
He’s won two of the last four national championships and has done so without regularly landing a bunch of blue-chip prospects, not at all unlike Beilein built things with the Wolverines. But Wright reportedly turned down an offer from UCLA that would have doubled his salary, so getting him to leave Villanova might not be easy.
Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
The Celtics were the favorite in the East before the season started, but failed to reach the conference finals. After six seasons in Boston, maybe Stevens is ready to move on. It’s worth the call for a guy who took Butler to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011 before heading to the NBA.
Chris Beard, Texas Tech
He just got to the national championship game and almost won the darned thing at Texas Tech. That’s pretty impressive and the Red Raiders are doing their best to keep him, giving him a hefty raise. But Beard’s style of defense might be the perfect fit for the Big Ten and a move to a program like Michigan would be a significant promotion for the well-traveled Beard.
Juwan Howard, Miami Heat
This hire would certainly connect generations as Howard and his fellow Fab Five teammates changed college basketball in the early 90’s with the Wolverines. Howard has been an assistant with the Heat since 2013 and is a rising candidate, interviewing for the Pistons job last year and the Cavaliers this year. His lack of experience at the college level might only be seen as a minor deterrent.
LaVall Jordan, Butler
A former Michigan assistant under Beilein, Jordan was part of the staff that reached the 2013 national title game and was key to the development of Trey Burke. He left to become the head coach at Milwaukee for one season before taking over at Butler. He led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in 2017-18 but settled for an NIT berth this past season.
Luke Yaklich, Michigan
In two years as one of Beilein’s assistants, Yaklich has orchestrated a significant turnaround to the Wolverines’ defense. Once a team that looked at defense as a chance to take a break from scoring, Michigan became one of the top defensive teams in the nation in each of the past two seasons, and Yaklich was credited with the improvement. His college experience is limited with just four years as an assistant at Illinois State before coming to Michigan, so that, no doubt, could be seen as a negative.
Saddi Washington, Michigan
Like Yaklich, Washington doesn’t have any head-coaching experience at the college level, but he’s spent three years with Beilein after a decade coaching alongside Oakland’s Greg Kampe, the last three as associate head coach. It wouldn’t be a big splash in terms of a name, but the transition would be a smooth one.
Rick Pitino, free agent
There’s no call that shouldn't be made, right? So, why not? OK, there’s a few reasons why not, especially the fact Pitino was fired from Louisville after more than one transgression, the last being his alleged knowledge of payments to a recruit. He has, however, won two national championships, even though the 2013 title at Louisville was vacated (ironically, the Cardinals beat the Beilein-led Wolverines). So, the coaching resume is hard to match, but is the baggage worth it? Probably not.