Washington fired up over move to Michigan

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Saddi Washington and Greg Kampe watch a Horizon League tournament game at Joe Louis Arena in March.

The other day, when Saddi Washington had sat his two young children down and told them he was going to Michigan, his son, Caleb, grabbed his phone.

"And said, 'I'm calling poppa, grandma and poppa,'" Washington said Friday afternoon during an interview on Detroit Sports 105.1. "He thought I was gonna be in trouble.

"My dad was like, 'This is a good thing!'"

Kids say the darndest things, indeed, though this one made sense.

Washington, after all, is a Lansing native, and both of his parents went to Michigan State.

But they were thrilled when Washington called this week to tell them that after 10 years at Oakland -- and after interviewing and not getting the job at Michigan six years ago — he, finally, was going to be a Wolverine.

Washington and former Wright State coach Billy Donlon were added to John Beilein's staff, replacing Bacari Alexander, who became head coach at Detroit, and LaVall Jordan, who now is head coach at Milwaukee.

"When I finally had the opportunity to tell my parents, I mean, they were so elated, you would've thought I would've just won a national championship," Washington said.

"It was just an awesome moment for me being there son."

Washington comes to Michigan with a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the state, if not the Midwest.

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At Oakland, he landed star Kay Felder, who just left early to enter the NBA draft.

Recruiting will be a huge focus at Michigan, too. Beilein has stressed having a Big Ten country footprint.

"You know, I've always tried to recruit high-level guys," Washington said on 105.1, to hosts Neal Ruhl and former Piston Lindsey Hunter.

"The biggest difference and probably the most obvious difference, when you walk into a gym with that block M on your chest or you make that call ... you automatically get folks' attention, and so the power of the Michigan brand definitely puts us at a seat at the big table from the front, instead of at the back end.

"The resources that are available here at the University of Michigan, it is the elite standard of the best blend of academics and athletics anywhere in the country."

The goal for Washington, 40, obviously is to become a head coach someday.

At Michigan, he'll get a whole lot of training under Beilein, Donlon and Jeff Meyer, the former and longtime head coach at Liberty.

Donlon and Washington are no strangers, from  their days facing off each other in the Horizon League. Donlon, 39, is brash and enthusiastic, and man can he coach defense, as Oakland learned the hard way in a loss in the Horizon League semifinals this year at Joe Louis Arena.

"For me being a young coach preparing to be a head coach myself, I'm like a kid in a candy store," Washington said. "I'm gonna soak up so much of this good knowledge.

"That guy (Donlon) is jacked up. I've known him, just being on the road, just being on the other side. ... The last couple days, he's walking down the hall and breaks down in a stance and takes a charge.

"'Billy, what are you doing? We haven't even gotten on the court yet!'

"Between the both of us, it's almost like a fresh coat of paint. There's nothing wrong with the room, you just change the color, move the furniture around a little bit, and the room has a different perspective.

"It's already a well-oiled machine."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: tonypaul1984