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Michigan Wolverines Hire Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington

University of Michigan head coach John Beilein announced two new assistant coaching hires yesterday.

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

To a certain extent, college basketball programs live in a world of constant change. Player movement and coach movement are simply the norm. In particular, the Michigan Wolverines have dealt with a great deal of change this off season. Yesterday, head coach John Beilein added some stability and filled out his coaching staff by hiring Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington.

Coaching Departures

Two Michigan assistants left the program this off season to pursue opportunities as head coaches. LaVall Jordan, who has been an assistant at Butler, Iowa and Michigan (of course), is now the head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Jordan replaces Rob Jeter, a former University of Wisconsin assistant under Bo Ryan.) Jordan had been with Beilein for a very productive six years at Michigan, specializing in guard development, according to his Michigan bio.

Bacari Alexander also departed Beilein's staff after accepting the University of Detroit head coaching job. Alexander played two years at Detroit, and coached for six after that, so his returning to the head job is a bit of a homecoming. (Like Jordan, Alexander spent the last six years at Michigan as an assistant coach.)

The Jordan and Alexander departures are an obstacle, in an already tumultuous off season; however, six years together is significant in college basketball and both left for promotions.

Coaching Hires

Looking forward, Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington are set to join the staff next season, and they appear to be solid hires. According to the University of Michigan press release, Donlon specializes in defense; Washington will help in recruiting and can also coach multiple positions.

Donlon, in particular, brings head coaching experience to Michigan. He has led Wright State University for the past six seasons, compiling a 109-94 record. His teams were known for their defensive prowess, and according to his bio, Wright State's defense was ranked 16th nationally in 2013.

Beilein on Donlon:

I have known Billy for almost two decades, and I love his passion and IQ for the game. He has tremendous experience as a player, assistant and head coach at the Division I level. Improving our defense is a huge goal for us, and defense is one of Billy's specialties. He is also excellent in skill development, and that has been a key to our success at Michigan. I am excited to have Billy join our staff, the athletics department and this University.

Washington arrives from Oakland University, where he was an assistant coach for 10 season. The last three years he actually served as associate head coach. While at Oakland, the Golden Grizzlies won 198 games (including five 20-plus win seasons) and made the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011.

Beilein on Washington:

Saddi and I have known each other since his days at Western Michigan when I coached against them. We have also talked a lot of basketball in my nine years here at Michigan. Saddi is an outstanding teacher of the game, and I love that he can coach multiple positions. He has established great relationships as a recruiter both in and out of the state of Michigan. His poise and presence remind me of LaVall, and I know he will be a great asset to our program.

Both these coaches have a reputation for developing less touted recruits into good players. Going to a large program, Donlon and Washington can bring a smaller school mentality, which emphasizes coaching up talent, and maintaining roster stability.


The off season has been bumpy for Beilein and the Michigan program. Aubrey Dawkins, Spike Albrecht, Kameron Chatman and Ricky Doyle are all transferring. Beilein himself faced criticism for his transfer restrictions on Spike Albrecht (now committed to Purdue) and Ricky Doylewhich he ultimately lifted.

Filling out the coaching staff has to be a relief. Reading between the lines, Beilein used his connections within the profession to land two solid, competent assistant coaches; they should help him navigate the roster turnover.