Luke Yaklich and his family are on the move again.
After two years of mentoring the University of Michigan men’s basketball team’s defense as an assistant coach, Yaklich has accepted a job with coach Shaka Smart and the University of Texas as an associate head coach focusing on defense and working with post players.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with coach Smart and his staff,” said Yaklich, a La Salle-Peru alumnus and former boys basketball coach (2003-07). “I’m obviously excited to coach and compete against the other coaches and teams in the Big 12 Conference. I’m just looking to learn and grow again.
“I’m excited for the opportunity the University of Texas and coach Smart have offered my wife, my children and I.”
Before former Michigan head coach John Beilein decided to make a move to the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Yaklich didn’t know Smart.
But once word got around Yaklich was looking for a job and Smart was searching for someone with Yaklich’s expertise, the coaches talked and Yaklich had a discussion with his wife Amy about their future in Texas.
“We didn’t really know each other before coach Beilein left,” said Yaklich, who coached in the NCAA championship game in 2018 and made it to the Sweet 16 this March. “We have about three mutual friends in the college coaching world. Once everything happened with coach Bellein accepting the job in Cleveland, a couple of people reached out to me that Smart was looking for someone with a defensive background.
“We talked on the phone. Amy and I made our way to Austin (two weeks ago) and we had a great conversation. We felt incredibly excited about everything Texas had to offer.”
Yaklich and Amy will be joined in Austin by their daughter, Taylor (a freshman in high school), while daughter, Olivia, will attend Heartland Community College in Bloomington and son, Griffin, will attend his senior year of high school in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Yaklich family discussed different options after Beilein left Michigan, including going to the NBA or becoming the main guy for the Wolverines.
“Obviously at that time, everything was in a state of flux for the entire staff,” Yaklich said. “Everybody was looking at a lot of different options. Amy and I kept looking at it like this was an opportunity for our family. It was a stressful time but it was also a time for personal and professional growth.
“We considered the NBA option at the time, but it wasn’t something that family wise and career wise that we really wanted to do. I am real thankful to Warde Manuel (Michigan’s athletic director) for allowing me the opportunity to interview for the head coaching position at Michigan. I didn’t get it, obviously, but I’m grateful for the experience of not only the interview but the last two years.”
There were also conversations with Juwan Howard after he was hired as the new Wolverines head coach.
However, the Yaklichs felt Texas was a better fit.
“We had some talks regarding it. But there were some things regarding timing and opportunity that we just decided as a family that the opportunity coach Smart offered us was incredible,” Yaklich said. “That’s what I’m excited about. I’m looking forward to getting down there with the guys in a couple of weeks and then getting into recruiting, preparing for the season and getting the family moved down there.
“I’m excited to be a Long Horn and to hook ’em.”
Although Yaklich has been a Wolverine and now a Longhorn since manning the L-P sideline, he doesn’t forget where he came from.
“I thank our family and friends back home in La Salle and Peru for their support,” Yaklich said. “My coaches at La Salle-Peru — Paul Kramarsic, Gary Sonnenberg, Steve Parker and Chips Giovanine — continue to be instrumental in support in my career. I’m real thankful for having great mentors when I was growing up in the teaching and coaching profession.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.