Former Michigan assistant coach Luke Yaklich will accept an offer to become head coach at University of Illinois-Chicago, per Stadium’s Jeff Goodman. Yaklich will depart Texas for his home state of Illinois, after a one-year stint as Associate Head Coach under Shaka Smart. He’ll succeed Steve McClain as coach of the Flames.
At Michigan, Yaklich was known as a defensive specialist. In 2017, the year before he arrived, Michigan’s defense was ranked #69 per Kenpom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and had never cracked the top 35 during the John Beilein era. The Wolverines were #3 by that metric in Yaklich’s first year at Michigan, and #2 the following year. This year, Texas rose two spots in adjusted defensive efficiency, up to #24.
Yaklich interviewed with Warde Manuel for the head coaching job after Beilein’s departure, but was not offered the job. He ultimately left for Texas while Juwan Howard was still compiling his staff.
UIC is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. They’ve gotten close, even reaching the Horizon League Championship this year. The Flames went 10-8 in conference play, and upset regular season champions Wright State in the conference semifinals. They had qualified for two sub-NIT tournaments during Steve McClain’s tenure, and were the CIT runners-up in 2018. However, after five years with no conference championships or NCAA Tournament appearances, McClain was let go.
Illinois will be fertile recruiting ground for Yaklich, who grew up there and had exclusively coached there prior to his tenure at Michigan. His first college job was as an assistant coach with Illinois State, where he spent four seasons. Before jumping to the college ranks, Yaklich was a history teacher and high school coach in Joliet, IL. He also coached on the AAU circuit.
Yaklich has recruiting connections in the state, and is the only coach in the Horizon League who can walk into recruits’ living rooms wearing a Final Four ring. UIC will give him a long leash, and with three straight conference winning records, the cupboard is not bare. This is likely just the first stop on Yaklich’s head coaching journey, and he has all the pieces to succeed.