May 19, 2016
ROSEMONT, Ill. — John Beilein never really tried to dance around the issue this offseason.
Michigan’s been a bad defensive basketball team over the past two seasons.
Statistically, the Wolverines have been very, very bad. Michigan ranked No. 109 in defensive efficiency (KenPom) last season — which was dead last among power five teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. In 2014-15, Michigan was No. 107.
So when he began his search to replace assistant coaches Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan, defense was a top priority. He wanted to find a staffer whose calling card came at the defensive end of the floor.
And, in new assistant coach Billy Donlon, Beilein believes he’s found just that.
There are no “coordinators” in college basketball. But asked this week if he’d consider that type of role for Donlon moving forward, Beilein didn’t exactly say no.
“We may do more of that than I’ve ever done, maybe, before,” Beilein said. “(I may more put) more responsibility on a particular assistant coach (this season). Whether it’s offense (or defense). We haven’t had a lot of time, we’ve been out recruiting, but I can’t wait to just sit and talk and find out what (Donlon’s) ideas are, what ours are and then try to blend them.”
Donlon spent six seasons at Wright State before landing at Michigan this spring.
His 2013 squad finished No. 30 nationally in defensive efficiency. The following year, his group was No. 39. Last season, No. 58.
Beilein’s known Donlon for a long time, and really began to take notice of Donlon’s ability to teach defense during his days as an assistant at UNC-Wilmington from 2001-06.
During Donlon’s final year at UNCW, the team finished No. 20 nationally in defensive efficiency — which paved the way for a 25-8 season and a CAA championship.
Defense is his area of expertise. It’s a major reason why he’s in Ann Arbor.
And moving forward, Beilein says he’s ready to lean on his staff more this year. Because, at this point, Michigan needs to re-evaluate how it defends.
“(Defense) was one of the reasons why he was hired,” Beilein said. “I’ve known him for years. When we played Wilmington … they were just, their defense was just so good all the time. It was consistent every day. I’ve watched him ever since then and I see this great defense. They held Oakland (to 55 points in the Horizon League Tournament) and Oakland (93) on Michigan State, one of the premier defensive teams in the country.”
Elsewhere, Beilein also spoke about an expanded role for current director of player personnel Chris Hunter.
Hunter — who played at Michigan in the mid-2000s — stepped in as a recruiter for Beilein during his staff search. Beilein also took a deep look at the possibility of elevating him to a full-time assistant coaching position.
That didn’t happen, obviously. But moving forward, Beilein says he’s excited about Hunter’s future as a coach — and hopes to give him more responsibility if he can.
“I liked what I saw from him and we’re going to try to grow his role right now,” Beilein said. “We’re going to give him more responsibility so he can grow as a coach. If that’s his goal, to be a college basketball coach, I want to give him every opportunity to grow.
“So he’ll have more responsibilities this year.”