NORMAL — Luke Yaklich has appreciated every day he has been an Illinois State assistant basketball coach for the last three years. His dedication and devotion to his alma mater have never been questioned.
Now, Yaklich has been rewarded.
ISU coach Dan Muller announced Tuesday that Yaklich has been promoted to associate head coach.
"I am blessed to have this opportunity Coach gave me three years ago," said the 40-year-old Yaklich. "Obviously it was a career goal of mine to be on the college level, and to earn the trust of Coach Muller and the rest of the staff it's special and something I take very seriously.
"I want to do a great job helping our student-athletes and program grow ... I want to help them be better players, people and students."
Muller said Yaklich was not given the new position, but rather earned it.
“Luke has exceeded all expectations since his arrival three years ago,” said Muller. “From our academic success, to on-the-court coaching, to recruiting, Luke has grown at a remarkable rate into one of the best basketball coaches in the country.
"His hard work and loyalty to our program make him an excellent coach and mentor for our players."
Dana Ford served as the Redbirds' associate head coach during Muller's first two seasons before being named Tennessee State's head coach. The late Torrey Ward held the position for the 2014-15 season.
"I learned a ton from both of them about recruiting and building relationships in the recruiting process and the whole process of being organized in recruiting," said Yaklich. "Dana and Torrey had a passion for recruiting and the game itself. I'm very grateful and honored to have worked with both of them."
Yaklich, a former ISU basketball manager, was a high school head coach and teacher for 14 years before joining Muller's staff in July 2013. He has led academic efforts in the program while assisting in recruiting, scheduling, scouting and player skill development.
"Obviously one of the key aspects is continuing to take on more and more responsibility," said Yaklich. "It's something I'm truly grateful that Coach Muller allows you to be yourself and grow in the profession. It's a great position to be in where you're trusted and can grow from your mistakes."
A 1994 graduate of La Salle-Peru High School, Yaklich played high school basketball and later coached the Cavaliers from 2003-07. He graduated from ISU in 1998, serving as manager the last two years while Muller was a player as the Redbirds twice won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles while advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
Yaklich later earned two master’s degrees from Olivet Nazarene.
His high school coaching stops included LaSalle-Peru (boys and girls), Sterling, Joliet Township and Joliet West. Yaklich also was a coach for the Joliet Pride and Illinois Wolves AAU teams.
Yaklich and his wife, Amy, have three children: Olivia, Griffin and Taylor.