The initial reaction was to cast a wary eye toward John Beilein. How could he do this? Is there no code among coaches? Is there no rule — written or unwritten — against poaching two assistant coaches from another guy’s bench?
That was the column swirling in the head. The bull's-eye would be on Michigan’s Beilein for plucking associate head coach Luke Yaklich and assistant coach DeAndre Haynes from Dan Muller’s Illinois State basketball staff.
That column is dead now. It died before reaching the fingertips.
Muller shot it down Friday with a revelation that made you feel better about the head coach at Michigan and appreciative of the one who calls Redbird Arena home.
Turns out Muller reached out to Beilein to recommend Yaklich and Haynes for Michigan’s openings, an extraordinary move in the dog-eat-dog world of college basketball. An unsolicited call elsewhere on behalf of one staff member is generous. To recommend two is perhaps unprecedented.
The easy thing would have been to stay mum. Reap the benefits of having Yaklich, a trusted four-year assistant, and Haynes, newly hired in May. Let Beilein fend for himself. Who would be the wiser?
Instead, Muller did the right thing … not for him, but for Yaklich and Haynes. Both get substantial pay raises and climb higher on the coaching ladder. The fact Muller wanted that for them is unique in a profession largely driven by “What’s best for me?”
Muller’s pitch to Beilein was so convincing the ISU coach now must make two hires in short order. The opening of practice is early October.
That means in addition to coaching a team that lost four starters from a record-setting 28-7 squad, Muller will be bringing two assistant coaches up to speed. Only Brian Reese, who enters his second year, is back from last year’s staff.
Yep, saying nothing would have been easier.
In February, upon earning his 100th victory at ISU, Muller talked in part about how he had matured as a coach. He had never been a head coach before being hired in May 2012. There was a learning curve.
Following the milestone 50-46 win over Southern Illinois, he said of his players, “I’m blessed because I’ve grown as a coach because of those guys in the locker room. I think I’m a better coach because of those guys.”
Dialing up Beilein is further evidence of that growth and maturation. It takes a coach who is comfortable in his skin and confident in his system to risk losing two assistants less than two months before practice begins.
“We’ll be OK,” he said in reassuring Yaklich and Haynes. “That’s what I told them.”
Chances are they needed to hear it.
All of this sends a good message to recruits, their parents and potential assistant coaches. Players want to play for and coaches want to coach with someone who has their best interests in mind. Clearly Muller did in regard to Yaklich, Haynes and their families.
In 2015, the ISU coach was like most folks associated with Redbird athletics and the community at large in being profoundly impacted by the plane crash that claimed the lives of associate head coach Torrey Ward, deputy athletic director Aaron Leetch and five loyal Redbird fans.
As the next season approached, Muller said, “It’s made me appreciate certain things more in life as it probably has every adult that was affected.”
He appreciated the job Yaklich, his close friend since college, had done. He appreciated the early contributions of Haynes. He also understood both would prosper from a move to Michigan.
You have to appreciate that.