Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

Scott Phillips
NBC Sports Chicago

UIC hired its next head coach this week as Luke Yaklich returns home to Illinois to take over the Flames.

There's a lot to like about the 43-year-old Yaklich when it comes to this hire for UIC. A native of Illinois who spent time here as a high school coach at LaSalle-Peru and Joliet West, Yaklich's basketball journey makes him the perfect candidate for UIC at this particular point in time.

Being familiar with the area as a former high school coach and assistant coach at Illinois State will certainly help with recruiting and other facets of the job. But it's Yaklich's ability to take UIC to the next level defensively that makes him the perfect hire.

Yaklich turned into a star assistant coach over the past four seasons. He was often utilized as a defensive coordinator at his various stops. Going from Illinois State, to Michigan, to Texas over the past four seasons, Yaklich was responsible for four consecutive top-25 defenses, according to KenPom.

Although Steve McClain won at least 16 games in each of the past four seasons, the Flames could never reach their ultimate goal of the NCAA tournament. UIC hasn't reached March Madness since 2004. The past four seasons, UIC's best defensive team was only No. 107 in the country. 

McClain's teams had plenty of scoring pop and talent. Getting crucial stops could be difficult for the Flames.

While it may take some time for UIC to jump into the nation's top 50 in defensive efficiency, Yaklich has a successful defensive track record at the mid- and high-major levels.

Illinois State's dominant defense in 2016-17 was No. 19 in the country as the Redbirds just missed the NCAA tournament. Yaklich was then hired away to Michigan. In Ann Arbor, Yaklich helped an offensive-minded program under John Beilein become elite defensively.

The Wolverines advanced to the national title game and Sweet 16 in Yaklich's two seasons. Michigan had the No. 3 defense and No. 2 defense, respectively. 

At Texas, the Longhorns maintained the No. 24 defense in the country this season despite a talent drain that saw freshman center Jaxson Hayes leave for the NBA Draft to be picked in the top ten by the New Orleans Pelicans

UIC will need to figure out some other areas if they are to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Yaklich will need to hire a staff familiar with the local recruiting landscape. A sound offensive mind or two wouldn't hurt either.

But the defensive pedigree and player development track record has been there for Yaklich at multiple stops over the past four seasons. Now with a chance to run his own program, Yaklich is an exciting hire for UIC during an offseason in which college basketball's coach carousel isn't seeing a lot of movement. 





















Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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