Ann Arbor, MI. Over the past six seasons, Michigan coach John Beilein and his staff of LaVall Jordan, Bacari Alexander, and LaVall Jordan have had great success. Among the staffs’ accomplishments were five NCAA Tournament appearances, a trip to the Final Four in 2013, and two Big Ten regular season championships.
However, despite that success, Michigan has struggled the last two seasons. In 2015, Michigan went 16-16 and missed the NCAA tournament. In 2016, the Wolverines made the tournament as one of the final four teams in the field, but were ousted in the round of 64. While injuries to key players like Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, and Spike Albrecht played a role in the disappointing seasons, Michigan still underperformed.
This upcoming season Michigan faces change on its coaching staff for the first time in six seasons. Out are Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan, who accepted jobs at Detroit and Milwaukee respectively, and in are former Oakland University assistant Saddi Washington and former Wright State head coach Billy Donlan.
In addition to the changes on the staff, the roster also will face serious overhaul. The departure of senior Caris LeVert and the transfers of Ricky Doyle, Spike Albrecht, Aubrey Dawkins, and Kameron Chatman leave Michigan with two open scholarships for next season, but also with a blank slate.
The program overhaul that happened this offseason at Michigan may not have been what John Beilein wanted, but it might be just what Michigan needed. What Beilein and his staff have been doing on the recruiting trail and on the court just has not worked the past two seasons. Sometimes, what worked in the past goes stale, and a new image and refreshed vision are necessary. And that is just what these changes give John Beilein and the Michigan program.
Saddi Washinton, a talented and innovative recruiter at Oakland, will surely boost Michigan’s presence in the Midwest. Billy Donlan, whose teams were always among the best defensive teams in the Horizon, will allow Michigan to adjust a defense that was lackluster for most of the past two seasons. If nothing else, these two assistants will bring new voices, which are sometimes needed just for the sake of their novelty.
Pacers Executive Larry Bird has said that a coach’s voice grows stale after three years. While that might be exaggerated, the infusion a fresh ideas from two talented, young coaches will only benefit the Wolverines.
Michigan’s roster also loses five key players, but the Wolverines 2016 recruiting class headlined by Xavier Simpson, figures to be Beilein’s best of the past four recruiting cycles. Simpson, along with guard Ibi Watson and forwards Austin Davis and Jon Teske will bring Michigan two things it desperately needs: size and athleticism.
Additionally, Michigan has two roster spots they still need to fill for next season. Michigan will likely target graduate transfers and low-level recruits who remain unsigned. One such recruit, 3-star wing Harold Baruti, was on campus last week for a visit, but left without an offer. Regardless of how Michigan addresses these open roster sports, they will allow the 2016-2017 team to start anew and inject life into a roster that has faced much disappointment.
The loss of four players to transfer is never ideal, but the transfers give Michigan a blank slate heading into next season. Coupled with the transformation of Michigan’s coaching staff, John Beilein now has a chance to reinvent his program to remain competitive in today’s NCAA. While consistency is a critical to success, sometimes changes like these can infuse life into a program, and Michigan can only hope that’s what happens in Ann Arbor.