Less than a year after arriving in Austin, Texas Longhorns assistant Luke Yaklich is reportedly set to return to Illinois as the head coach of the Illinois-Chicago Flames, according to Stadium basketball analyst Jeff Goodman.
The irony of this potential move? Former Illinois-Chicago head coach Steve McClain was ousted just 10 days ago after winning at least 10 conference games in the last three seasons, but struggling to make the NCAA tournament. In fact, McClain’s final loss at UIC came against former Texas assistant Darrin Horn and his Northern Kentucky team in the Horizon League championship game.
Yaklich was hired by the Longhorns last May after Horn left to coach the Norse.
He’s an Illinois native who grew up in La Salle, graduated from Illinois State, and served as a high school basketball coach in the state, including at Chicago suburb Joliet West.
Those ties to Illinois high school basketball and Yaklich’s proven prowess as a defensive coach make him an appealing hire for the Flames.
In Yaklich’s one season with Texas, he helmed a defense that focused on limiting assists, taking away the three-point line, and avoiding fouls. The Longhorns finished the shortened season ranking No. 28 nationally in assists per made field goal, No. 343 three-point distribution, and No. 246 in free-throw attempts per field-goal attempts.
By late in the season, Texas was playing at a high level defensively, at one point ranking No. 3 nationally in defensive efficiency over the last 10 games and finishing No. 24 nationally in that category.
The Longhorns only improved marginally in defensive efficiency from 2018-19, when the team ranked No. 26 in that category, but Yaklich’s group reduced the percentage of points scored by opponents from the three-point line by nearly 10 percent as Texas improved its three-point defense from No. 234 nationally to No. 118.
The area where Yaklich struggled to get Texas to perform to his expectations was on the defensive glass — the Horns ranked No. 330 nationally by allowing opponents to 32.2 percent of their missed shots.
Before joining the Texas staff, Yaklich served as an assistant under former Michigan head coach John Beilein and interviewed for the head coaching position after Beilein left to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers last year.
During Yaklich’s two years at Michigan, the Wolverines advanced to back-to-back Sweet 16s. Under Beilein, Michigan was known for efficient offenses, but Yaklich’s arrival in Ann Arbor marked a shift in identity — the Wolverines went from No. 69 nationally in defensive efficiency to No. 3 nationally in Yaklich’s first season and No. 2 nationally in his second season.