Coach Luke Yaklich is considered a rising star in the college coaching game. An inspiring story for aspiring coaches at any level. He started his career teaching (coaching) at the high school level where he remained for nearly 15 years prior to finding an opportunity with Illinois State.

“Throughout my coaching career, I’ve always aspired to continue to grow,” Yaklich said. “Part of that growth process for me was to study great coaches who build their programs around a culture.”

From Illinois State (2013-17) to Michigan (2017-19), Coach Yaklich helped coordinate a defensive system that lead to the 3rd and 2nd best defensive efficiency in the country (according to KenPom) the previous two years. These results reflected made for a very marketable resume following Coach Beilein’s departure to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“When Coach Beilein accepted the Cleveland Cavaliers job and this position was open, I talked to Coach Smart about what he was looking for with this position and became incredibly excited about this opportunity to coach at The University of Texas.” (TexasSports)

What I really want to get into is the development of the defensive system that Yaklich looked to install. When we think of the best defenses – at any level – there is a collective pride in getting stops based on personnel understanding program philosophy. Take a look at this interview with Yaklich where it is chock-full of quotes articulating intent in style of play, program metrics that they look to use for evaluation, and the process of building habits necessary for games.

Quote Followed by the Numbers

“You are your habits. The hardest thing to do is guard the ball and closeout. Those two things we practice religiously every day – closing out and guarding the ball.”

  • Last season ranked 2nd in Defensive Efficiency by KenPom and 2nd in Opp. PPG (58.3)



  • Opposing 3FG% – Michigan ranked 6th in the country defending the 3-point line

“You can’t emphasize everything defensively, you have to hang your hat on one or two things,” Yaklich said. “You have to be able to guard the dribble and rebound the first shot. I think those two things take you a long way in February and March.”


  • 13th best Defensive Rebounding Percentage in the country. The previous best under Coach Beilein was 2015 were they finished 49th (75.6%).

The challenge to us as coaches is gauging whether our language in points of emphasis align with how we prepare our program to compete defensively and if we reinforce those concepts with stats translating to execution.

A few questions to take with you:

  1. If you were to hang your hat defensively on 2 things, what would they be?
  2. How are you installing your system? Does it align with the previous two concepts you wish to emphasize defensively?
  3. What stats will resonate the most with your players to evaluate performance?

For more insight on the principles and defensive prowess that Coach Yaklich helped build with the Wolverines take a look at Jordan Sperber’s (@hoopvision68) breakdown analysis that he put together during this year’s NCAA Tournament.


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