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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
UM staff shakeup leads to one at WMU


John Beilein chairs a year-old ethics committee among NCAA Division I coaches.

The last thing he thought he would be accused of was unethical behavior, in this case tampering while hiring an assistant coach.

The initial charge was made by Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins in the Kalamazoo Gazette and then in the Ann Arbor News after assistant LaVall Jordan joined Beilein's staff, shortly after he was hired at WMU.

Beilein made the move for Jordan after Mike Jackson abruptly left his staff to join rival Purdue. Before that, Beilein had chosen Western Michigan assistant Bacari Alexander over Jordan to replace John Mahoney, who was let go earlier this spring, the second assistant to be "removed" (a term used by Michigan). The other coach no longer with the Wolverines is longtime Beilein assistant Jerry Dunn, former head coach at Penn State.

"In basketball, it's understood if there is a verbal commitment by a player, then you should move on," Hawkins said. "Normally, that's the same for a coach."

Hawkins admitted that he sounded off a bit too quickly and talked on the phone with Beilein on Monday. He later learned that both sides didn't have the full story. Still, Hawkins is feeling a little bit like he's the lower-level coach that is getting picked by the larger state school. If he is, then it's probably because that's reality.

Hawkins said he had no problem with Alexander moving to Michigan -- saying he was proud of that career move. As for Jordan, he didn't have a job after the Iowa staff was fired alongside head coach Todd Lickliter. Hawkins hired him, introduced him to the players, even put his name plate on the door.

"LaVall and Bacari were the two finalists when the job first opened," Hawkins said. "I can't blame LaVall. But it is hard for us. When you're a head coach and these jobs open, there is an expense -- and for a university, it's hard to go through it all again. It's frustrating."

Beilein said he was surprised by Hawkins' reaction. But he also admitted that this is inherent in the profession when staff changes are made.

But there is an underlying issue here that Beilein isn't shying away from and that is the staff changes occurring in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines were in the NCAA tournament in 2009, but were one of the bigger disappointments last season after starting out in the top 15 but missing the Big Dance all together.

Beilein enters the July evaluation period next month with three new assistants on the road. Jeff Meyer was bumped up to a recruiting role to replace Dunn. And now Alexander and Jordan will go on the road to replace Jackson and Mahoney. Brian Townsend remains as the director of basketball operations.

Beilein defended the removal of Mahoney and Dunn and the initial hires of them as recruiting assistants as well as bench coaches.

"We had a chance to address what we wanted to, including to get in the footprint of the Big Ten," Beilein said. "We had an opportunity to get a couple of guys with Michigan roots."

Beilein said Jackson's move caught him off-guard. But he said now that the Wolverines are in "phase two" of rebuilding the program and can take the next leap with Alexander and Jordan recruiting on the road.

Beilein said he could have six freshmen playing next season. Losing Manny Harris to the NBA draft is a significant blow, though, meaning Michigan will be picked near the bottom of the Big Ten.

"We have to be consistent like other Big Ten programs, not up and down," Beilein said.

Beilein cited injuries and losing close games, something that didn't happen as much the previous year, as a reason for the dip in 2010. The Wolverines were 7-11 in the Big Ten and just 15-17 overall.

Beilein said the staff changes can alter a new course.

"We're trying to fix this thing once and for all," he said. "We want Michigan basketball to be on its way. You want stability. And I think we'll have great stability for the next three years with these freshmen growing up."

• Kevin Ollie said he is a candidate for an assistant-coaching position at Connecticut and continues to interview for the job. He said he still hasn't filed his retirement papers yet with the NBA after playing last season as a limited reserve for the Oklahoma City Thunder. But he said if he can come to an agreement and get the job at his alma mater, he's likely to choose that instead of continuing his playing career.

"I don't want to back myself into a corner without an option," Ollie said. "But I'm definitely leaning toward the job and staying home if they want to hire me."

UConn is looking to replace assistant Pat Sellers, who resigned after he was named in the NCAA's notice of allegations dealing with recruiting violations for former UConn student Nate Miles.