The Basketball Podcast: EP25 Luke Yaklich

October 30, 2018

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, University of Michigan assistant coach Luke Yaklich joins the podcast to discuss defense. Entering his second season with Michigan, Yaklich helped Michigan build a strong defensive mindset that resulted in a program record 33 wins, a repeat Big Ten Tournament championship, and advancing to the Final Four for the second time in six years. 

The defensive approach worked as Michigan led the Big Ten in scoring defense for first time since 1964 and were eighth nationally in scoring defense at 63.3 points per game allowed. Overall, Michigan was third in Defensive Efficiency according to the KenPom ratings (90.5). 

Prior to Michigan Yaklich spent four years as an assistant coach at Illinois State.. He helped guide Illinois State to an 86-50 record and three postseason berths — the 2015 and 2017 National Invitation Tournament and 2014 College Basketball Invitational. Before joining Illinois State, Yaklich worked as a high school head coach and teacher for 14 years.


“One of the key things . . of my philosophy is . . try to be the coach and teacher that you would want your son or daughter to have.”

“You have to teach very efficiently . . what do they need most in the time that we have?”

“We really talk about the growth mindset and we live it each and every day.”

“The whole teaching of communication and talk on defense is one of things in coaching I think we let slide . . it’s really hard to teach it . . like anything, you get what you put up with.”

“One thing I would suggest to a lot of coaches is take all your defensive terminology and put it on one piece of paper and when you bring guys in just say, ‘Here’s a highlighter, highlight the terms you guys know . . and you could go down on the court and explain it to a sixth grader.”

“One of the things we’re experimenting with . . think about what it takes to get out of a drill . . put a number on the defensive side of it. When you have that accountability piece . . I think that transfers over [to a game].”

“There are some natural communicators on your team. A key part is to empower and reward those players for being great communicators.”

“If you view communication as a one percent thing . . one percent better every day, in a hundred days you’re a brand new player.”

“We talk about the weakest link . . don’t be that guy . . you can only be as good as your most silent defender.”

“It’s okay to have a weakness on defense . . just as long as you understand it and your team understands it.”

“The key thing is find out what you want to emphasize . . what’s good for your group? Pick the 3 or 4 things and, if you’re not statting it, I don’t think it matters to you and it won’t matter to your players.”

“Everybody talks about ‘positionless’ basketball . . on offense . . but on the other side of the ball, how valuable is a positionless defender? It’s another part of your defensive culture.”

“You have to know, in one sentence, what is the goal of your defense.”

“If you’re not emphasizing the rebound and how to rebound . . the first shot defense could be great . . I guarantee you most teams, if they’re any good, if they’re getting a second shot, it’s going in 60 to 70 percent of the time.”

“[On rebounding]: It can boil down to a mentality thing and a film study . . Sometimes the phrase is, ‘We don’t care if you get a rebound, don’t let your man get one.”

“It’s something we really emphasize . . when you go enter that lane, and you go for a rebound, it can’t be a one-handed tip, it’s got to be ‘you pursue with two.’ Two hands are going up for the basketball.”

“When you talk about the tone at the top . . our core values, our mission statement is lived out every day.

“You build your culture . . and you keep it right for a long period of time by constantly teaching, living, promoting, providing examples, demanding, . . how you want your program to be.”

“Could you sit down any one of your players . . and just say, ‘What are our core values?’ and then follow it up and say, ‘Give me an example of how we live them out.’”

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1:00 – Introduction
2:00 – Transition to High School to College Level Coach
4:00 – His Philosophy and the X and O Standpoint
6:00 – Towards the Goal
7:00 – Flexibility, Transition and the Sharing Knowledge with Coach Beilein
9:00 – Defensive Terminology Set
11:00 – Specific Actionable Things in Practice
12:00 – Great Communicators
13:30 – Reward the Player who Speaks a Lot
16:00 – Phrase Communication Possessions
18:40 – Building a Defensive Culture
21:00 – The Goal of Defense to his Players
22:00 – “It’s okay to have a Weakness on Defense…”
23:30 – Offense and Defensive Matchups
24:30 – Ways to Focus on Covering the Ball
26:00 – Guard the Ball and the Ball Screen
27:30 – 4 to 5 minutes on Players Cover the Ball better…
29:00 – Emphasizing 3 to 5 things to focus on
30:00 – Stating
32:00 – 3-Point Defense
33:00 – Lack of Help and the On-Ball Defense
35:00 – Getting to get Beat
36:00 – Goal of the Defense and the Rebounding
38:00 – Emphasizing Rebounding
44:00 – Concept of Kill Spots
46:00 – Scouting Reports
48:30 – Important Things in terms of Charting on Defense
51:00 – Coach Beilein’s “The tone on the Top”
53:00 – Fight and Live for Your Core Values
55:00 – Conclusion


Luke Yaklich



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