A LaSalle native, Luke Yaklich has repeatedly been described as a “family man.” While the experienced coach likely would have accepted any head coaching position that came his way, he is excited to be closer to home.
“It means everything to be able to be back in Illinois and be around family. My family still lives in the Illinois Valley so it will be great to see them more often. A head coaching position in your home state is everything you want as a coach,” stated Yaklich stated.
Just this past week, Yaklich accepted a head coaching position at the University of Illinois Chicago, replacing Steve McClain who has held the position since 2015.
Yaklich’s journey to the top started long ago — 21 years ago, in fact, when he coached high school sophomore girls’ basketball at his alma mater LaSalle-Peru High School. Having earned a history education degree from Illinois State University, Yaklich had a passion for teaching and coaching at the high school level.
So much so, that when his old college roommate Dan Muller called with an offer to coach with him at ISU, Yaklich originally declined.
“Dan and I go way back and have been close for a long time. We lived together in college and stayed close afterwards. I was even in his wedding,” Yaklich recalled. “Then he called me one day with an offer to coach collegiately and I turned him down. I was so comfortable coaching high school and I wasn’t ready to let that go yet.”
However, Muller eventually convinced his old roommate to join him in coaching the Redbirds, and the two experienced great success together. During Yaklich’s time at ISU, the Redrbirds had a four-year record of 86-50 and appeared in three postseason appearances. He also had a hand in the Redbirds’ 2017 Regular Season MVC Title.
Yaklich credited Muller for not only “dragging” him into the coaching world, but also for helping him learn and grow as a coach. Muller, Yaklich explained, prepared him to tackle bigger and better coaching positions. When asked to speak on Yaklich, Muller was equally as appreciative for their time together as Redbirds.
After leaving the flock in 2017, Yaklich coached at the University of Michigan for two seasons. His time with the Wolverines is highlighted by an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2018, and he is credited for restructuring the Wolverines’ defense.
Most recently, Yaklich spent a single season at the University of Texas as associate head coach. The Longhorns finished the shortened 2019-2020 season with an overall record of 19-12.
Looking forward to his time at UIC, Yaklich hopes to get in the door and establish a “culture of consistency” and a team identity. The experienced coach looks forward to working with and recruiting quality student-athletes to be at UIC.
“Having a culture of consistency and a strong identity go together, and we’re going to work hard to recruit to those terms. Building that kind of a culture early on leads to a culture of winning, which is the goal for any head coach at any program.”
“I’m excited to be at UIC. To be in Illinois, a highly competitive basketball state, is great. Then, to be at a great institution with great academics, athletics and community is everything you could want as a coach. The people are excited about basketball, and I love working with people who are excited about their sport.”