LaSalle-Peru High School alum named associate head coach for men's basketball at ISU
Luke Yaklich has had numerous stops in his coaching career. Recently, he moved up without moving anywhere.
The LaSalle-Peru High School alumnus was named associate head coach for Illinois State men's basketball, ISU head coach Dan Muller announced July 19 on GoRedbirds.com.
Yaklich spent the previous three years at ISU as an assistant coach. With the new position, he will serve as the program's recruiting coordinator and take on all the program's academic duties, while also working in skill development, scheduling, compliance and other areas.
“I'm very excited about the opportunity that Coach Muller has provided me at Illinois State, and excited again to continue to do work with our student athletes on and off the court, and do the best job that we can to build our program and our culture,” Yaklich said in an interview with the Illinois Valley Times.
Yaklich graduated from LaSalle-Peru in 1994 and from Illinois State in 1998, and later earned two master's degrees from Olivet Nazarene University. While at ISU, he was basketball manager/student assistant from 1996-98. During that time, he met Muller while Muller was a player for two straight Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament championships. His high-school coaching career started with being the girls' head coach at LaSalle-Peru from 1999-2000, the Sterling boys' head coach from 2000-03 and then back to LaSalle-Peru as the boys' head coach from 2003-07.
From there, he spent six seasons as head boys' coach at Joliet Township – three seasons in the combined Joliet Township program and three others at Joliet West – and was named 2010 District 9 Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year. Yaklich joined Muller's staff in July 2013.
Yaklich called recruiting the lifeblood of any program, and enjoys building relationships while out meeting with players and their families.
“That responsibility is obviously taken very seriously, and it's something I truly enjoy,” he said.
Having spent 15 years as a high-school teacher, Yaklich said teaching and learning are passions of his. That fits in with his role in the program of overseeing the academics. In the fall of 2014, the Redbirds had a cumulative 2.99 grade-point average, which broke the team's previous high mark. Last season, the squad had a cumulative 2.82 GPA, according to GoRedbirds.com. Yaklich said the players are set up on a four-year plan to earning a degree and break that down to a day-by-day basis. He works on a daily basis with academic coordinator Kelly Benacka and senior advising specialist Allison Anson in that area.
“We make sure that our student athletes again are on time, engaged and working toward being great independent learners by the time they leave Illinois State,” Yaklich said.
Looking ahead to the 2016-17 season, the Redbirds have four starters back from a team that went 18-14, and expectations are high – and so is confidence, Yaklich said.
“We've had an incredible summer,” he said. “Our guys have done a great job in the weight room; they've done a great job in the classroom; and then they've really improved on the court as well."