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Basketball: Ex-Sterling coach Yaklich to lead UIC

Former Sterling boys basketball coach Luke Yaklich has a new head coaching job, and it will bring him back to Illinois.

Yaklich was officially announced on Thursday as the head coach at Illinois-Chicago, his first head coaching job at the collegiate level.

“I am honored to lead the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames men’s basketball program,” said Yaklich in a statement released by the university. “This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for my family to return to Illinois and represent an outstanding institution that I have long admired.”

Yaklich had been associate head coach under Shaka Smart at Texas. Prior to that, he was part of John Beilein’s staff at Michigan, helping lead the Wolverines to the Final Four in 2018 and gaining a reputation for putting together solid defenses. Michigan led the Big Ten and was second in the country in scoring defense in 2018-19, allowing 57.7 points per game

“Luke Yaklich is going to be a terrific head coach at UIC,” Beilein said in a statement. “His passion to learn the game is incredible and no one is going to be more prepared. He really understands the game on both sides of the ball. He is a relentless recruiter who also values character and attitude in his evaluations. He has been preparing himself for this opportunity.”

Yaklich was the boys coach at Sterling from 2000 through 2003, compiling a 37-48 record. He also had stints coaching both girls and boys basketball at LaSalle-Peru, his alma mater, and Joliet West.

“As a former Illinois high school coach, I am excited to be back teaching and coaching in the state and the city of Chicago,” said Yaklich. “It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was driving my son to practices at Washington Park or playing a game at Saint Columbanas before heading to another game in the suburbs. I am really looking forward to continuing to build upon the relationships I have with all the coaches in the state and region at the high school, AAU and junior college levels.”

He then left for the college ranks to be an assistant coach at Illinois State, where he coached under Dan Muller. During his time in Normal, the Redbirds reached the NIT twice and won 86 games in four seasons. His last year with ISU, he was promoted to associate head coach and the Redbirds went 28-7.

“Luke has been an integral part of championship programs at every stop in his career,” said UIC Director of Athletics Michael Lipitz. “He’s a skilled tactician and teacher of the game, is highly regarded for his ability to develop players to their full potential, and prioritizes the academic success of his students. We welcome Luke, his wife Amy, and their three children, Olivia, Griffin and Taylor, to the Flames Family.”

Yaklich replaces Steve McClain, who was fired 2 weeks ago after leading UIC to a 76-93 record in five seasons. The Flames won at least 16 games in each of his last four seasons.

“I cannot wait to begin building relationships with our players and their families, help our team improve on the court and build our culture,” Yaklich said. “I also look forward to recruiting future classes to UIC. I’m equally excited to connect with our more than 285,000 alumni in Chicagoland, throughout the state of Illinois and across the country.

“UIC is a prestigious academic institution in one of the world’s greatest cities. Combined with our dedicated coaching and support staff, beautiful campus, exciting style of play and strong team culture, we will attract the very best student-athletes and position the Flames to win Horizon League Championships.”

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