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John Beilein

Michigan rewards assistant coaches with raises, contract extensions

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Since being hired as the head coach at Michigan in 2007, John Beilein’s teams have won 21 games or more in four of his six seasons at the helm. In addition to the team success there’s been plenty of work done with individual players as well, a credit not only to Beilein but his staff as well.

Thursday it was reported by Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com that assistants Bacari Alexander, Lavall Jordan and Jeff Meyer have been given contract extensions and raises. According to the story the contracts will run through the 2017-18 season.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon was highly complimentary of the assistants, making note of the part they played in the transformation the program made following a disappointing 2009-10 season (15-17 record).

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Brandon said of the new contracts for Alexander, Jordan and Meyer. “I think the world of John, but one of the things that he did as a leader, coming off of that 2010 season, is he took a hard look at his staff and made significant changes and brought in Bacari and LaVall and really created a staff that works together so well. They trust one another. They understand one another. They feed off one another and compliment one another in a way that’s truly special.”

For the second consecutive season Michigan will have to account for the loss of the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, with Nik Stauskas being a lottery selection in the NBA Draft, and they also lost key contributors in Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III (Mitch McGary, too).

But the Wolverines have some talented players returning to Ann Arbor, led by guards Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr., and their incoming recruiting class has been praised as well.

Arizona assistant Emanuel Richardson taking leave for health reasons

Arizona Athletics
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Friday evening it was announced by the Arizona basketball program that assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson would be taking some time away from the program for health reasons. Richardson has been an assistant under Arizona head coach Sean Miller since Miller accepted the job in 2009.

“I have made the decision to take time away from the University of Arizona for health reasons,” Richardson said in the release. “This is not a life or death situation, but nonetheless very important. I am very appreciative to be given the flexibility to temporarily step away from coaching and basketball, and to concentrate on my well-being.

“I want to thank Coach Miller, the Arizona basketball family and the athletic department for allowing me this opportunity. I look forward to returning to the Arizona basketball program.”

Prior to making the move to Tucson Richardson was a member of Miller’s coaching staff at Xavier from 2007-09, and his presence on the staff has had a significant impact on the recruiting trail. Arizona’s put together Top 10 recruiting classes in each of the last three years, with the 2012 and 2013 classes being ranked in the top five.

“We support Coach Richardson’s decision to take some time off from his coaching duties,” said Miller. “What’s most important at this time is that he takes care of himself. We will miss his contribution to our program, but giving him time away is the best thing we can do to help. We look forward to his return.”

Also on Coach Miller’s staff as assistants are Joe Pasternack and Damon Stoudamire, who returned to his alma mater in May after spending two years on Josh Pastner’s staff at Memphis.

South Carolina assistant Matt Figger promoted to associate head coach

South Carolina Athletics
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While the experienced Perry Clark was added to the South Carolina coaching staff in the aftermath of Brad Underwood’s departure (he accepted the head coaching job at Stephen F. Austin), head coach Frank Martin had yet to name a replacement as his associate head coach. Wednesday the school announced that assistant Matt Figger has been promoted to associate head coach, and he’ll remain the program’s recruiting coordinator as well.

“Upon losing Brad Underwood the decision to promote Matt Figger to associate head coach was an easy one,” Martin said in the release announcing the move. “Matt has been with me from day one at Kansas State, and he is as ready as anyone can be to take on head coaching duties. I’m excited for what he brings to our program every single day, and he’ll remain responsible for the same things that he has done up to this point.

“I just want everyone to understand and know – players, and everyone who is around us – that Matt is ready to take on the challenge of being a head coach.”

Figger has more than two decades of college coaching experience, having held positions at both the Division I and junior college levels. He’s been with Martin since 2007, when Martin was named Bob Huggins’ successor at Kansas State. In 2013-14 South Carolina welcomes eight newcomers, including highly regarded guard Sindarius Thornwell and Villanova transfer Tyrone Johnson. They’ll join a roster led by guards Brenton Williams and Bruce Ellington, and forward Michael Carrera.

Assistant coach Ben Johnson leaves Washington State program

Washington State Athletics
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Washington State head coach Ken Bone has a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff, as it was announced by the school on Tuesday that assistant coach Ben Johnson has decided to leave the program. Johnson spent the last nine seasons in Pullman, beginning in 2004 as an assistant under then-head coach Dick Bennett.

With the change in regimes it’s rare that an assistant would hang around as long as Johnson did, going from the elder Bennett to his son Tony (who’s now the head coach at Virginia) to coach Bone. Johnson was a teammate of Tony Bennett’s at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“I want to thank everyone at Washington State University for their genuine care and support over the past nine seasons,” Johnson said in the release.  “My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of Cougar Nation and the University community.  I want to wish Coach Bone, our coaching staff and players the best of luck and continued success.”

One of Johnson’s most important recruits in recent years was Brock Motum, who graduated after playing four seasons in Pullman this past spring. Motum led the Pac-12 in scoring in each of his last two seasons, and he left the school ranked fifth on the all-time scoring list. Motum’s a native of Australia, and Johnson’s connections in the country (he played and coach at the professional level in Australia) helped in the recruiting process.

“We’re sorry to see Ben leave the program,” coach Bone stated in the release. “He has contributed a tremendous amount not only during my four years here at WSU, but also over the past nine seasons. We wish Ben nothing but the best!”

While the Cougars do have to account for Motum’s departure they’ve got some talented players returning to the Palouse, most notably guards DaVontè Lacy and Royce Woolridge. Also of note are the arrivals of two point guards, junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn and freshman Ike Ireogbu, and redshirt freshman Que Johnson has the potential to be one of the best athletes in the Pac-12 after sitting out last season as a partial qualifier.

Maine announces addition of Deshon Gaither to coaching staff

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With assistant Nate Philippe joining new head coach Mike Brennan’s staff at American, Maine head coach Ted Woodward had a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff.

That’s officially been done, as the school announced on Friday that former Lee Academy (Lee, Maine) postgraduate head coach Deshon Gaither has been hired. In two seasons at Lee, Gaither posted a record of 52-17 and his prior collegiate coaching experience came as a member of Max Good’s staff at Bryant (when the Bulldogs were a Division II power before moving up to Division I).

“Deshon is a tremendous addition to our coaching staff and we are thrilled to have him join us,” Woodward said in the release announcing the hire. “He has a wealth of experience at all levels of basketball, understands and is a great teacher of the game, and is an experienced and well-connected recruiter which is vital to success at the college level.

“He comes highly recommended from great people. He has coached at many different levels and throughout the world. We look forward to having Deshon as a Black Bear. He is a great addition to our staff.”

Maine enters the 2013-14 season with no seniors and five freshmen, and they’ll need to account for the departure of leading scorers Justin Edwards (16.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg; transferred to Kansas State) and Alasdair Fraser (13.4, 8.1; turned pro). Maine finished the 2012-13 season with an 11-9 record, going 6-10 in America East play.

Moving up a spot in the conference pecking order may be a bit more manageable despite those key personnel losses however, as Boston University (Patriot League) has been “replaced” by Division I provisional member UMass-Lowell.

Maine’s leading scorers entering the 2013-14 campaign are junior guards Xavier Pollard and Zarko Valjarevic, who averaged 9.7 and 8.4 points per game respectively.

Former Navarro JC head coach Johnny Estelle joins Houston coaching staff

University of Houston
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Steve Forbes, who made the move from head coach at Northwest Florida State to joining Gregg Marshall’s staff at Wichita State, wasn’t the only coach to go from the junior college ranks to Division I this week.

On Wednesday, Houston head coach James Dickey announced the addition of former Navarro Junior College (Texas) head coach Johnny Estelle to his coaching staff. Estelle, who has been the head coach at Navarro since 2008, led the Bulldogs to a record of 126-48 during his tenure at the school and won three Region XIV tournament titles.

And he’s got a connection to the Houston program, with current senior guard Jimmie Jones being one of three Navarro products who have transferred to Houston during Estelle’s run as head coach. The other two, Darian Thibodeaux (2010-12) and Leon Gibson (2011-13), have since graduated from UH.

“We are excited to welcome Johnny to the University of Houston,” Dickey said in the release announcing the hire. “Over the years, I have observed how Johnny has been able to get the most from his players. He is a family man, a quality person and has great rapport with his players.

“Johnny is a tremendous addition to our staff, and we are pleased to welcome him, his wife Ana and their children Jevon, Jasmine, Jacquelyn and Jayden to the Houston Basketball family.”

Estelle, who replaces Daniyal Robinson (who joined Porter Moser’s staff at Loyola-Illinois), joins Alvin Brooks and Ronnie Hamilton on Dickey’s coaching staff for the 2013-14 season. The Cougars, who finished the 2012-13 season with a 20-13 record, will play its first season in the American Athletic Conference this winter.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.