Editorial

LaVall Jordan to Michigan Speculation May Be More Serious than Anticipated

It’s been two days since John Beilein shockingly decided to leave the University of Michigan to become the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers–but for Butler basketball fans, it’s starting to feel like two years.

Butler Bulldogs head coach LaVall Jordan has already appeared on many national media lists as a top candidate for Michigan’s opening–which initially, wasn’t worrisome for most.

However, while many Butler fans felt reassured that the Michigan athletic department would go ‘big game hunting’ instead–believing that 5-6 names would be ahead of Jordan’s on any actual candidate list, a somewhat alarming development happened on Tuesday:

Given that Jordan served as a top assistant under Beilein (2010-16) and has head coaching experience at both Milwaukee (2016-17) and Butler (2017-19), it makes a great deal of sense from that standpoint (not to mention, he presumably already knows how to recruit in Michigan and has built pre-existing relationships in high school coaching circles).

Jordan was always highly regarded for his ability to develop young players at Michigan–particularly guards such as Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Darius Morris. He helped Michigan make 5 tournament appearances, including two trips to the Elite Eight and one trip to the National Championship Game. At the time, some in Ann Arbor may have even envisioned him as the long-term successor to Beilein down the road.

It’s not shocking he got or will receive an interview opportunity with Michigan given his history with their program and as a professional courtesy.

What doesn’t make sense is that while Michigan may not be a ‘blue blood’ program, it’s essentially a Top 5-10 job in the entire country right now–so is Jordan actually a frontrunner?

If true, it’s strange that Michigan wouldn’t initially aim a little higher for say a ‘bigger fish’ like the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Billy Donovan–who’s in the last year of his current contract and may be let go barring a strong Western Conference playoff push next season.

After all, Donovan’s a two-time National Champion, and the Big Ten is a bloodbath to get through with teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Purdue consistently up near the top, as well as other improving programs such as Iowa, Ohio State, Maryland, Minnesota, and Indiana always as potential threats.

It’s also curious because Jordan does not have the proven track record of other potential big named candidates for the job.

He’s compiled a 37-31 record (.544) at Butler, and while the Bulldogs made the tournament in his first season as head coach, his team finished tied for last in the Big East basement last season–seemingly playing worse as the season progressed.

So did Jordan take a flight to Ann Arbor on Monday or will he?

We don’t and probably won’t know for sure until the dust settles.

Butler fans know Jordan visited 4-star recruit Luke Goode during the afternoon on Monday, but was that enough time to catch that flight?

Maybe.

There’s also other lingering questions like why wouldn’t Michigan’s athletic director come to see Jordan instead in Indianapolis? As an assistant, he’s already seen the Michigan practice facilities, the Crisler Center, and campus. That’s normally how this dating game of cat and mouse works.

Also, would Michigan really start hosting candidates within 12 hours of Beilein announcing his decision to leave? Typically athletic departments hire a search firm/committee and that would be an awfully quick turnaround.

Would Jordan catch a flight to Ann Arbor immediately after hosting a prized recruit and with presumably little to no prep for what’s essentially a serious job interview for him?

The timing of it all seems a little odd, but not completely unbelievable.

If Jordan truly was Michigan’s guy all-along, why waste time with all of the formalities and pleasantries?

If Jordan decides to leave his alma mater for a bigger job in Michigan, it would be simply devastating for the Bulldogs–and not just from a sentimental standpoint.

Yes, fans have vocalized their frustrations regarding Jordan, who’s coming off a disappointing 2nd-season at West 49th Street. The Bulldogs offense was often sluggish last season, and it’s a fair question of whether his “Michigan offense” was properly tailored to fit his actual personnel. Additionally, his team struggled closing out a number of tight games.

Still, it would be Butler’s 5th head coach in 8 seasons, which makes it nearly impossible for the program to reach any sort of heightened sustainable success. To their credit, Butler’s program has survived and fared reasonably well–given their constant head coaching turnover, but every dog eventually “reaches the end of its own chain.”

The Bulldogs have highly touted 4-star recruit Khalif Battle set to head to campus in the fall, as well as Carmel High School standout big man John-Michael Mulloy–both of whom could very well reconsider if Jordan were to head to Michigan for the winter summer.

Butler’s future recruiting pipeline could also take a serious hit, as Jordan has already built relationships with many 4-star recruits in the Classes of 2020 and ’21 respectively, which would force Butler to potentially start from scratch on any of those players’ recruitment–should he leave.

To his credit too, Jordan’s recruiting has seen an uptick for Butler–as he’s been active and looks to be in the serious running for a number of coveted recruits. His landing of big name transfers such as Jordan Tucker and Derrik Smits is also something that should not go unnoticed over the last year or so.

He wasn’t necessarily left with the strongest cabinet of players from former head coach Chris Holtmann either.

Jordan’s possible departure could show the systemic problem that the Butler basketball program potentially has on its hands.

For all of the exceptional basketball minds the program has helped develop over the years as head coaches (one being simply brilliant in Brad Stevens) with its winning culture and “The Butler Way”, it can’t seem to keep them.

Butler could run the risk of simply being the feeder system to serve the Big Ten’s head coaching needs, and at a certain point, higher-end recruits aren’t going to want to commit to a program that has a new head coach seemingly every two years.

Sadly, that’s the potential reality that Butler basketball could find itself actually living in should Jordan be the latest in-line to leave.

Sure, there are some attractive Jordan replacements–if necessary, who understand what Butler basketball is truly all about–including Thad Matta, Micah Shrewsberry, and Ronald Nored, but here’s hoping that it doesn’t come to that—meaning Jordan stays.

Despite coming off a down season, there are signs of optimism for what Jordan’s building at Butler and his departure would be nothing short of a serious setback for the program–both now and for the future.

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