If Bacari Alexander is ever going to be Head Coach at his alma mater, then now is the perfect time. Widely regarded as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches, Alexander has paid his dues in college basketball coaching. Starting with the 2001-02 season, he was an assistant for six seasons at Detroit Mercy under Perry Watson. He then had two separate assistant coaching stints in the MAC, first for one season at Ohio University, and then for two seasons at Western Michigan. He just finished his sixth season under John Beilein at Michigan. This is the kind of resume that should have mid-major conference teams lining up to interview him for head coaching jobs. Alexander is known for developing frontcourt players. This is important for the Titans, as they have been a guard-heavy team for years now. They need more balance on their team if they want to have sustained success.
As a collegiate player, Alexander played two seasons at Robert Morris. He then came back home to Detroit Mercy and helped lead the Titans to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. He also played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Ironically, one of Alexander’s competitors for the coaching gig is his former teammate from those championship Titan teams, current UDM assistant Jermaine Jackson. Jackson was Horizon League (then MCC) Player of the Year in 1999. He then went on to play in the NBA for the Pistons, Bucks, Raptors, Magic, and Knicks. He also played in several leagues overseas. As a coach, Jackson was the head coach for two seasons at Mt. Clemens High School, and just finished his first season at Detroit Mercy, where he was the only coach retained following the recent firing of head coach Ray McCallum.
So if you want a former Titan player to be the new head coach, Alexander has as much college coaching experience as one would want. Although much less formal coaching experience, Jackson undoubtedly learned a ton from many different coaches in his vast time as a pro player. Both men will turn 40 later this year. Current MSU associate head coach Dwayne Stephens and Vince Taylor, who has been an assistant at several power conference schools, are also in the mix. Stephens and Taylor are both great candidates. But when you have not one, but two former players available whose stock as coaches are ascending, you have to hire one of them to be head coach.
If Alexander is hired as head coach, Jackson will most likely remain on staff as an assistant, at least for the near future. However, if Alexander does not get the head coaching job, he will stay at Michigan and likely get a different head coaching gig in the near future. And if Alexander were to be successful in that future non-UDM head coaching job, he would then likely ascend to a power conference job and he would be out of UDM’s reach for a while. (That is looking quite a bit ahead, but it is true). The time to take a chance with Alexander is now. If he is not able to change the culture and make the Titans a consistent mid-major power within four years, then hand the reigns over to Jackson. There is no doubt that Jackson will be a great college basketball head coach one day. But the amount of experience that Alexander has as a coach weighs more right now than Jackson’s playing experience. People will counter this argument with the “Steve Kerr Argument” that a person with little to no coaching experience can come in and get the job done. My response is that that can happen. But…1.) picking someone with more coaching experience is a safer bet; 2.) coaching college basketball is much different than coaching in the NBA.
Athletic Director Robert Vowels is expected to make a decision this week.