Kornacki: How 'Billy Ball' Gave Men's Hoops Some Real Teeth
Kornacki: Donlon Played Against, Now Coaching Alongside Beilein
With nearly two decades of college coaching and playing experience, Billy Donlon begins his second season with the University of Michigan men's basketball program.
In his first season with the Maize and Blue, Donlon helped the Wolverines produce the 28th 20-plus win season as U-M closed the year with a 26-12 final mark, winning 12 of its final 15 games, and advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. In addition, following a plane crash prior takeoff for the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines rallied and won four games in four days, becoming the lowest seed (No. 8) in history to win the conference's postseason event.
Donlon came to U-M after spending the last decade at Wright State, including the final six years as the program's head coach. In those six seasons (2010-16), Donlon compiled a 109-94 record with three 20-plus win seasons and helped the Raiders reach the Horizon League Tournament title game three times (2013, '14, '16). In addition, Donlon's squads tied the program marks for wins with 23 in 2013 and conference wins with 13 in 2016.
After his 2013 squad was picked to finished last in the preseason, Donlon went on to be named the Horizon League's Coach of the Year. He guided the Raiders to a 10-win improvement, tying the school record with 23 wins, the No. 3 seed and a championship game appearance in the Horizon League Tournament as well as a semifinal appearance in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). He was also named a finalist for the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award and the Hugh Durham Coach of the Year Award given to the nation's top mid-major coach.
During his tenure, he coached five players to All-Horizon League honors -- Vaughn Duggins (2011, 1st), N'Gai Evans (2011, 2nd), Julius Mays (2012, 2nd), Cole Darling (2013, 2nd) and A.J. Pacher (2014, 2nd). In 2012, Mays was also named the Horizon Newcomer of the Year and was a member of the All-Newcomer Team.
Known for his defensive strategies, Wright State's defense ranked as high as 16th nationally in 2013, and he had two players selected as the Horizon League All-Defensive Team -- Matt Vest (2014) and Joe Thomasson (2016).
Before his promotion to head coach in 2010, Donlon served as the associate head coach under current Clemson head coach Brad Brownell for four seasons (2007-10). He helped Wright State to four straight 20-plus win seasons, the 2007 Horizon League regular-season and tournament title and an automatic bid to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, where the Raiders lost in the first round to Pittsburgh.
Before joining Wright State, Donlon was an assistant at his alma mater UNC Wilmington for four seasons (2002-06), coaching again under Brownell. Donlon assisted the Seahawks to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances (2003, '06) and two Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) regular-season and tournament titles (2003, '06).
Following his collegiate playing career at UNCW, Donlon began his coaching career as an assistant at American University (1999-2000) before moving on to Saint Peter's for a season (2000-01). Following the 2001 season, Donlon spent a year playing professionally overseas with Irish National Team, as well as stops in France and Germany.
As a collegiate player, Donlon was a star guard at UNC Wilmington for four seasons (1996-99), playing in 118 career games. He finished with 901 points and at the time of his graduation he was the Seahawks all-time assist leader with 456, which currently stands third in UNCW history. He was a member of the Colonial Athletic Association's (CAA) All-Rookie Team in 1996 and led the team in assists as a junior (5.6 apg) and senior (5.2 apg).
Donlon, who earned a history degree in 1999 from UNCW, received one of the CAA's most prestigious honors in his senior year. He was selected as the recipient of the Dean Ehlers Award for Leadership, presented annually to the player who embodies the highest standards of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship through academic and athletic achievements.
A native of Northbrook, Ill., Donlon prepped at Glenbrook North High School, which is the same alma mater of current Northwestern head coach Chris Collins.
The Billy Donlon File
Born: Feb. 10, 1977
Hometown: Northbrook, Ill.
High School: Glenbrook North High School, 1995
College: UNC Wilmington, 1999 (BA, History)
|1999-2000||American University||Assistant Coach|
|2000-01||Saint Peter's||Assistant Coach|
|2001-02||Did Not Coach||Played Professionally Overseas|
|2002-06||UNC Wilmington||Assistant Coach|
|2006-10||Wright State||Associate Head Coach|
|2010-16||Wright State||Head Coach|
|2016-present||University of Michigan||Assistant Coach|
Coaching Career Breakdown
|2001-02||DNC, played overseas||-||-||-||-|
|2002-03||UNC Wilmington||24-7||15-3||1st||NCAA, First Round|
|2005-06||UNC Wilmington||25-8||15-3||t-1st||NCAA, First Round|
|2006-07||Wright State||23-10||13-3||t-1st||NCAA, First Round|
|2007-08||Wright State||21-10||12-6||t-2nd||-||2008-09||Wright State||20-13||12-6||t-3rd||-||2009-10||Wright State||20-12||12-6||2nd||-||2010-11||Wright State||19-14||10-8||t-5th||-||2011-12||Wright State||13-19||7-11||8th||-||2012-13||Wright State||23-13||10-6||t-3rd||CBI, Semifinal||2013-14||Wright State||21-15||10-6||3rd||CIT, Second Round||2014-15||Wright State||11-20||3-13||8th||-||2015-16||Wright State||22-13||13-5||t-2nd||-||2016-17||Michigan||26-12||10-8||t-5th||NCAA, Sweet 16|
|Totals as Head Coach||109-94||53-49||6|
|Totals as Assistant Coach||208-139||119-75||11|