When Mike Jackson received the call from new Michigan basketball coach John Beilein early last Thursday inquiring about his interest in returning to Ann Arbor, shock was the only emotion he could muster.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I had never given any thought to going back to Michigan. I thought that part of my life was over. I was committed to Illinois State and had every intention of sticking around there."
Once the idea of going back home crept into his mind, Jackson had real a dilemma on his hands. Sure he had the chance to make things easy on his family while also working in an environment he was familiar with. However, that would mean backing out on a promise he gave to a man he has a great deal of respect and admiration for. In the end, it was that man that made deciding what to do a great deal easier for Jackson.
"While it may not appear so on the surface, this is a story with a happy
ending," Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich said in a prepared
I hired Mike, my only concern was the fact that his family would not be able
to come here for at least a year, as they have a child with special needs.
Despite the new staff at Michigan offering Mike to come back, he told me that
he would honor his commitment to Illinois State. But I didn't feel it was in
the best interest of Mike and his family for him to stay at ISU. His offer
to stay shows me what kind of person Mike is, and that I originally hired the
right person. Basketball is important to all of us, but keeping family together
needs to be a priority. I wish Mike nothing but the best."
"It was a very difficult situation for me to leave Illinois State," followed Jackson in the statement. "Tim (Jankovich) was the deciding factor in my accepting the position back at Michigan. He told me that he would not feel right working with me every day knowing that I could be back in Ann Arbor with my family. I am very appreciative of Tim's kindness and understanding, and I hope that all Illinois State supporters can understand my position, and accept my apologies. I was proud to be a Redbird -- if only for a short time."
When asked to elaborate on the process a little bit more with GoBlueWolverine, Jackson shed light on just how tough the decision was.
"Obviously I had given my word that I was going to be at Illinois State," Jackson said. "That's big to me. When I talked to Coach Beilein and he offered me a job, I went back to Coach Jankovich and told him that I had an opportunity to go back to Michigan. I told him that I was still going to be a man of my word and stay if that's what he wanted me to do. If it were anywhere else other than Michigan, I probably wouldn't have looked at it seriously. But I had to really consider this because of how it would benefit my family. They weren't going to be able to move anytime soon, so we were going to be apart for an extended period of time and that was going to make things tough on all of us. Coach Jankovich understood that. He said, 'Mike, there's no way I could feel good about telling you to stay here with you having an opportunity to go back there and be home with your family. He said, 'I'm giving you my wholehearted blessing to go back.' It really meant a lot to hear him say that because I was going back and forth about it. It was really tearing me up."
Now as he embarks upon his second stint as a Michigan assistant, Jackson is extremely excited about what the future holds. In his initial conversations with his new boss, he learned that he won't be pigeon-holed into certain duties. He will be counted on to do just as much as he ever has, if not more.
"Coach Beilein made it very clear that he wants teachers on his staff," Jackson said. "I loved that he said that because a lot of guys sometime want to lock you into certain roles. Right away he wanted to make sure that I understood that he wanted somebody that could coach and teach. That's what he's big on. Obviously as we talked more I just got a better vibe about how good of a person he is and how down to earth he is. He is just regular guy. He likes coaching basketball and likes being around the guys. He wants well-rounded coaches around him. We talked about my desire to one day be a head coach and he was all for that. He was great. He has been great to me so far."
Beilein hasn't only been great during those conversations. He also made a favorable impression when the topic of monetary compensation came up. When Jackson accepted the position at Illinois State, he did so for a sum greater than what he was being paid for the same role at Michigan. When asked if Beilein exceeded Illinois State's offer, Jackson didn't hesitate with the answer.
"Absolutely," he said. "There's no question about it!"
With all of the particulars now out the way, Jackson immediately went back to work trying to re-secure the recruiting class he helped sign under the previous regime.
"I've definitely already started," he said. "I just called all of the guys that we have coming in and let them know that I was coming back. It hasn't really gone much further than that right now."
Look for reactions from the members of the 2007 class tomorrow on GoBlueWolverine.com.