Courtesy University of Missouri-Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Billy Donlon has been named the seventh head coach of the men's basketball program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Donlon previously was the assistant coach for the Northwestern University program for the past two seasons, under head coach Chris Collins. He has also been an assistant at the University of Michigan, under head coach John Beilein. Donlon brings to UMKC 20 years of coaching experience at the Division I level, including six years of head coaching experience at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
At Wright State during a six-year tenure (2010-15), he compiled a record of 109-94 (.537) that included three 20-plus win seasons and reached the Horizon League championship game three times. He was awarded the Horizon League Coach of the Year honors in 2013 for guiding the Raiders to a 10-win improvement from the 2012 season. Donlon played, and later served as an assistant coach, at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
"Billy Donlon has the experience and track record of success that can take our men's basketball program to the next level," said UMKC Athletics Director Brandon E. Martin, Ph.D. "He understands that comprehensive excellence is the expectation here, and he knows how to achieve it."
"Athletics success will play a key role in our overall effort to build a culture of excellence, and a sense of belonging, at UMKC," said UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. "He comes to us from an outstanding academic institution at Northwestern, his players had a graduation rate of better than 90 percent at Wright State, and he has a strong reputation for outstanding character. Those are the traits we want in the person to lead our program."
It is no secret that the UMKC men's basketball program has struggled during its more than three decades of Division I competition. Donlon said he relishes the challenge.
"It reminds me of my experiences at Wilmington and Wright State. Neither of those programs had a winning tradition. That excites me – the opportunity to do something that hasn't been done," Donlon said.
"We're not only going to knock on the door, we're going to kick it in," he added. "There has to be a first time. Northwestern did it two years ago (earned its first NCAA tournament bid). We were part of the first Big Ten championship at Michigan.
"When people come and watch our players compete and play, they'll believe we can make the NCAA tournament."
What those fans will see during UMKC's second year back at the on-campus Swinney Center will be a defense-first philosophy.
"We're going to guard you. If you look at the best programs in the country, they generally are the best defensive teams in their league," Donlon said. "I went to Michigan to help establish that defense and look at what they've done. And we'll play quick, an exciting tempo. And we'll be a blue-collar team – take charges, dive on the floor, be physical. That way we can control what we can control from an effort standpoint."
Donlon also wants his UMKC teams to have a strong local flavor.
"The thing that excites me about UMKC is that Kansas City has some of the best high school basketball in the state of Missouri. And it's in the center of one of the best junior college regions in the country," he said. "We have to do a great job of recruiting locally, recruiting those kids, getting them to stay and get a great education at UMKC and play in front of their families. The campus is beautiful, we offer a great location in this city – now we just have to prove to the recruits that we can win and develop them to be the best students, players and people that they can be."