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Western Michigan men’s basketball assistant Clayton Bates promoted to head coach

WMU opts for stability at the head coaching position after departure of 17-year head man Steve Hawkins.

Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard announced the promotion of assistant coach Clayton Bates to head coach of the Broncos men’s basketball program late Saturday night via press release.

Bates, who has 16 total seasons in Kalamazoo since 2000, will replace the departing Steve Hawkins, who retired after 17 years at the helm and one NCAA tournament appearance (2014.)

“It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I have accepted the position of Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball program and Western Michigan University,” Bates said in a prepared statement. “I appreciate athletics director Beauregard’s trust and confidence. WMU is a special institution. My family and I are proud Broncos and we are excited to be part of the university in this new capacity. Success is a product of shared ownership. We will work together to represent the university in a first-class manner.”

Bates, a former point guard at the University of Florida under Lon Kruger, has also had stops as an administrative assistant at Illinois (1997), and as an assistant coach at both Jacksonville University (1998-2000) and Wright State (2010-2012.) This will be his first head coaching position, and his third stint in Kalamazoo. Bates was previously an assistant from 2000-2008, before leaving for a sabbatical year. He returned for one season before leaving for Wright State in 2010, returning after 2012.

“Clayton is the best person for the job at hand,” Beauregard said via prepared statement. “He brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience and he has a close bond with the young men on our team. They deserve this stability and clear direction for the program. At Western, we compete for a MAC Championship, and I know Coach Bates is eager to pursue that ambition.”

In an unusual step, the university release admitted the COVID-19 outbreak affected their ability to conduct a national coaching search, saying “Western Michigan has suspended new, external hires in order to comply with social distancing practices that ensure safety among the campus community.”

“I decided to change leadership of our program days before the COVID-19 crisis emerged. A comprehensive national search in this time of anxiety, despite exceedingly strong national interest in the position, just didn’t sit well with me,” Beauregard explained. “Our student athletes, and the whole program, is fortunate, in this difficult time, to have a strong leadership in Clayton Bates, a 20-year veteran of the program. I know that Coach Bates will do an excellent job leading these young men during the 2020-21 season.”

Bates’ base salary will be raised from $110,000 to $120,000 with the new promotion, with an additional $110,000 for multimedia obligations, for a total contract value of $220,000 per season.