Basketball

Melanie Moore, Jillian Dunston hired as assistant coaches


After three members of its staff departed, the Michigan women’s basketball team needed to fill two assistant coach positions.

To do so, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico enlisted two familiar faces to the program, former assistant coach Melanie Moore and former player Jillian Dunston.

Moore is back after departing Michigan following seven seasons as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator from 2012 to 2019 to take a head coach position at Xavier.

“(Moore) was so instrumental in helping elevate this program to the level it is at today,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said in a statement. “She helped recruit and develop one of the most successful classes in Michigan women’s basketball history. Mel is one of the best in the business at coaching the post position, recruiting and working with Michigan greats like Naz Hillmon and Hallie Thome.”

This year, Michigan had to adapt and focus on play away from the paint following the departure of Hillmon. But Moore’s return could reintegrate its roots of post play that laid the foundation for past success, including the 2017 NIT championship during Moore’s first stint with the Wolverines. In a conference where great post players are often crucial to success, Moore’s return could prove instrumental in the Wolverines’ pursuit of an ever-elusive Big Ten Championship.

“My family and I are ecstatic to be heading back to Michigan, a place we called home for seven amazing years,” Moore said in a statement. “… Michigan women’s basketball is an elite program, and I am excited to build on their past success and win championships with these amazing student-athletes.”

Dunston, meanwhile, returns to the Wolverines following a three-year stint as an assistant coach at Drexel, where she gained valuable experience and was named one of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Thirty Under 30 honorees. 

“She is one of the best to ever wear the Block ‘M’ and embodies everything our program stands for,” Barnes Arico said in a statement. “She is a rising star in this business and her work ethic as a coach matches what she brought to the court every single day. I am so happy to have her energy and personality back with us in Ann Arbor.”

A forward for Michigan from 2014 to 2018, Dunston graduated with 862 rebounds, good for second all-time in the program. She excelled on the boards and defensively, and her hiring signifies a renewed focus on defense and rebounding, two areas this season the Wolverines showed they have room for growth.

In the post-Hillmon era, Michigan said repeatedly that it needed to be an elite defensive team and be elite rebounders. When they lost the rebounding battle or got locked in a shootout, the Wolverines rarely found success. Dunston’s hiring demonstrates Michigan’s commitment to improving in those areas, especially following the departure of graduate forward Emily Kiser.

“I have so much gratitude for this opportunity to return to my alma mater,” Dunston said in a statement. “… Now that I am on the coaching side of things, I am excited to join Coach Arico on staff and overjoyed to be able to learn from her.”

With the return of two people familiar with Michigan’s culture and roots — two coaches who have worked together before, back when Moore was Dunston’s coach in the paint — Michigan looks to continue building a consistent contender.

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