Wyoming’s Sundance Wicks is new UW-Green Bay men’s basketball coach | Green Bay Press-Gazette
Sundance Wicks eager to rebuild UWGB men’s basketball program after being named new head coach
(This story was also covered in: Press Times)
GREEN BAY – The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball team has found its new leader.
The school hired Sundance Wicks on Tuesday after he spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Wyoming.
Wicks and UWGB athletic director Josh Moon already have a good relationship. Moon was the AD at NCAA Division II Northern State University in South Dakota for almost a decade before arriving in Green Bay, and Wicks graduated from the school and was the associate head coach there for two seasons.
He was one of five finalists for the opening, a list that included former Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati coach John Brannen, Hillsdale College coach John Tharp, San Jose State assistant and former UWGB player Ben Johnson, and Fox Sports radio host and basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb.
Wicks will bring passion, energy to UW-Green Bay
Phoenix fans can count on at least one thing with their new coach. He doesn’t lack passion or energy to turn around a program that has badly struggled the last few seasons.
He is grateful for the opportunity to lead his own program at the DI level.
“I mean, there are 363 of them in the United States of America, right? Wicks said. “These are one-in-a-million, win-the-lottery type of opportunities. You can’t state how humbled and grateful I am because you don’t know what this means to be able to lead in this position.
“It’s a remarkable thing. I think gratitude is the biggest thing that comes to mind. There are a lot of coaches out there who work really, really hard. Everyone in the profession understands how hard it is to get to this point.”
Wicks was in Green Bay last Thursday night and Friday for another round of interviews after being one of more than a dozen candidates when the process started.
Wicks has made a lot of stops at Division I, II
He has plenty of experience at both the DI and DII levels.
Along with stops at Northern State and Wyoming, he has coached at Colorado (2006-07), Northern Illinois (2007-11) and San Francisco (2015-16).
It led to a head coaching job for two seasons at Missouri Western, where Wicks went 30-32, before he joined Wyoming.
He also is credited with building the Arizona Power Basketball Academy and served as a skill instructor and director from 2011 to 2015. Before that, he spent five months training future NBA players, including Kawhi Leonard, at Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas.
Wicks is prepared to jump right into his new job. He planned to speak to the current Phoenix players soon, not to mention the NCAA transfer portal is open for business.
“This is what we signed up for, this is the job,” Wicks said. “I thrive on chaos. I love it. You have to in this profession. The landscape changes. If you think about the last three years, from COVID to transfer portal to NIL, college basketball has been flipped on its head. You have to be able to adapt. It’s adapt or die.
“For me, I love this. It’s what I’m built for. I love this process of putting together teams. I think that’s the most important part of this. Being the best team on our schedule. There maybe are talent things you can evaluate, but at the end of the day, if that team loves each other, if that team is connected at a high level and you put the right roster together, magical things can happen.”
Wicks isn’t daunted by rebuild at UW-Green Bay
UWGB is coming off the worst season in program history after finishing 3-29 and going 15-61 in 2½ seasons under former coach Will Ryan before he was fired in January.
Wicks isn’t daunted by the task of attempting to turn a program around, and he doesn’t believe it has to take years for it to happen.
“I’m a run-into-the-fire type of guy,” Wicks said. “That’s me, man. There is a burning building, let’s go save some lives. People might look at this and say, ‘Oh, this might take some time.’
“Our job isn’t to sit there and say it’s going to be an X amount of years. Our job is to go in there and create belief, create culture, create connection to the tradition and the history that has been there before. There have been people who have won. (Brian) Wardle. (Tod) Kowalczyk. (Dick) Bennett. (Mike) Heideman. Linc (Darner). They won. You can win in Green Bay. That’s not a question. Culture doesn’t take four years to build. It takes belief, it takes people who believe in the mission and the vision. That can be built sooner rather than later.”
So, how did he get the name Sundance?
Wicks didn’t sound surprised when asked perhaps the most important question about himself or his résumé. It wasn’t the first time somebody has inquired about that unique first name.
There is a long story he can share about how Sundance came to be, but the short version still is pretty entertaining.
He believes it happens when your mother has a crush on Robert Redford, who played the Sundance Kid in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
But it gets deeper.
He was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, but was raised in Gillette, Wyoming. Halfway between the two locations is Sundance, Wyoming.
It was Sundance sparkling wine. Sundance cigarettes. His father even moved the family to a place called Sundance Ranch.
How could he not be named Sundance?
Perhaps the name will become quite popular in Green Bay if Wicks can help put the Phoenix back on the basketball map.
He arrives determined to do that, and to prove Moon made the right choice in picking him.
“I have said this to Josh and the search committee, there is no one who is going to respect and work harder at this job than me for Josh,” Wicks said. “I know how big of a deal this is for everybody in this community, for him, for the committee, for anyone who has ever been associated with UWGB and the Phoenix. The alumni, the players, the past coaches, the tradition and history that is there.
“I know how important it is, but I especially know how important it is for Josh. There is one guy who doesn’t want to let him down. That’s me.”