UW-Green Bay officially introduces Sundance Wicks as men’s basketball coach | Green Bay Press Gazette
GREEN BAY – Sundance Wicks left no doubt about his passion to turn around the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball team while officially being introduced Wednesday as the ninth coach in program history.
It’s clear his vibrant personality and infectious energy will win every news conference he conducts during his tenure here.
It won’t matter much if it doesn’t translate to victories on the court, but UW-Green Bay believes it has found the person to do that after struggling to a 16-71 record over the past three seasons and firing Will Ryan as its coach less than three years into a six-year contract.
Wicks earned the job in a process that started with 17 candidates who received phone interviews. The list was narrowed to eight and finally cut to a final five that included former Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati coach John Brannen, Hillsdale College coach John Tharp, San Jose State assistant and former UW-Green Bay player Ben Johnson, and Fox Sports radio host and basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb.
UW-Green Bay athletic director Josh Moon was serving in the same position at NCAA Division II Northern State University when Wicks was an assistant there for two seasons from 2016 to 2018.
Moon hadn’t seen him much since Wicks left to become the head coach at DII Missouri Western for two seasons before landing at the University of Wyoming to be an assistant under Jeff Linder.
Yes, the energy and his bounce was the same. But the man he talked to during the interview process has reached a different level in a blossoming career.
“What I didn’t know is how much he has grown since the point I saw him in 2018,” Moon said. “Seeing how he’s been under a coach in Jeff Linder now who has done it at multiple levels, he has learned some things that I think he needed to do to get to this position, to be a Division I coach. Just some of those points he had, those pillars, refining that message is the biggest thing I saw that I didn’t know five years ago.”
Wicks has years of coaching experience at several stops, but he has been a head coach at the college level only one time.
His two-year record at Missouri Western doesn’t look inspiring at first glance. The team went 30-32 overall, including 19-19 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
But it was his second and final season that showed the potential Wicks has in turning around a struggling program.
The Griffons went 18-14 and boasted some all-conference talent. It was the most wins for the team in a decade.
Nobody will know how good Wicks is as a DI coach until he finally gets a crack at it.
That’s not exactly a new concept, at least in Green Bay. All eight coaches who came before Wicks also had no DI head coaching experience when they were hired by the Phoenix.
Ryan and Linc Darner before him both were fired, but others such as Brian Wardle and Tod Kowalczyk proved their coaching prowess and left for bigger jobs and more money.
And, of course, there is no better success story than Dick Bennett.
“It’s an art, not a science,” Moon said. “Look at San Diego State’s head coach (Brian Dutcher) right now. Look at how many years he was an assistant. Could he do the job? Clearly, he could do the job.
“Part of it is, you have to get back to what does the university, what does the program need? Seeing what happened at Missouri Western and how that completely flipped in the two years he was there, we need to do the same thing here. It’s not an exact science, but you have to have enough of the boxes checked that you feel this is the right leader for us.”
The first few weeks on the job have been a whirlwind for Wicks. It helps to have his wife, Courteney, a former star volleyball player at Minnesota State Mankato who is the undisputed MVP of a family that includes two young children.
She’s probably the only one who’s ever seen Wicks when he isn’t at 100% battery power.
“She is the one who gives energy to the energy giver,” Wicks said. “Her and the big man upstairs. She will look at me and sometimes go, ‘Hey, snap out of it.’ When an introvert tells you to snap out of it, you are like down there.
“We all have bad days. I just intentionally try to not have a down one. … At the end of the day, I have got to charge, man. I have got to lead, and I have got to lead from the front. I can’t let these guys see me back here moping.”
Wicks has spent his days putting together his coaching staff, which should be finalized soon.
He also immediately jumped into searching both the NCAA transfer portal and high schools to find players to replace the eight who entered the portal from UW-Green Bay, although the team is confident forward Clarence Cummings III will return.
Cummings was one of several players in attendance at Wicks’ news conference Wednesday at the Kress Center. It also included freshman guard Jack Rose.
“As of now, I’m planning to be here,” said Rose, who is the all-time leading scorer in Westosha Central history. “I like what Coach Wicks is about, what he plans to do with this program. I’m just going to take this April and really see what he wants from us and who is all going to be around.
“Being my freshman year and having a coaching change that soon, it’s definitely some adversity. But it’s an adversity I’m willing to face. It’s almost as if I hit the portal or I was going somewhere else, it’s a new coach. But being here, it cements that I know what Coach is about and everything he plans to help us with and get through with us.”
UW-Green Bay already landed Yorkville Christian (Illinois) senior guard David Douglas Jr.on Monday, the first of many dominos that will fall in the next month.
Wicks also wants to make a point to recruit his backyard, and it’s a good bet he’s interested in at least two future collegiate players who received offers from the old UW-Green Bay coaching staff — De Pere junior forward Will Hornseth and De Pere sophomore guard Zach Kinziger.
“There is so much talent around here,” Wicks said. “Part of this process is we have to make Green Bay appealing, too. They look at three wins and they go, ‘Well, maybe I will just go over here because I can plug and play and maybe I’m ready made and their culture is already set.’
“It’s a ‘Field of Dreams’ model here. If you build it, they will come. But, also, you have to go to the people. You have to go to the community. You have to go to the coaches. You have got to get out in the community, you have got to make sure they see you constantly trying to make sure that you don’t want them to leave. Then you have to do everything in your God-given power to help those guys understand they can build something locally that can mean more for them in the next 40 years of their life than just a four-year, let’s get our degree and see what happens.”