By: Brian Dickmann
Photo: Adam Billmann
Brian Wardle will be the next head coach at Bradley University, the school announced Friday evening.
He will replace Geno Ford, who was recently fired after compiling a 46-86 record in four years at Bradley. The Braves are coming off a 9-24 season in which they finished last in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Wardle will be introduced at a press conference this evening on the Bradley campus in Peoria, IL.
He was mentioned among 5 potential candidates for the position, including Michigan State assistant and former IPFW head coach Dane Fife, former Indiana and current Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis, recently fired Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, and South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy.
While on the surface it may seem like a lateral move at best to move from a winning Horizon League program like Green Bay to a team that has finished below .500 in 4 of the last 5 seasons and hasn't finished in the top half of the MVC since 2009-2010, Bradley offers an increase in competition as well as a return to Wardle's home state of Illinois.
“It’s an honor to be the next head coach at Bradley,” Wardle said in a statement. “Being from Illinois and understanding the program’s success, tradition, and support was a real draw for me. I am excited to bring my family to Peoria, getting to know the community and building a foundation and identity for Bradley Basketball to last a long time.”
There's also the money. Geno Ford was making basically triple that of Wardle with a base salary of $700,000 that could have escalated to $900,000 with incentives. Bradley is committed to men's basketball, spending the 2nd most in the Missouri Valley Conference behind only Wichita State. Their $3.8 million in 2013 is more than double that of Green Bay's $1.4 million.
Wardle signed a new 5-year contract last April with the Phoenix after leading the program to its first Horizon League regular season championship since 1996. The extension included a bump in base pay up to $230,000 with other possible incentive-based increases. He earned a $3,000 bonus for reaching the NIT this season which could've gone up to $10,000 had the Phoenix reached the semi-finals.
He was 95-65 in five seasons as head coach at Green Bay, leading the Phoenix to NIT bids the past two seasons.
“We are committed to a men’s basketball program that competes for championships, succeeds in the classroom, and represents our University and community in a positive light, on and off the court,” Green Bay athletic director Mary Ellen Gillespie said in a statement. “Green Bay basketball has a strong tradition and our next coach will build upon that tradition and take our program to the next level."
As for a list of possible replacements, the Green Bay Press-Gazette lists "St. Norbert College coach and former Phoenix player Gary Grzesk, Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard, UW- Stevens Point head coach Bob Semling, Cardinal Stritch University head coach Drew Diener, and University of Washington assistant T.J. Otzleberger."
Also, Green Bay associate head coach Brian Barone told the Press-Gazette he is interested in the position, saying, "I love it here in Green Bay. I would love the job. I'm proud of what we have done here. I think we can continue to do well."
By: Brian Dickmann
Photo: Ryan Napralla
Phoenix fans everywhere got some good news back on March 9th when Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District board members voted to approve $450,000 in spending to go towards a new scoreboard for the Resch Center.
The current scoreboard, built in 2001, is the original scoreboard from when the arena opened back in 2002.
The video board is blurry and hard to see as the technology is clearly behind the times.
"Our system is outdated. It was purchased five years before the iPhone was invented," Ken Wachter, president of PMI Entertainment Group which operates the Resch Center, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
“We actually can’t replace parts now, the equipment is out of date,” Wachter said. "So we need HD. Everything will be HD.”
Part of PMI's successful pitch to land the WIAA state high school girl's basketball tournament in Green Bay included the promise of an updated scoreboard.
The new video board, which would be owned by Brown County, is expected to cost anywhere from $1.8 million to $2 million. PMI anticipates contributing $200,000 to $400,000 towards the purchase, which coupled with the Stadium Board's contribution still leaves Brown County on the hook for over $1 million.
"We still have to have the County fund their portion of the scoreboard,” Wachter said. “You saw people from the County here speaking on behalf of a new scoreboard, so that’s the final piece of the puzzle.”
It is not known when the Brown County board will vote on the issue.
According to Fox 11 WLUK-TV, the scoreboard is expected to be installed this summer.
By: Brian Dickmann | 03-15-15
Photo via Instagram
Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone discussed conference expansion, among other things, during his annual press conference at the conference tournament in Valparaiso.
The conference has been at 9 members since the defections of Butler in 2012 and Loyola in 2013 and the subsequent addition of Oakland.
Expansion rumors have been common among fans clamoring for the league to add another basketball oriented school in order to assist with scheduling and increase the probability of receiving multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament.
LeCrone said the Horizon League is being proactive as far as making an addition to the conference and that the league has moved into an active phase regarding conference expansion, noting that a year ago they were in more of a "study" phase.
He suggested that membership is a key strategy that he and the rest of the conference administrators are currently involved with, but also was unwilling to say just how many schools the league was looking to add.
"Membership has to be a strategy for us," the commissioner said. "It has to be, in my opinion, a proactive strategy. But it does transcend a number. That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring a number. A number is part of it. But it’s also about fit. It’s about a financial fit, about a competitive fit, about a sport fit, about a geographic fit, about a travel fit, it’s about an alignment fit, a values fit."
"I think we know what we need to know right now about potential candidates and we’re now in an active phase."
By: Brian Dickmann | 03-10-15
Photo: Joe Raymond / AP
For the third year in a row, the Green Bay Phoenix had their NCAA Tournament hopes dashed in devastating fashion at the Horizon League Tournament. And for the second time in three years, it happened in Valparaiso, Indiana.
The Valparaiso Crusaders (28-5) advanced to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Horizon League Championship on Tuesday night over Green Bay 54-44, adding to the growing list of heartbreaking losses Phoenix fans have experienced over the past 3 seasons.
There was the gut-wrenching buzzer-beater loss at Valpo two years ago in the Horizon League semi-finals and the soul-crushing overtime loss at home in the semi-finals a season ago against in-state rival Milwaukee. But Tuesday night's loss might be the most difficult to swallow.
It was Green Bay (24-8), on the road and playing in their first championship game since 1998, who jumped out to an early lead in front of a near sellout crowd of 4,713 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Phoenix led by 10 with 2:00 left in the first half before a quick four point spurt by the Crusaders cut the lead to six before the halftime buzzer as Green Bay led 25-19 at the break.
Green Bay led for more than 30 of the game's 40 minutes. The Phoenix were able to extend the lead to start the second half before the bottom fell out when Valparaiso's Keith Carter hit a three pointer to put the Crusaders up for good with 8:40 left to play.
"It's a game of runs and a game of momentum," head coach Brian Wardle said after the game. "We just couldn't get over that hump of momentum. It takes making some shots."
Making shots is something Green Bay was not able to do in the second half. The Phoenix shot just 7-28 (25%) from the floor in the period, including a miserable 1-11 (9.1%) from three point land. They even struggled from the free throw line, making just 4-9 (44.4%) attempts in the second half.
"That's not going to get it done on the road against a team like Valpo," Wardle said. "It just isn't."
The Crusaders applied pressure, forcing bad shots and creating turnovers. Green Bay was still in the game despite poor shooting, but 9 second half turnovers sealed the Phoenix fate. Valparaiso scored 17 points off turnovers in the period.
The Phoenix scored just 6 points in the game's final 12:23 and didn't have a field goal in the final 4:19.
"I really thought we would come back and win that game, to be quite honest," said Wardle. "We cut it to 4 and I felt really good about our chances and then, you know, turnovers. We'd get a stop, come down, turn it over, which led to a layup or dunk or a foul."
"Overall, it comes down to us just taking better care of the basketball."
Keifer Sykes led the scoring for Green Bay with 14 points on 5-15 shooting. Alfonzo McKinnie scored 9 points and Greg Mays finished with 7 points on 3-13 shooting. Junior guard Carrington Love was solid on the defensive end with a career high 5 steals, but finished with 5 points on just 1-10 shooting from the floor and 3-6 from the free throw line.
"Sometimes you have an off night," Wardle said. "We had an off 12 minutes today."