I have to admit, I didnâ€™t think Green Bay athletic director Ken Bothof was going to stay in house for the mens basketball head coaching job.
When coach Kowalczyk left Green Bay for greener (as in greenbacks) pastures I was sure that the Phoenix would go after a true Wisconsin man. That man, at least in my mind, was Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard. Gard would have been a â€˜safeâ€™ pick because when it comes to basketball in Wisconsin, you canâ€™t argue with Bo Ryan.
Instead Mr. Bothof did what everybody in the Horizon League is doing these days. He hired a thirty-something assistant coach with no previous head coaching experience. It worked for Butler and Brad Stevens and Wright State went that route by hiring Billy Donlon.
Coach Wardle does have Wisconsin ties. He was an excellent player at Marquette in the early 2000s and served as their director of basketball operations from 2003-2005. Since then he has been an assistant at Green Bay.
Expect a lot of energy from the sidelines and a more aggressive defense from the Phoenix this upcoming season. Wardle is going to need to find some size up front with the graduation of Pat Nelson and Randy Berry and the possible departures of Matt Smith and Rian Pearson.
Challenges are nothing new for Brian Wardle and expect his teams to meet them head on.
To quote LeVar Burton: "Donâ€™t take my word for it." Hereâ€™s my conversation with coach Wardle on what to expect from his team, his coaching philosophy, and possibly being grounded by the elder statesman of the Horizon League, Valparaiso head coach Homer Drew.