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Green Bay AD looking to fill hoops opening around mid-March

Josh Moon
Josh Moon has been the Green Bay Director of Athletics since July 2021. Finding the right head coach to take over the men’s basketball program will be Moon’s biggest hire to date. Greg Bates photo

By Greg Bates

Sports Editor

GREEN BAY – Josh Moon has a crystal clear vision of where he wants the Green Bay men’s basketball program to be next season: at the top of the Horizon League standings.

Green Bay’s Director of Athletics knows what happens in the next month will have a monumental impact on the future of Phoenix basketball.

Green Bay is in the process of finding its next basketball coach after Will Ryan was let go on Jan. 24 after posting a 15-67 record in two-plus seasons at the helm.

Moon — who was hired by Green Bay in July 2021 — has a passion to get the Phoenix program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

“It is important to this region — it’s a sports-loving, basketball-loving region. It’s Titletown, so GB basketball’s a really important part of that,” said Moon, who sat down with The Press Times on Feb. 9. “Men’s and women’s basketball should be the flagship programs that are driving the brand for UW-Green Bay. GB basketball should be one of the best mid-major programs around.”

Moon said letting Ryan go with just one-third of the season remaining was the right time for two main reasons.

“We needed a spark. We needed a change in terms of the voice for the student-athletes in terms of where they needed to perform — obviously, from the day-to-day pieces, but just in terms of the energy and the focus of what we needed to do right now, so that was one piece,” Moon said. “Number two, would be to give us time to lay everything out and make sure we weren’t scrambling kind of last minute, that we were the first school out of the gate here in the country. So mapping out exactly what we need and then rally in the community and people to invest in the program. We need people’s help right now to invest with us not just financially, but just be a part of this — buy season tickets and be a part of the solution, so that will give us more time to do that.”

Assistant coach Freddie Owens was assigned as the interim head coach when Ryan was fired. He has a 1-5 record (through Feb. 15) since taking over.

The last 10 games of the regular season along with the postseason conference tournament could be an audition for Owens, if he’s interested in permanently taking the head coaching position.

Parker Executive Search out of Atlanta is running the coaching search and the position was just posted the first full week of February, so it’s early in the process.

“We’re just finalizing some stuff with our search firm and then getting our group together and then full steam ahead the next two, three week-ish is kind of the plan,” Moon said. 

The search for a new coach is completely open, but Moon certainly has some ideas on what his ideal candidate looks like.

“We’re looking for someone that embraces this community and can get embedded in this community, because it’s really important that there’s connections, relationships are really important here in northeastern Wisconsin,” Moon said. “So someone that understands that and embraces that, and then a proven track record of a strong culture for a program. Every little detail that goes into a successful program, we want to see a plan of what that looks like and how do they manage everything knowing that we’re not a Big Ten school, we don’t have 15 people on the bench, so you’ve got to be more efficient, you’ve got to be higher energy and have a better plan than our competition.”

Moon calls the men’s basketball opening an attractive position even though the program could have the fewest number of wins in its tenure as a Division I sport. In the 1984-85 season, Green Bay won four games.

“We’ve got a lot of interest, this is an attractive place to live,” Moon said. “It’s awesome. I think this is a really good job and just look at the history and tradition of people that have been in here before from the coaching and then from the players’ standpoint. There’s awesome success and a lot of school’s would love to have the success that this program’s had, going back from the Division II days to Division I with five NCAA Tournament appearances, it kind of speaks for itself, multiple NBA guys. The tradition and history is really good, so people need to respect that and that’s where this program deserves to be.”

Even though it’s early in the process, Moon noted that he received around 50 calls from throughout the United States in the first few days of the posting from individuals interested in learning more about the position.

“There’s lots of interest, which is great,” Moon said. “There’s people from all over the country, people that have ties, people that don’t have ties, people in the profession, people outside the profession. The good news is we’ve got a good pool, we’ve just got to build that base program here so we can be attractive when it gets down to like, ‘Well, I’m interested, but what does the whole picture look like?’ We’ve got to make that whole picture really attractive.”

One way Green Bay is going to make the men’s basketball position more attractive is by raising its salaries for the head coach and his assistants.

When Linc Darner was fired in May 2020 after going 92-80 in five seasons, he was making $230,000 per year. Ryan signed a six-year deal in June 2020 worth $175,000 per year.

“We’re working on that and we’re going to be more competitive, we know that for sure,” Moon said. “So we know we have to pay what the market is demanding to get those quality coaches. We’ll work through that once we get to kind of the final stages of the search here. We know we’re going to have to be more competitive than where we’ve been.”

Moon and Green Bay also need to be attractive for the student-athletes that are currently playing at the university.

After the 2021-22 season, 11 Phoenix men’s basketball players either transferred out or were released from the program. With a new coach coming on board — and the present-day NCAA transfer rules having created a real “Wild West” scenario across college basketball — current Green Bay players have the opportunity to transfer from the school with zero repercussions.

“When I talked to [the players the day Ryan was let go], I just told them, let’s just focus on the next 11 games that we had and give it everything you have in the classroom and obviously in competition and then everything on a daily basis that you’re making good decisions and that you’re pouring yourself into these areas right now,” Moon said. “We’ll figure it out after the season’s done, new head coach, you can sit down, where’s the fit, all those questions will get answered. Right now, their focus is just on [the next game] and the next couple weeks. How can we finish strong, and then we’ll answer those questions at a later date.”

Moon — who grew up in Wautoma, just 100 miles from the Green Bay campus — wants the Phoenix program to keep homegrown talent from leaving the area.

“We’ve got to make sure that we get the best talent to stay home here and make it attractive for them to stay home and make it an easy decision for them,” Moon said. “We can’t miss on those high school kids. Then finding the transfers that maybe are from the Valley. There’s been a lot of talent that have transferred somewhere, but they haven’t transferred to GB, so we have to get those kids.”

With its recent struggles, there has been plenty of chatter swirling around various social media sites that the Green Bay men’s basketball program should drop from Division I to Division III. Moon wants to squash any sort of rumors about that scenario.

“There’s no doubt we’re staying Division I, so that shouldn’t be any question from anybody that the institution has made this one of the six priorities of the institution,” Moon said. “Sustainable Division I athletics is critical and critical to where the university’s going, so Division I athletics is critical to that vision.”

When it comes to hiring the new men’s basketball coach, once Moon identifies his top candidate, he will bring a recommendation to UW-Green Bay Chancellor Dr. Michael Alexander for approval.

The timeline for Moon to have a new coach in place is approaching quickly.

“It’s pretty clear that early March, mid-March range is where we need to be,” Moon said. “The [transfer] portal opens up around then, so we’ve got to be cognizant of that time period because that’s a real deadline, I guess, in terms of you don’t necessarily need to have it right on March 14 when the portal opens, but you want to be in that ballpark of where it is.

“But, again, you’re talking about coaches who are coaching their teams currently and balancing all that stuff. So we don’t know exactly what that date looks like, but we know it has to be sometime in March.”

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