Wicks hired as Green Bay men’s basketball coach
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Green Bay Director of Athletics Josh Moon got his guy.
Moon hired Sundance “Sunny” Wicks as the new Phoenix men’s basketball coach on Tuesday.
The two have a solid connection that started 10 years ago. The duo worked together when Moon was the Northern State University athletic director and Wicks the men’s basketball associate head coach from 2016-18.
Wicks’ most recent coaching stint was at the University of Wyoming where he spent the last three seasons as the assistant coach.
“I am absolutely humbled and honored to be called on to lead the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball program into its next era,” said Wicks.
The 42-year-old Wicks steps into a Green Bay program that is coming off a 3-29 season in which coach Will Ryan was fired 21 games in with a 2-19 record. Interim coach Freddie Owens closed out the season by losing 10 of 11 contests.
The Phoenix terminated Ryan’s contract in the middle of his third season of a five-year deal.
Wicks will sign a five-year contract with the specifics of the deal yet to be announced.
“I’m excited,” Moon told The Press Times. “He’s going to bring an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, that’s for sure. That’s a quote I think Jim Harbaugh said, but that’s probably an accurate description of him.”
When the Green Bay coaching job opened up, Wicks jumped at the opportunity to be a Division I head coach.
“I think it’s important that you’re going to work with people that you have a relationship with, in my opinion. And that’s what intrigued me, number one, was that Josh was the athletic director — I’ve been around his leadership style,” Wicks told The Press Times. “I know his leadership skills. He helped transform my alma mater back into a powerhouse, helped build amazing facilities, got all the athletic programs to a point where they’re competing for championships year in and year out. Basically brought Titletown back to Aberdeen, S.D. When we went to the national championship that year in 2017-18, he’s a big part of that, because of the relentless work that he put in to build that program back to where it needed to be. … I think you can get things done quicker and more efficiently when you have great teamwork, you have great chemistry, you have great synergy with your boss.”
Another reason Wicks, who is a Gillette, Wy., native, went after the Green Bay gig is he’s a college basketball history buff, and he loves the past that the Phoenix program has had.
“It’s a funny story, Jeff Nordgaard’s uncle lived in Gillette, Wy., and I modeled how I shot after Jeff Nordgaard,” Wicks said. “There’s a little history there that dates way back to the early ’90s. Then Dick Bennett, when I played for coach (Don) Meyer, he taught true motion offense and a lot of that is modeled after Dick Bennett’s blocker mover offense. So I’ve been around that history and tradition of Green Bay unknowingly for almost all my life. All you have to do is walk down those halls and understand how proud that place is, what it means to be part of the Phoenix.
“To be honest, you don’t go to places that don’t have a rich history or tradition. Green Bay has won before, we’ll win again. It’s just a little dormant right now. It’s dormant; it’s not dead. I’m a run-into-the-fire type of guy, so I want that challenge. I want to be a part of that process. I want to build the belief back up to where people are talking and putting their schedules around when the Green Bay Phoenix play.”
Prior to Wicks’ three-year stint at Wyoming — where he helped guide the Cowboys to the NCAA Tournament in 2021-22 — he spent the two seasons at his alma mater, Northern State as the associate head coach in 2016-18.
Wicks was the Missouri Western State University head coach 2018-20 where he had a record of 30-32.
Wicks had assistant coach stints at the University of San Francisco (2015-16), Northern Illinois University (2007-11) and the University of Colorado (2006-07). He was a graduate assistant at Northern State (2004-06) after graduating from the college in 2003.
Wicks prides himself on his relentless work ethic and his ability to connect with folks in the community; he’s bringing those valuable skills to Green Bay.
Moon and a search committee had narrowed down the field to five candidates last week. Wicks and the other candidates all came to Green Bay for in-person interviews. Moon had the field down to three before meeting with UW-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander to make the hiring decision.
Moon said Wicks was the ideal candidate for the job for a number of reasons.
“I think when we looked at it it’s, what do we need right now? We need, obviously, somebody who can move the needle for us that’s a transitional leader, he is that person,” Moon said. “His energy’s second to none. The ability to connect with people is going to be amazing, and then just how to connect and build deep relationships with student-athletes with recruits and with athletes on the basketball team is his strength.”
Prior to Wicks being named the new Green Bay coach, two starters from this year’s team — sophomore guard Zae Blake and sophomore forward Clarence Cummings III — had entered their name in the NCAA transfer portal. Moon said on Tuesday those two are the only players he was aware of that have departed the program since the season ended two weeks ago.
After accepting the job early afternoon on Tuesday, Wicks was going to have a digital meeting with his new players. He planned on telling his guys what to expect with him stepping in.
“They all deserve a choice to do what they want to do, they feel is best for them,” Wicks said. “I’ll just tell them, ‘You have the right to do what’s best for you. I’m going to tell you what I’m about and I’m going to tell you what we’re going to be about, and then you can choose if you want to be a part of that or not.’ I really am big on, you gotta believe it before you see it. If you don’t believe it, then it’s probably not going to be right.”
Wicks’ philosophy of building a roster is pretty straightforward.
“To me, it’s recruit locally,” he said. “If you can get the right kids in your backyard, you don’t need to go anywhere else. But you have to get the right kids in the backyard, I think that we’ve got a pretty good recruiting class coming in, to be honest with you. I’m really excited about those guys.”
Wicks will also weed his way through the transfer portal, which opened on March 13, to see if he can bring in any players that would fit his style.
Wicks wants his roster to be filled with solid student-athletes that want to play at Green Bay. The new coach will be relentless in his pursuit to get the Phoenix program back to its winning ways.
“You can’t relax when you want something to be great,” Wicks said. “We’re going to fight for our culture. We’re going to fight for the program. We’re to fight for the community. We’re going to fight for Titletown, man, every single day.”