The last time I saw Brian Wardle, I could imagine that he would be a Division I basketball coach some day. Just not this quickly.
Wardle, an assistant coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, was back home in the Chicago area scouting at a Rising Stars AAU event last summer at Joy of the Game in Deerfield. He is perhaps the only Bears fan living in Green Bay, but the Willowbrook native and former Hinsdale Central star was happy to be back in order to visit his parents and siblings, if only briefly on a recruiting stop.
But fortunes can change quickly. On Thursday, Wardle was named the new head coach at Green Bay to replace Tod Kowalcyzk, who left the Phoenix to become the head coach at Toledo. At 30, Wardle becomes the youngest Division I coach by 2 1/2 months over IPFW’s Dane Fife.
No kidding. It seems like only a few years ago Wardle led the Red Devils to back-to-back Class AA state quarterfinal trips to Peoria. I had to look it up. Turns out it was 1996-97, Hinsdale Central’s first state berths since 1972. Before 1972, Hinsdale Central last went to the state tournament in 1910 and won in 1909, but I’m sure it was only called Hinsdale High School then.
Wardle, who went on to play at Marquette, set a Class AA state tournament record by making eight three-pointers on 12 attempts in a 77-61 loss to Thornton on March 21, 1997, his final high school game. The Devils set a team record with 11 threes. Wardle scored 34 points in that game.
After the game, Thornton coach Rocky Hill said. “Wardle was shooting lasers out there, and my kids were doing a good job on him. Had he not made those shots, the margin of victory could have been much greater.”
That day, Wardle’s high school coach said: “Brian Wardle put on quite a show and I am really pleased for him. He has been a great player at Hinsdale; he is the best player to have gone through Hinsdale. If he was going to have to finish his career this is the best way I can think of for him to end his career, in the state tournament on the next to the last day of the season.”
His coach, Bob Mueller, would make headlines years later when he was sentenced in 2006 for criminal sexual assault against a pair of minors. Mueller is currently jailed at Stateville and is eligible for parole in 2034.
I knew Mueller when he was coaching at Hinsdale Central. I would believe that has to be very proud of Wardle today.
Green Bay’s press conference (above) introduces Wardle as its new coach.