As with any coaching search in college basketball, rumors run rampant with names and guesses. The vacancy at Bradley was no different.
But Bradley athletic director Chris Reynolds, who has been on the job for less than a couple of weeks, actually found a way to land both the best name –– and coach –– for a program in desperate need of good news.
The good news has come in the hiring of former Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle, with a press conference set for Saturday in Peoria. This is a hire that should excite the Bradley fan base.
Wardle, a former City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year in 1997 as a high school star at Hinsdale Central, led Wisconsin-Green Bay to 48 wins the past two seasons and a pair of NIT berths –– the first NIT appearances in over 20 years.
When it comes to recruiting, Wardle has very strong ties in the state of Illinois and has been ultra-effective in recruiting the state. He’s a familiar name and face around the city and suburbs of Chicago, so expect a steady pipeline from the Chicago area to Peoria in coming years.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report has always thought highly of Wardle. In 2008 he was named to the Hoops Report’s original “Super Six,” a list of six assistant coaches who works and recruits the state of Illinois at the highest level.
Said the Hoops Report article of Wardle, who was an assistant at UW-Green Bay, in that 2008 story, “Wardle is not going to be outworked by anyone. There isn’t an out-of-state college coach that spends more time cultivating the Chicago area. Ask a prospect who is on them and Wisconsin-Green Bay is at the tip of their tongue.”
Nothing changed when he took over as head coach at UW-Green Bay in 2010. He’s landed numerous high school players from Illinois, including star Kiefer Sykes of Marshall.
Wardle, who played collegiately at Marquette, compiled a 95-64 record in his five seasons at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Last season he led the Phoenix to the program’s first conference championship since 1996.
This is a young, charismatic coach with a presence. He doesn’t overcomplicate things and his teams and program are an extension of the way he played and competed as a player. And for a head coach, Wardle is a workhorse and grinder. He’s confident in his player-development ability.
All of that will be a huge boost for a Bradley program that has really struggled. The win totals have dropped as the Braves were 21-44 the past two seasons and 58-106 over the last five years. But more disturbing is attendance has continued to plummet for a program that has such a strong, loyal fan base and support.
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