Now with three seasons under his belt as the head men's basketball coach at Green Bay, Brian Wardle has certainly placed his imprint in every facet of the program. With a roster of talented, high-character players that had gained experience against the Horizon League's toughest schedule the last two seasons, Wardle's vision for the program came to fruition in 2012-13.
Last season, Green Bay finished 18-16 overall and tied for third place in the Horizon League standings with a 10-6 record. The Phoenix won two conference tournament games for the first time 1998 before losing on a desperation three-pointer to top-seeded Valparaiso in the semifinals. After the season, which included a 49-47 win over BIG EAST champion Marquette on Dec. 19, Green Bay earned a berth into the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Wardle preached a motto of compete, defend and rebound when he was hired on April 15, 2010, and the 2012-13 team embodied this mission. In conference play, Green Bay led the Horizon League in rebounding margin, field goal percentage defense and blocked shots.
Several standout players have joined the program under Wardle's watch, including All-Horizon League big man Alec Brown. In his three seasons at Green Bay, Brown has been a two-time All-Region and All-League selection and has become one of just two players in Horizon League history to accumulate more than 1,200 points, 600 rebounds and 200 blocked shots. As a junior, the 7-foot-1 Brown continued to develop his skillset and shot 44 percent from long range in conference action.
Under Wardle's watch, Green Bay has also recruited Keifer Sykes, who was named to the All-Horizon League First Team as a sophomore in 2012-13. The point guard scored more points than any sophomore in program history and broke the school record for free throws made in a season. Jordan Fouse was the most recent Phoenix player to make an impact as a freshman. In 2012-13, Fouse became the first Horizon League freshman to lead the league in rebounding since 1995-96 and broke the Green Bay freshman records for rebounds and steals in a season. Along with Brown, Fouse was named to the Horizon League All-Defensive Team.
With Brown, Sykes and Fouse, Green Bay has had a player named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer team in each of Wardle's three seasons.
In 2011-12, Green Bay won its last five regular season games and eight of its last 11 contests overall to finish the season at 15-15. The Phoenix improved its overall win total and finished at 10-8 in the Horizon League. Green Bay's non-conference schedule ranked among the 10 toughest nationally as the Phoenix played road games against three NCAA Tournament teams - Marquette, Wisconsin and Virginia.
In 2010-11, during his first year at the helm of Green Bay's program, Wardle implemented a style focused on defense and rebounding, and his young team which started two freshmen on the frontline finished third in Horizon League play in field goal percentage defense while also outrebounding 12 of 18 league opponents.
Green Bay Director of Athletics Ken Bothof announced the hiring of Wardle as Green Bay's head men's basketball coach on April 15, 2010. Wardle, who at the time was the youngest active head coach in NCAA Division I basketball, is the sixth head coach ever to pilot in the Phoenix program.
Wardle, 34, had spent the previous five seasons as a Phoenix assistant coach from 2005-10 under Tod Kowalczyk. During his assistant coaching tenure, the Phoenix totaled 92 victories, an average of 18.4 wins per season. Among his duties, he served as the team's primary recruiting and player evaluation coach.
With a 44-24 (.647) record in his final two years as an assistant, the Phoenix made back-to-back appearances in the College Basketball Invitational, the program's first postseason trips since 1996. The 24 Horizon League wins during that stretch were the most in back-to-back years dating back to 1995-96 and 1996-97.
In addition, Green Bay defeated a pair of nationally-ranked teams, knocking off No. 11 Butler on Feb. 2, 2009, and 20th-ranked Wisconsin on Dec. 9, 2009. The two top-25 victories were as many as the Phoenix program had in its previous 27 seasons as a Division I member.
In the 2008-09 campaign, the Phoenix collected 22 victories, its highest total in more than a decade, and finished as runner-up in the Horizon League regular season race with a 13-5 mark. Following the season, Wardle was a finalist in the "Rising Stars" category of the BasketballScoop Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Other recent honors include being ranked 14th in HoopScoop's top 50 mid-major assistant coaches and as a "Super Six Assistant" in attracting Chicago talent by City/Suburban Hoops Report.
During his time at Green Bay, Wardle developed five players--Mike Schachtner, Ryan Tillema, Terry Evans, Troy Cotton and Rahmon Fletcher-who reached the 1,000-point plateau. Tillema and Fletcher each claimed first-team All-Horizon League honors, while Schachtner was a two-time second-team performer.
Wardle came to the Phoenix after two years as director of basketball operations at his alma mater of Marquette University (2003-04, 2004-05), where he worked under his college coach, Tom Crean. The Golden Eagles earned National Invitation Tournament berths both years, and reached the quarterfinals of the postseason event in 2004.
A pair of current NBA players, Travis Diener and Steve Novak, played for Marquette during Wardle's time on staff. Prior to accepting the Green Bay job, he spent the final three months of his Marquette tenure as an assistant coach.
Wardle currently ranks as the school's seventh all-time leading scorer with 1,690 career points. He averaged double figures all four years from 1997-98 through 2000-01, and led the Golden Eagles in scoring in each of his final three seasons in Milwaukee. Wardle also ranks among the school's all-time top 10 in 3-point field goals made (197) and free throw percentage (.811).
During his collegiate career, Wardle helped guide the Golden Eagles to a pair of National Invitation Tournament appearances (1998, 2000) and was voted team captain each of his last two seasons. As a senior at Marquette, Wardle was mentored by Crean, who is now the head coach at Indiana University, and Kowalczyk, the current University of Toledo head coach.
He tossed in a career-high 18.8 points per game his senior year to rank second in Conference USA. Following the season, he captured first-team all-conference honors, becoming the first Marquette player to be such honored. Wardle was also chosen to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 11 second team. During his freshman season, he was named the C-USA Sixth Man of the Year and also was tabbed to the all-freshman team.
Wardle graduated from Marquette with a bachelor's degree in communication studies in 2001 and was a Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll member each of his final three seasons. In addition, he received Marquette's 2000 Hank Raymonds Sportsmanship Award and the 2001 McCahill Leadership Award.
Following his graduation, Wardle played one season in the National Basketball Association Developmental League for Fayetteville (Ark.) and one with Rockford (Ill.) of the Continental Basketball Association.
A Willowbrook, Ill., native, Wardle was a two-time all-state selection for Hinsdale Central High School, where he ranks as the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He led the Red Devils to a 55-7 record over his final two years and was an honorable mention selection on the USA Today All-USA Team.
Wardle is married to the former Lecia Schuetz, a soccer student-athlete during her collegiate career at Marquette. The couple has two daughters, Mya and Emery and a son, Davin.
THE BRIAN WARDLE FILE
Born: October 9, 1979 in Willlowbrook, Ill.
Family: Wife: Lecia; daughters: Mya and Emy
Education: B.S., Communication Studies, Marquette University, 2001
Director of Operations, Marquette (2003-05)
Assistant Coach, Green Bay (2005-2010)
Head Coach, Green Bay (2010-present)
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT BRIAN WARDLE
Tom Crean, Indiana University Head Coach
"I think Green Bay hit another home run with the hiring of Brian Wardle. Getting to coach Brian for two years, the first thing that I noticed was what kind of leader he was. He was nothing short of spectacular in that department - from the time he was a player to when he was a valuable member of our staff. He has an energy and a passion about him with an attitude that makes those around him better."
Fran Fraschilla, ESPN College Basketball Analyst
"This is a great hire for the Phoenix. I expect Brian to make the same seamless transition from assistant coach to head coach as he did from his playing days to getting into the coaching profession. The attributes that made him a terrific player - toughness, competitveness and being fundamentally sound - were his hallmarks as a player and they'll be the cornerstones of Green Bay's teams under Brian."
Darrin Horn, Former University of South Carolina Head Coach
"Green Bay has hired a rising star in our business with Brian Wardle. Brian will bring energy, a relentless work ethic and the ability to grind just like he did as a player and as an assistant coach. He'll be a tremendous asset to the school and will be able to rally fan support, especially students, with his outgoing personality."
Brad Stevens, Butler University Head Coach
"Congratulations to both Brian and Green Bay. Brian has done a great job as an assistant coach in the Horizon League, and I'm really happy for him that he has been promoted to head coach."
Tod Kowalczyk, University of Toledo Head Coach
"Green Bay absolutely hired the best coach for that job. Brian wants to be in Green Bay and wants to do a great job there. He has a tremendous work ethic, great integrity and a true passion for the game. He is a tireless recruiter and has great basketball knowledge. His focus and determination will help elevate that program."