Crucial offseason begins for UWGB men's basketball after loss in Horizon League tournament

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UWGB forward Cade Meyer scored 10 points in the Phoenix's loss to Wright State in the opening round of the Horizon League tournament Tuesday.
UWGB forward Cade Meyer scored 10 points in the Phoenix's loss to Wright State in the opening round of the Horizon League tournament Tuesday.

That’s a wrap for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball season, one almost everyone will want to forget.

UWGB lost to Wright State 77-57 in the opening round of the Horizon League tournament Tuesday night, losing by double figures for the 26th time in 32 games and finishing 1-17 on the road.

The Phoenix only trailed the Raiders 18-17 after a 3-pointer from junior guard Davin Zeigler with 10 minutes, 7 seconds remaining in the first half, but that’s as close as it would get the rest of the game.

Wright State scored the next seven points, led 35-27 at halftime and was up double figures for the final 9:07.

UWGB had only six turnovers, but it shot 36.4% overall and was crushed 42-20 in the rebounding department while being outscored 36-20 in the paint.

Junior guard Randy Tucker led the Phoenix with 20 points and six rebounds, while sophomore forwards Clarence Cummings III and Cade Meyer added 14 and 10 points, respectively.

The Raiders got a big showing from Brandon Noel, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds in 34 minutes.

They shot 51.8% overall and went 9-for-19 from 3-point range.

UWGB enters the offseason on the heels of the worst campaign in program history after it fired Will Ryan in January with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

The Phoenix (3-29) put up the fewest wins and the most losses in a season since starting play in 1969, an even lower losing percentage than the 5-25 team from last season, the 5-23 record in Dick Bennett’s first season in 1985-86 and the 4-24 season the year before that got Dick Lien fired and Bennett hired.

But it also shows UWGB has been close to rock bottom in the past and worked its way back to the very top.

Which is what second-year athletic director Josh Moon hopes to do as a search for a new coach intensifies.

The school had a first round of phone interviews with candidates last week — it included as many as 16 — and a second round of Zoom interviews is expected to take place this week.

MORE:Who will UWGB hire as its next men's basketball coach? These 10 names might be on the list.

MORE:Ben McCollum could be a big catch in UWGB men's basketball coaching search

There is a strong chance UWGB would like to have its new coach in place within the next few weeks rather than wait for the end of the NCAA tournament. That timeline always could change if one or more candidates who aren’t available now suddenly become available and are of interest to UWGB.

Still, it’s believed Moon would like to have a coach by the time the NCAA transfer portal opens for business March 13.

Student-athletes playing a winter sport have a 60-day window beginning the day after championship selections are made in their sport to enter the portal.

The championship selection for men’s basketball is March 12.

The Phoenix has been hit hard by the portal the last few years, the biggest blow coming when it lost starting point guard Kamari McGee to the University of Wisconsin after his freshman season in 2021-22.

The new coach will be busy from the moment they are hired, not only attempting to add talent from the portal but sorting out which current players and incoming recruits are staying and which plan to leave.

There is little question UWGB must get this hire right, especially after firing its last two coaches and paying out hundreds of thousands to Ryan and Linc Darner to not work for the school.

It should also help that UWGB is prepared to spend more money than the $175,000 per season it paid to Ryan when it signed him to a six-year contract in 2020.

The school recently announced its IGNITE Phoenix Basketball initiative with hopes of elevating the status of the team among mid-majors.

It has invited the community, from business leaders to fans and alumni, to support the initiative with five-year pledges to the UWGB Foundation Men’s Basketball Fund.

The plan is to attract and retain quality coaches and give student-athletes a good experience while building its brand.

There also will be an emphasis placed on the NIL (name, image and likeness) aspect that has made things more challenging for smaller schools hoping to keep talent like McGee.

UWGB hopes to have a separate, nonprofit organization that will help provide NIL opportunities to athletes.

“This program has an amazing history,” Moon said after firing Ryan. “This isn’t where we want it to be. This is a tradition-rich program that deserves to be one of the best mid-major programs in the country. We need people to invest and help us get there.”

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Crucial offseason begins for UWGB men's basketball, coaching search