Wicks brings energy through success and failure on Cowboys bench

Mar. 4—LARAMIE — Sundance Wicks has long been known for the energy he brings to the University of Wyoming men's basketball team on a daily basis.

Wicks, who's in his third year as an assistant coach for the Cowboys, is the jokester of the UW coaching staff, but that doesn't mean he takes his role lightly. The Gillette native and Campbell County High graduate left a head coaching job at Missouri Western State University to join Jeff Linder's staff as an assistant when Linder was hired in 2020.

Wicks filled in for Linder for Thursday's news conference while the head coach spends time with his ill father in Colorado.

Since joining the Cowboys in 2020, Wicks has carved out a role as the juiced-up coach on the bench, often animating his emotions with strong body language and intimidating shouts. His responsibility to bring energy to the program has been especially important this year with all the adversity UW has faced this winter.

"It's my job, man," Wicks said. "It's who I am. It's not hard for me. If you're not naturally extroverted like myself, sometimes it is hard to get yourself up and get going. For me, in 2015, I made that commitment after a long race in life, and kind of just going up and down in my coaching career. In 2015, I just decided that I'm going to be intentionally energetic.

"I'm going to be relentless, I'm going to be engaging, and I'm going to be authentic. I'm going to go with it every single day and just see what happens. Life has been really good since then. The good Lord has blessed me because I believe just giving everything you have to everybody around you, that's my gift. I know this: If I don't use it, God's going to take it away."

The Cowboys have dealt with injuries, illnesses and midseason player departures from three transfers over the past four months. The streak of bad luck has led UW to a last-place spot in the Mountain West after being picked to finish second in the preseason poll.

But the Cowboys haven't been all doom and gloom this year. Part of the reason?

One of the team's assistant coaches.

"People ask me all the time, who gives energy to the energy giver?" Wicks said. "There's a creature up there with almighty power, and that thing never ends. It's unlimited. That well never runs dry. For me, every single day, I'm going to wake up with that intentionality, and I'm going to probably go demoralize a bunch of people who don't want to be around my energy."

Wick's originality isn't just boxed into bringing energy. The entire coaching staff juggles their own responsibilities within the program, which all comes together in more ways than one.

"We all have something that makes us unique," Wicks said. "There's a complete element to this. There's a composite element to this. We all have to be well-rounded.

"We all have to be psychologists. We all have to have that chair that's open for the kids to come in and talk. We all have to be great at film study, be great at scouting, and be great at recruiting and great at connecting. The job's always the same, but I think the role evolves, and you adapt to the situation that you're in."

Wicks was on the bench for last year's 25-9 showing that led to an at-large bid for the Cowboys in the NCAA Tournament. Less than a year later, he's on the same bench with a team sitting at 9-20 with one regular-season game left to play.

That kind of disparity in one season could be discouraging to some, but not Wicks. His mindset has been to teach his players how to grow from both winning and losing on the basketball court.

"At the end of the day, you have to learn how to handle success and failure," Wicks said. "You can't just throw failure to the side and say, 'Well, that's not fair, I failed and we don't have to learn from this.' You can't just win and say, 'We're winning, and we're always going to win.' They're both imposters. Success and failure, they're both imposters. And you treat them as such.

"You just go forward each and every single day understanding that there's a lot of micro adversities that are going to happen on a Thursday in Laradise in the middle of March and February. So, how are we going to respond to those?"

Like many other basketball fans in Laramie, Wicks isn't sure who will be on UW's bench next year. With the transfer portal now allowing players to switch schools in an instant, Wicks knows the Cowboys that do decide to return to Laramie will have a competitive advantage after dealing with the turmoil of this season.

"This entire team should have a chip on their shoulder," Wicks said. "The people who come back, the people that decide to come back and ride for the brand like they should and have that Poke pride, they should have a chip on their shoulder.

"You never just shut the season off and say, 'This year didn't exist. This year didn't happen.' You should take all these little things that happen over the course of this year and use those as lessons for the future, and grow from that and learn from that. That will make you a remarkable team next year, having learned those lessons and having stayed the course."

The Cowboys will end the regular season with a tough road matchup against No. 18-ranked San Diego State this weekend. The Aztecs will host UW at 8 p.m. Saturday at Viejas Arena in California.

Alex Taylor covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at ataylor@wyosports.net or 269-364-3560. Follow him on Twitter at @alex_m_taylor22.