GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – If the UW-Green Bay Men’s Basketball program wanted to change ways after the most disappointing three-year stretch the university has seen, then hiring a guy like Sundance “Sunny” Wicks is sure to be the first step of that process.
Just seven days after Green Bay announced the hiring of Wicks, Sunny has already got out in the community to introduce himself. During the Green Bay women’s WNIT game on Monday night, Wicks handed out sunglasses to fans as they walked through the door.
The community is a big emphasis of what Wicks wants to build in Green Bay and make stronger. During the 1990s, Green Bay basketball games would be packed full. Since then, attendance has steadily declined and that decline has been dramatic over the last half-decade. The Phoenix averaged 1,725 fans per game this season, which might be generous when you stepped foot in the arena.
“The job is to connect. If we can’t connect? Then the people don’t care and they don’t care and we can’t connect? Then we aren’t going to compete at a high level,” Wicks explained. “I want to bring the light back to this, so when you walk into the Kress [Events Center] or the Resch [Center], you have a little bit of a buzz in your stomach. You have a little bit of anxiety and you’re like ‘What’s going to happen tonight? I’m excited to go watch this team play’.”
The Phoenix underperformed by all means the last three years, going 16-71 under former head coach Will Ryan. Now Wicks’ main mission is steering the program right where it’s supposed to be and create some of that ’90s magic.
“This job isn’t dead. It’s dormant. I say that a lot and I need people to understand that. Everyone has won here. You get this job, you realize and look back at the tradition and rich history, everyone has won here,” Wicks expressed. “I love jobs like this that have won before because it shows you can win again.”
In Sunny’s short stint with the university, it’s been a success so far. He continues to win over fans as he spent this past weekend at the WIAA State Basketball Tournament in Madison where he hung out with former UWGB star Jeff Nordgaard. In the DI State Semifinals game on Friday, Green Bay commits Cal Klesmit (Neenah) and Mac Wrecke (Arrowhead) faced off and it was a matchup Wicks couldn’t miss. Athletic Director Josh Moon says that Sunny has been everything the program needs in a short time.
“When you meet Sunny, there’s no way you couldn’t be excited about Phoenix basketball. He’s just a ball of energy. He’s going to bring positivity every day and getting everyone to believe and what it means to this region. I couldn’t be more excited to have him here,” said Moon.
While a big part of growing Green Bay’s brand of basketball starts with community, there’s the winning aspect of it all. That starts with the players putting on the green and white every game.
With the transfer portal such a large part of college athletics in today’s world, building a culture where people want to not only play but stay is going to be a huge part of emphasis for Wicks.
“We talk more about believing than we do buying because if you believe in something – you’re going to do it with your whole heart. It’s passion. Buying? You can sell out. I could buy into a stock and if I don’t like it? I can sell out of it the next day,” Wicks explained. “Believing isn’t just a word – it’s what you do every single day.”
Although the task of getting Green Bay basketball to be a popular ticket in the city might seem like a tall one at the moment, Wicks has the right mindset of where he wants this thing to go.
“I want to bring the light back. I want to bring the light back to this program. I think everybody deserves it,” Wicks said. “When it comes down to it, there’s going to be wins and there’s going to be losses. We’re going to have the right guys in the locker room and I think Tony Bennett said this best – ‘You have to find guys that you can lose with in the locker room first because that love always has to be prevalent in there.”