Doug Lewis Jr. knows how to coach. The former head coach of Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio has lead the independent Marauders to a 125-62 record over his seven year stint as head coach and was named Independent Athletic Association coach of the year in 2009. Now Lewis will be trying to reach that success on the court for the Wildcats.
“I’m excited for a new day and hopefully a new era,” said Lewis. “Good things are going to follow.”
On May 7, Lewis was hired as the men’s basketball coach to replace former Head Coach Dean Ellis who resigned on April 6 after 24 seasons. Lewis beat out two other candidates, Division III UW Stevens Point Assistant Coach Lance Randall and D-I Loyola (Chicago) Assistant Coach Kevin Mondro, to be named the coach, but Lewis’s unique challenges at the D-II level gave him the edge.
“He had more head coaching experience and was very successful with much less,” said NMU Athletic Director Ken Godfrey. “He had recommendations from a lot of different people like Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond, Michigan State Assistant Coach Mike Garland and GLIAC Commissioner Dell Robinson.”
Lewis is also a historical choice for Wildcat athletics. According to Sports Information Director Dave Faiella, Lewis is the first African American head coach for any Wildcat sport at NMU. However, that has not been well publicized as race has taken no part of the hiring process, according to Godfrey.
“When we hire people, we hire who is best qualified by the criteria we put together,” Godfrey said.
The new coach felt similar to Godfrey, but also had a sense of pride with the circumstance.
“It’s an honor. I truly believe that we’ve made progress that people judge you on your talent and character, and in this case, this was a decision based on character and work ethic,” said Lewis.
Before his career at Central State, Lewis was an assistant coach at UW-Milwaukee from 1993-1998. He was also an assistant coach at Washington High School in Milwaukee that went undefeated and won the Division-I state championship.
Lewis also had an illustrious playing career at Southwest Missouri State (now known as Missouri State University) and Mesa State Community College in Arizona. His play for MSCC got him recognized as one of the top five junior college point guards in 1987 before transferring to SWMSU. He then helped the Bears reach the NCAA tournament and win the Mid-Continent Conference in back to back years. Lewis also received individual awards for Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year in 1988 and Mid-Con honorable mention the next year.
The new coach is also a family man. Lewis has a wife, Cheryl, and two daughters, Danielle and Chelsea who are 16 and eight respectively. According to Lewis, his family is supportive of the job change.
“My wife is excited, but my kids are reserved waiting to see how they would like Marquette. They’re in the wait-and-see mode,” said Lewis.
Lewis will have an uphill battle taking over a Wildcat team who hasn’t had a winning record since the 2006-07 season, when the team went 18-11. The men’s team also lost seven seniors including GLIAC North Division First Team member Marc Renelique and GLIAC North Division All-Defensive Team Chris Warner.
“When you lose seniors, you lose leadership and experience,” Lewis said. “But at the same time, we have three guys returning who were in the top four scorers on the team, and I think that will help.”
High hopes are present for the new coach and the team, not only in the short term but in the long term as well.
“(Lewis) will make the right decisions to help build this program to success,” Godfrey said.