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Ryley Wilcox
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I found my passion for journalism during my sophomore year of college, writing articles here and there for the North Wind. Since joining the staff this past semester as the news writer, I have been able...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

New coach hired to lead Wildcat men

The NMU men’s basketball team hired a new head coach, Bill Sall.

Former head coach Dean Ellis, who was with the ’Cats the last time the program had a winning record, said Sall was a great pick for the team, as well as the community.

“One of the things about coach Sall is that he has been in the conference so long that he understands the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) very well,” Ellis said. “He understands what it takes to win.”

Bill Sall, the former Ferris State University head coach for 11 seasons, was welcomed into the Wildcat family with a press conference on Monday, May 13. Sall was hired as the men’s head basketball coach in a public hiring process led by NMU athletic director, Forrest Karr.

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Sall said he is extremely excited to start up Wildcat basketball and has high expectations for the team.

“My first goal will be to find everyday improvement from the team and from each individual from the first day of conditioning until the final game of the season,” Sall said. “We are at the bottom rung on the ladder of success, but I am confident that we will begin that climb.”

The open coaching position gave way to four finalists near the end of the hiring process. Three other individuals made it to the final four applicants, all with an opportunity to claim the head coaching position. In addition to Sall, the other finalists included Tom Brown, an associate men’s head coach at Winona State University in Minnesota, Jeff Kaminsky, head coach for the Valley City State University men’s basketball team in North Dakota, and Dan Evans, an associate men’s basketball coach at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

Sall, with 21 years of coaching background to bring to the table here at Northern Michigan University, began his coaching career at Calvin College in 1992.

“The biggest thing I can bring with me is my experience and understanding of what it takes to build a program,” Sall said. “ It is so important that you find student athletes who want to excel on the floor and in the classroom. Find young men who have a passion to play and a desire to improve. Then build up a family atmosphere within the team.”

Sall most recently finished 11 seasons with Ferris State University, ending his time as head coach for the Bulldogs with four GLIAC North Division titles and three trips to the NCAA Division II Tournaments. To top it off, under Sall’s leadership, his teams made a solid pair of regional championship game appearances. In all his seasons with Ferris State, Sall concluded with a winning 171-145 record.

Ferris State University did not start off with the best record, as Sall said he remembered going into the coaching position at FSU in a situation comparable to the one here at Northern Michigan.

“When I became the head coach at Ferris State 11 years ago, the basketball program was in a similar state to where Northern is in 2013,” Sall said. “Little success in the program, bleak fan support and a general apathy toward basketball. I was able to turn Ferris State around and make it into an elite program in the GLIAC. That experience will be the foundation that I take with me to Marquette.”

Ferris State University finished in the fourth spot in the GLIAC North Conference in the 2012-13 season, a competitive rival for the Wildcats. The ’Cats lost both games against the Bulldogs, who finished with a winning 13-9 record in the GLIAC and 14-13 overall.

In comparison, the NMU men’s basketball team finished the season with a 5-21 overall record, and a 4-18 record in the GLIAC conference. The record, however, did not reveal the several large wins the ’Cats earned along the way. The men opened regular season play on Saturday, Nov. 17 with a 129-52 victory over Finlandia, where seven players scored in the double figures. The men then went on to defeat top seeded GLIAC conference team, rival Michigan Tech, on Saturday, Feb. 2 in a 59-55 triumph.

However, the second time around the Michigan Tech rivals took the home court advantage. The Huskies ended the ’Cats season by handing NMU a 72-48 loss, leaving the Wildcats with a 5-21 overall record.

Sall said he understands that patience is key to building up a team after the struggle.

“I have learned that it takes time, perseverance and great work ethic to turn a program around,” Sall said. “It will be a process and starts with baby steps, but I have been down this road before and know what it is going to take to make it work at Northern Michigan University.”

The Wildcats also had troubles with injuries throughout much of the 2012-13 season, which made it difficult for the team to find their rhythm on the court. Concussions, a broken foot and health concerns all plagued the team throughout the season. As a result, the men dropped to the lower end of the conference at the end of the year.

Sall said he believes that hard work is key to improving the program.

“It takes a ton of work from the staff and team, and a commitment to excellence from everyone involved in the program,” Sall said. “I would not have taken the Northern Michigan position if I did not believe that Wildcat basketball could not be built into an elite program.”

The Wildcats have not had a winning basketball season since 2006-2007, when the team was led by GLIAC Player of the Year, Great Lakes Region Player of the Year, NABC/NCAA II All-Star and Daktronics All American, Ricky Volcy. The winning team, which finished 18-10 overall, was also part of the Dean Ellis era.

Ellis said he remembers coaching against Sall a few times during his years at NMU.

“I was able to coach against (Sall) and he always did a great job recruiting,” Ellis said. “There is no reason to believe he won’t do so here as well.”

Ellis coached with Northern Michigan men’s basketball for 24 years before resigning in 2010, when prior head coach Doug Lewis began his three-year tenure.

Ellis was the winningest coach in the history of the men’s basketball program at NMU, with a 369-303 record. Now, Coach Bill Sall steps up to the plate to head the men’s basketball team.

Sall says he has many plans for the team, starting with working to get a well-rounded group of athletes.

“My first step will be improving the teams overall GPA,” Sall said. “Secondly, we are going to play a style of basketball that Northern Michigan University and the Marquette community will enjoy watching and be able to support.

“Finally, I want the student athletes of the basketball program to be great ambassadors of Northern Michigan and Marquette. I know that turning around Wildcat basketball will take some time, but we will lay a foundation in this upcoming season that will help us bring the program back to where it belongs.”

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