Florida Southern coach Linc Darner was a front-runner for the Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball coaching position from the very beginning. Green Bay athletic director Mary Ellen Gillespie said what set Darner apart from the rest of the coaching candidate pool was his total presentation.
Gillespie said, “His years of head coaching experience, his winning programs at every stop, the x’s and o’s, how he runs a program, how he interacts with parents, donors and fans, how he mentors and guides young men and how he works with colleagues across campus.”
Gillespie offered the job to Darner on Tuesday and he accepted. He was introduced at a news conference this morning. The reason for the 1-day delay? Darner thought it was most appropriate that he return to Florida to tell his players that he would be leaving for his dream of coaching Division 1 college basketball. It’s another quality trait that Darner possesses, insuring Gillespie that she picked the right man for the job.
Darner replaces Brian Wardle, who compiled a 95-65 record and one Horizon League regular-season title in five seasons with the Phoenix. Wardle left to take over the program at Bradley University last month.
Wardle beat out UWGB associate head coach Brian Barone and St. Norbert head coach Gary Grzesk, who helped UWGB to three NCAA berths as a player. Grzesk also served as an assistant at the school in 2002-03.
Darner spent nine seasons at Florida Southern, leading the moccasins to six Sunshine State Conference regular-season and tournament titles. They won the NCAA D-2 National title last season, finishing 36-1. His overall record in 13 seasons as a head coach is 292-117.
Gillespie said fans will love the style that Darner brings to Green Bay. It’s uptempo and forces the play on both ends. Defensively, under Darner, the Phoenix will press full quart and trap all over. Offensively, they’ll push the ball and get a lot of shots up. Last seasons Florida Southern championship team averaged 26 three-pointers a game.
“I think the thing about my style is kids like to play, they like to play up and down, they want to score points, it’s an easy sell in recruiting,” said Darner. “Its been successful wherever I’ve ever been. It’s just getting the guys to believe in it, getting guys to understand how we’re going to play.”
Darner said his style is based on what kind of players he has. If they can shoot the three, then they will. If the talent is inside, they’ll figure a way to push the ball, yet get the post players their shots.
Darner will have to replace three of the top four scorers from a Green Bay team that finished 24-9 last season. He’ll also have to convince the schools recruits to follow through with their commitment to the school.
The program also faces the possibility of losing some of its current players. Freshman Daeshon Francis has already stated his intentions to play elsewhere.
Darner said, “I’m going to reach out to them and try to talk to them. I’ll see if they’ll at least let me sit down and talk to them. You know I understand when there’s a coaching change, guys may want to leave and that’s part of the business. If it is, then we have another group of guys that we’ll start recruiting.”
Darner said getting to the NCAA Tournament and winning games there is the goal. He said they won’t hide that from the players.
Of course in the Horizon League, getting to the NCAA Tournament means having to win the Horizon League playoff championship. Darner said he wants his teams improving and playing their best basketball in February and March will be their goal.
Darner said among the other things on his plate will be hiring a coaching staff. The areas he recruits best is Indiana (his home state) and now Florida. But he said he’s also recruited in the Chicago area and out east in Maryland. But Darner added he wants to attract players from Wisconsin to Green Bay and he’ll try to make sure his assistant coaching decisions will help achieve that.