Gillette native Sundance Wicks is named Wyoming Cowboys basketball head coach

Sundance Wicks is coming home.

The Gillette native and former Wyoming assistant men’s basketball coach on Sunday was named the Cowboys head coach. He replaces Jeff Linder, who is set to become the top assistant coach at Texas Tech.

“You cannot put into words what it means for a kid from the country roads outside of Gillette to represent the State of Wyoming and the Cowboys as their new head basketball coach,” Wicks said in a release.

Wicks was on the Cowboys’ bench for three seasons (2020-23) before being named the head coach at Wisconsin Green Bay last season. He led the Phoenix to an 18-14 record and a third-place finish in the Horizon League one year after the team had gone 3-29. Following the season, Wicks was named the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year, an award given to the top first-year coach in Division I.

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“First off, please know that I am honored, humbled and immensely grateful for this opportunity at the University of Wyoming,” Wicks said. “This opportunity would have never been possible without the belief that Green Bay Chancellor Mike Alexander and Athletics Director Josh Moon had in our mission and vision a year ago at UWGB.

“To that end, I would like to thank Director of Athletics Tom Burman and UW President Edward Seidel for their trust in me and what we will do for the University and this great state moving forward.”

ESPN’s Pete Thamel broke the news Thursday night that Linder was leaving UW after four seasons to pursue a job on Grant McCasland’s staff at Texas Tech. Linder went 63-59 at UW, including leading the Cowboys to a 25-9 record in 2021-22 that culminated with a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

UW was expected to contend for the Mountain West championship in the 2022-23 season, but preseason MW Player of the Year Graham Ike was injured before the season and never played a game. The Cowboys went 9-21 and lost eight players, including Ike, to the transfer portal.

With an influx of one-year transfers this past season, the Pokes finished 15-17, losing to Fresno State in the first round of the MW Tournament.

Wicks inherits a team that returns just two rotation players in senior guard Kobe Newton and junior center Oleg Kojenets.

“If there is one thing, I learned growing up in Wyoming it’s that when you Honor the Brown and Gold, you are honoring so much more than just the University of Wyoming,” Wicks said. “You are honoring every single hard hat that woke up before the sun to work the coal mines. It means paying your respects to all the rough and rowdy ranchers that chose the Cowboy Way and Rode for the Brand before it became a popular phrase.

“Honoring the Brown and Gold is the understanding that a tip of the cap, a steering wheel wave, a hard handshake or a big hug is how you lift your people up in support of a hard day’s work.”

Wicks was a multi-sport athlete at Campbell County High School. He was a two-time all-state basketball selection (1998-99) and led the Camels to state championships in football, basketball and track & field as a senior. He was honored as the state’s Milward Simpson Boys’ Athlete of the Year in 1999.

He played collegiately at Northern State University and professionally in Sweden before beginning his coaching career. Prior to UW, Wicks was a graduate assistant at Northern State (2004-06) and had stops as an assistant coach at Colorado, Northern Illinois and San Francisco. He was the head coach at Missouri Western before joining Linder’s staff at UW.

“Whether you were raised in Evanston, Worland or Wheatland, the Big Horns in Buffalo, the blue-collar town of Gillette, Casper, Cody or Cheyenne, Jackson Hole, Rock Springs or Riverton, Shoshoni, Lander or Laradise. Raise a glass, this one’s for you, we got work to do Wyoming,” Wicks said.

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @wyovarsity

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