The 3rd Man In

LaVall Jordan determined to build winning culture

Meeting anxious fans. Hiring assistant coaches. Creating a schedule for the upcoming 2016-17 season. Recruiting prospects. Relocating his family. These tasks were anything but a chore, as new Milwaukee Panthers men’s basketball head coach LaVall Jordan settled into his new position.

“Getting settled in now,” Jordan said. “Getting a staff together helps because you’re able to delegate things and have people to bounces things off of. You’re not pressured to make decisions on your own. It’s been fun.

“Transitioning and getting to meet more people in the community and on campus. My family is finally moved into a house in Mequon. That is nice, but now it’s another whole can of worms with unpacking boxes and getting things organized around the house. There’s a lot of that – organization and getting things in place that way things become normal.”

A major focus of Jordan’s in his first few months was setting expectations on how he wants to develop a winning culture and to grow the program, which has made one NCAA tournament appearances since back-to-back appearances in 2005 and 2006.

One major component is embracing the city and building the fan base.

“Embrace Milwaukee, set a tone on how we want to work, embrace our university and make sure our guys appreciate the opportunity to play for this city and university,” Jordan said. “It’s not too complicated. Get guys to appreciate it and be passionate about working diligently towards a goal. Just get better every day and not worry too much about what’s to come.”

Not only does Jordan want to embrace the city of Milwaukee, but he also wants to recruit the city hard, using an inside-out philosophy,

“There’s a lot of talent in this wheelhouse of 5 1/2 hours around us,” Jordan said. “We want to build our networks there and probably most of our guys will come within that radius.

“Obviously Milwaukee is where we start. It’s a city our city. We have a lot of talent in the area. We will look there first before we go outward. It is also about find the right fit. The guys have to fit the university, the program, the culture and what we want to do.”

A former guard at Butler, Jordan specializes in developing back court players. In six seasons as an assistant at the University of Michigan, Jordan coached eight Wolverine guards to All-Big Ten honors – Darius Morris (2011), Trey Burke (2012 & ’13), Tim Hardaway Jr. (2012 & ’13), Nik Stauskas (2014), Caris LeVert (2014), Derrick Walton Jr. (2016) and Zak Irvin (2016).

He mentored Burke to 2013 consensus National Player of the Year and All-America honors, as he set Michigan records for assists in a single season as well as the freshman and sophomore records for assists.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach some talented guards,” Jordan said. “My hope is that really good guards will be attracted to play here.”

Besides attracting talented players, Jordan hopes to play high major teams during the non-conference season, including two in state rivals – Wisconsin and Marquette.

Wisconsin is absent from the Panthers non-conference schedule this season. This is the first time the two schools won’t face each other since the 1991-92 season, after the contract between the two schools expired, Jordan said. Milwaukee upset the Badgers last season in Madison.

Milwaukee and Marquette haven’t squared off since 2011. Can Panther fans expect to see the crosstown rivalry game return in the near future?

“I’ve gotten that question quite a bit,” Jordan laughed. “We will try to each year to play a schedule that will test us – our players and program – where we are at that time. Obviously that is a piece that attracts attention from our fan base and alums, and our players enjoy playing in those games. We will try to get the best opponents we can get on our schedule.”

The Panthers 2016-17 season begins on Nov. 5 with an exhibition game against Concordia University Wisconsin. Their regular season non-conference schedule consists of five different teams that played in the postseason a year ago.

With three months until their first game and a roster filled with six newcomers, after three starters from last year’s squad transferred after the coaching change, the team has work to do to prepare for the season.

“A lot of it is establishing fundamentals,” Jordan said. “We have a heavy emphasis on that as a staff – just being able to be fundamentally sound. Guys are growing in those areas, getting stronger in the weight room and conditioned. I’m pleased with where we are. We have ways to go, but for having six new guys and eight guys that remained that are being introduced to new things, I’m pleased where we are at the moment.”

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