Northern Michigan introduces Sall as new head men’s basketball coach
MARQUETTE – Bill Sall needed some time when deciding whether or not to uproot his wife and four children from downstate Big Rapids and Ferris State University to the Upper Peninsula.
Now the head men’s basketball coach of Northern Michigan University, Sall will need even more time to rebuild the Wildcats and get the city of Marquette back inside the Berry Events Center.
It’s something he’s well aware of.
“I’d love to tell you I’d solve it in two weeks, but that’s not going to be the case,” Sall said Monday during an introductory press conference inside the Berry Events Center. “It’s going to take awhile to get the players that we need here and I think along with that, start to develop those relationships for the 2014 class.
“It’s going to be a great process, but it’s going to take time.”
The 14th head men’s basketball coach in NMU’s history has high aspirations for the program he inherits, saying he wouldn’t have even considered the opening or glanced at it if he didn’t think the ‘Cats could contend the like his Bulldogs have done for the past 11 years in Big Rapids, winning four GLIAC North Division titles and two NCAA regional championships.
But Sall has been through rebuilding processes before in the GLIAC as an assistant at Hillsdale College and again with Ferris. He knows five-win teams – like Northern in 2012-13 – don’t just begin hanging banners overnight.
“When you rebuild, you’re in a scenario where you have a team that is fractured, a team that has not had a lot of success,” Sall said. “It’s a process of first off, building that base. You have to get the players that are here and the ones that are really committed to being a team, to get them back and have them on the same page.”
Sall will face an uphill battle trying to assemble a team for next season.
Three NMU starters from the 2012-13 season have already indicated their time in Marquette is over with junior Matt Craggs slated to play for St. Cloud State next year, freshman Stephan Pelkofer heading to Wisconsin-Stevens Point and sophomore Quinten Calloway enrolling at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
After recruiting and evaluating what he has in Marquette, Sall must now fill the rest of his roster with the leftovers of the 2013 recruiting class, which from high school seniors to transfers at all levels has been picked clean by the rest of the NCAA.
Sall said he will cast a wide net and leave no stone unturned, however, he must be careful who he does and doesn’t bring into his program. It’s an environment that can easily lead to missteps.
“You have to make sure you do a good job of this year filling a roster of players that you believe can make progress as you move on toward the future,” Sall said. “I don’t believe in quick fixes. I think that’s when you run yourself into trouble trying to find a player that might not be a good fit for Northern, might not be a good fit for Marquette.
“Some people think scholarships grow on trees, but guess what? They don’t. Those are hard to come by. I would never give someone a scholarship with the hope they would be a player or the hope they could possibly do something. Either you see something in them where they can grow and become what you want them to be, or there is no sense in taking them.”
Sall originally laughed at the idea of predicting where the Wildcats program would be in five years, but later admitted that if his team isn’t at least in contention for titles, he wouldn’t be doing his job.
Northern Michigan University athletic director Forrest Karr has no aspirations of setting a timeline on Monday either.
All Karr wants to see from Sall’s program is improvement on the court and in the classroom.
“It’s hard to set a timetable for these things,” Karr said. “I hired a coach in Fairbanks, Mick Durham, that came in and the first year,the team was 5-23 and the next year they were 16-12 and he was the coach of the year. There has to be some luck to have that happen.
“I have no doubt the program is going to be successful. We’re not going to put a timetable on it. We just want to see it go in the right direction.”
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens.