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Alex Taylor: Taylor What are Wicks' 5 pillars for success at UW?

Jun. 8—Out of the University of Wyoming's 23 men's basketball coaches in school history, Kevin McKinney has seen over half of them introduced firsthand.

The longtime director of sports information and senior associate athletics director introduced the 13th men's basketball coach in his career Thursday, honoring Gillette native Sundance Wicks with an introductory speech inside the Wildcatter Stadium Club and Suites.

"Of all the coaches I've worked with, he may be the most unique," McKinney said with a laugh. "Which is a very big compliment. Believe me, it's a very big compliment."

Wicks (Campbell County) is just the third men's basketball coach in school history to graduate from a Wyoming high school, following Bill Strannigan (1959-73, Rock Springs) and George Radovich (1973-76, Thermopolis).

Wicks took to the podium holding a card filled with unorganized scribbles. The cue card was filled with notes and reminders for Wicks' five pillars for success at UW.

"I'm not going to sit up here today and tell you what I'm going to do for the program," Wicks said. "I'm going to tell you what we need to be for this program. What the state of Wyoming needs to be for Cowboys basketball. What I need to be, what we need to be, what my staff needs to be and what our players need to be for Cowboys basketball to take the next step."

So, what are the pillars?

1. Be truth-tellers

Wicks' first focus for the Cowboys is to tell the truth. That rule applies to everyone within the program.

"We need to be truth-tellers before we can be dream sellers," Wicks said. "... It's hard to get the truth nowadays. The goal is to have an honest conversation, an intentionally honest conversation, and get to the point as fast as you possibly can.

"... You're going to tell some hard truths, and those hard truths are going to hurt. But ultimately, that allows us to make the next choice. When you tell hard truths, and it's received and delivered correctly and quickly, and it's communicated correctly and quickly in the right way, that response to telling the truth usually comes in hard work. ... The response to hard truths becomes hard work."

2. Be available, vulnerable

Wicks' second rule is for the Cowboys to be both available and vulnerable. That includes showing up to work every single day, regardless of the circumstances.

"Bringing your own juice is being available to our staff, to our players, to our community, to the cities around us and to the state of Wyoming," Wicks said. "Being available in the right way every single day and showing up with your own juice, your own energy, your own effort and your own enthusiasm."

The vulnerability aspect of Wicks' second pillar is the most impactful, the coach said.

"It's our scars and our stories that connect us and bind us," Wicks added. "... We don't want to take the struggle out of things anymore. Let's stop trying to take the struggle and take the pain and take the suffering out of things. Let's feel it. Let's embrace it.

"Ultimately, vulnerable experiences create superhumans, and superhumans do amazing things that nobody thought was possible."

3. Enemy of the status quo

Wicks' third pillar is one he picked up during his first head coaching job at NCAA Division II's Missouri Western. The idea for his team to become an enemy of the status quo stems from what he learned from former Missouri Western athletics director Josh Looney.

"We have to think differently around here," Wicks said. "If we take the path everybody else is taking, we're going to get the same results everybody else is getting. That's not us. That's not the Cowboy way."

Wicks' approach to accomplishing his third pillar is for the Cowboys to win in the margins no one else thought existed, he said.

"We're different out here in Wyoming," Wicks added. "There's a reason why we have an 86% nonconference home winning percentage and a 73% home (conference) winning percentage since we joined the Mountain West. Nobody wants to come to Laradise. Good. Stay out.

"Come in here, get your ass kicked and go home. That's the job."

4. Be invested in others

Wicks' fourth rule is one he picked up during his playing days at Northern State in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He wants his team to focus on being interested and invested in watching others achieve their dreams.

"Selfish dreams don't come true," Wicks said. "True happiness begins when selfishness ends. What we're going to do is we're going to demand greatness from our players, we're going to demand greatness from our staff, we're going to demand greatness for you as a community to support us. We're going to demand it.

"... We need more people who are invested in watching others succeed around you. To freely give that love and support and to lead with it and to do that day in and day out."

5. Be a Cowboy

Wicks emphasized how the final pillar was the most important one. The simple "Be a Cowboy" mantra is a reminder to his coaches and players who they're representing when they take the court at the Arena-Auditorium.

"To the proud people in the great state of Wyoming, honor the brown and gold, ride for the brand, and, as Craig Bohl would say, 'Powder River, Let 'er Buck!" Wicks said. "I've always wanted to do that.

"... It's way better when Craig does it, but I'm going to keep doing it, because I want to carry on that tradition."

Alex Taylor is the assistant editor for WyoSports and covers University of Wyoming athletics. He can be reached at ataylor@wyosports.net. Follow him on X at @alex_m_taylor22.