Western Illinois Names Billy Wright Men's Basketball Head Coach

Western Illinois Names Billy Wright Men's Basketball Head Coach

MACOMB, Ill. (goleathernecks.com) – Billy Wright is returning to the Fighting Leathernecks men's basketball program. Western Illinois Director of Athletics Tommy Bell announced the hiring of Wright as the Leathernecks' head coach. Wright was introduced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon (April 15) in the University Union.

"I am truly thankful and excited about the opportunity to be the head coach at Western Illinois University," said Wright. "I spent five years here working to rebuild the culture and winning tradition with Coach (Jim) Mo (Molinari), and now to have the opportunity to return as head coach and build upon what we started is truly a blessing."

Wright spent five years (2009-13) at WIU as an assistant then associate head coach under Jim Molinari, who resigned last week. After working at Ball State last season, he will take over as the 20th overall head coach in Western men's basketball history, and fifth in the program's Division I era.

"Over the last few days I have spoken to many well-known basketball coaches in the country looking for the best fit for Western Illinois University. Coaches that I talked with praised Billy Wright. He is a well-known and respected name in the college basketball community, and an outstanding recruiter. Billy is also a man of great character," said Bell. "He has been part of a successful program here at Western, and knows what it takes to be successful. Billy was on the coaching staff both years that we qualified for the (post-season) CBI and won the 2013 Summit League regular season championship. Our fans and those associated with the program and university know Billy, and I'm certain like everyone in Leatherneck Athletics, are excited to welcome him as our head men's basketball coach."

During his final three years with the Leathernecks, Wright served as the associate head coach. He played a key role on the bench as Western advanced to its first ever Division I postseason appearance, qualifying for the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) in consecutive years - 2012 (at Oregon State) and 2013 (at Purdue) – and winning the Summit League regular season title in 2013.

Wright and the Fighting Leathernecks went 22-9 (13-3 in the Summit) during the 2012-13 championship season. The previous season, Western advanced to the Summit League Tournament championship game before falling in overtime. During the 2012-13 season, Western finished second nationally allowing just 53.6 points per game and led the nation committing just 12.6 fouls per game. The 22 wins were a program Division I record.

He helped mentor Ceola Clark III, a two-time Summit League 'Defensive Player of the Year' award winner in (2010, 2012), and Terell Parks, 'Defensive Player of the Year' award recipient in 2013.

"I realize that we need to add a few pieces to the roster," said Wright. "My staff and I will work around the clock to find the right pieces."

Academically, Wright assisted a Leatherneck squad that earned a 3.231 team GPA for the Fall 2008 semester, the best GPA of the men's basketball team for at least 11 years and a higher GPA than that of the Macomb campus (2.880). The Leathernecks had 10 players on the roster with a 3.0 GPA or better and two players with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

David DuBois became one of only two league players to earn 2008-09 CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team honors. Senior David Nurse became the only Summit League player to earn the 2009-10 CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team award as a first-year graduate student. The 2013 team earned a share of the Summit League Men's Basketball Academic Achievement Award based on percentage of list-eligible student-athletes on the Commissioner's List. Clark, Jack Houpt and Billy Molinari each earned an individual accolade on the Commissioner's List. Billy Molinari was also named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) 2012-13 Honors Court based off his cumulative GPA.

Prior to joining the Leathernecks, Wright spent 12 years coaching at Pike and Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. During his time at Pike HS, he helped coach three players who went on to be first round NBA Draft picks – Courtney Lee (Orlando, 2008), Jeff Teague (Atlanta, 2009) and Marquis Teague (Chicago, 2012).

"I'm really happy for both Billy Wright and WIU. Billy's a great basketball coach, with high energy and integrity. Knowing Billy, he will hit the ground running in his efforts to make WIU basketball the best it can be," said Brad Stevens, head coach of the NBA Boston Celtics.

A 2007 inductee into the Bradley University Hall of Fame, Wright played under Molinari at Bradley from 1992-96. In his senior year (1996), he was named to the Missouri Valley Conference First Team while helping lead the Braves to a MVC Title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, Wright was selected to the MVC All-Defensive Team for three-straight years (1994-96). In his freshman campaign, Wright was named to the MVC All-Freshman Team. In addition to scoring 909 points in his four-year career for the Braves, Wright's 595 career assists and 219 career steals still rank him fourth all-time in the record books at Bradley.

Personal:
Name: Billy Wright
Hometown: Richmond, IN
Alma Mater: Bradley University, 1996
Spouse: Monica Wright

Coaching Experience:
April 2014: Head Coach, Western Illinois University
2014: Assistant Coach, Ball State University
2010- 2013: Associate Head Coach, Western Illinois University
2008-2010: Assistant Coach, Western Illinois University
2006-2008: Head Coach, Pike High School, Indianapolis, IN
2001-2006: Varsity Assistant, Pike High School, Indianapolis, IN
1996-2001: Junior Varsity Head Coach, Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, IN

Playing Experience:
2007 Hall of Fame Inductee - Bradley University
1996 NCAA Tournament - Bradley University
1996 NCAA Missouri Valley Conference Champs - Bradley University
1996 NCAA Missouri Valley All-Conference - Bradley University
1994-96 NCAA Missouri Valley Conference All-Defense - Bradley University
1993 NCAA Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman - Bradley University
1992 IHSAA State Champion - Richmond High School
1992 Indiana Mini Mr. Basketball (Best Player under 6'0") - Richmond High School 1992 Indiana All-Star - Richmond High School

NBA Players Coached & Developed Prior To WIU:
Marquis Teague (Pike H.S. – Kentucky)
NBA 1st Round Draft Choice 2012 Chicago Bulls

Jeff Teague (Pike H.S. – Wake Forest)
NBA 1st Round Draft Choice 2009 Atlanta Hawks

Courtney Lee (Pike H.S. – Western Kentucky)
NBA 1st Round Draft Choice 2008 Orlando Magic