Nearly 10 years ago, in the NCAA Tournament, UW-Green Bay shocked the world by upsetting the University of California as Gary Grzesk, a gritty, defensive-minded guard, put the clamps on then-college phenom, now NBA-superstar Jason Kidd.

Last season, the Lakeland College men’s basketball team’s defense was ranked 15th in the nation in NCAA Division III.

Sounds like a match made in hoops heaven.

Grzesk, an assistant coach at UW-Green Bay, was named the 14th head men’s basketball coach in Lakeland College history on Tuesday.

It’s the first head coaching position for Grzesk (pronounced Gresh), who played for three seasons under legendary former Phoenix coach Dick Bennett.

Grzesk replaces Paul Combs, who was named head coach at Division III powerhouse UW-Platteville in April. Grzesk was one of 120 applicants for the Lakeland position.

“This is a great opportunity for so many reasons,” said Grzesk, who worked as an assistant coach for six seasons at Youngstown State from 1996-2002 before joining the staff at his alma mater a year ago.

“Obviously I’m excited to have a chance to lead my own program. I wasn’t actively looking to leave UWGB – I just see such a great opportunity at Lakeland. The program that Coach Combs has left in place is very solid, and it will be my challenge to help it reach new heights.”

Grzesk inherits a program that returns all five starters and has won back-to-back Lake Michigan Conference championships. The Muskies are 23-1 at home in LMC regular season games over the past four seasons.

Next season, Lakeland will welcome back LMC Player of the Year Ricky Davis (6-foot junior guard, Milwaukee), all-LMC first team honoree Cory Nickel (6-2 junior guard, New Holstein), LMC honorable mention picks Morton Szmiedowicz (6-9 junior forward, Iceland) and Nick Zeck (6-5 sophomore center, West Allis) and LMC all-rookie team pick Nick Howard (6-2 freshman guard, Sturgeon Bay).

“Gary is going to be a great fit for our program,” said Lakeland athletic director Jane Bouche. “It was clear during the interview process that he’s ready to be a head coach, and that he understands the unique challenges of NCAA Division III athletics. We’re confident Gary will help us keep this program headed in the right direction.”

Grzesk, a prep standout at Wauwatosa East High School, said he’s been influenced by some familiar basketball names, including Bennett, current UWGB head coach Tod Kowalczyk, former Youngstown State head coach and current Cincinnati assistant Dan Peters and current Youngstown State head coach John Robic.

“I’ve learned a lot both as a player in Green Bay and during the seven years I’ve worked as an assistant coach, and I’m ready to put what I’ve learned to use as a head coach,” Grzesk said.

“I think I have an approach that fits a Division III program. I’m more interested in graduation rates and retention rates than wins and losses, because those are the stats that, in the long run, will determine whether our program continues to be successful.”

Gary and his wife, Liz, an assistant coach with the UW-Green Bay women’s basketball team, are expecting their first child later this summer. It was another factor in their decision to choose Lakeland.

“The more my wife and I read about the Sheboygan area, the more we realized this is a place where we want to start our family,” he said.

Liz is undecided about her future as a coach.

Grzesk, who won the UWGB defensive award all four years of his playing career, was a sophomore when the Phoenix finished 27-7 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tourney in 1994.

Grzesk, a co-captain as a junior and senior, also played in the NCAA Tournament his final two seasons, as the Phoenix were 74-19 his final three seasons.

---Provided by Lakeland College Sports Information Department---

--May 20, 2003--