MARQUETTE - After four GLIAC North Division titles, three NCAA Division II tournament appearances and a pair of trips to the Sweet 16, Ferris State head men's basketball coach Bill Sall is leaving the Bulldogs after 11 years to become the next head men's basketball coach at Northern Michigan University.
Sall inherits a Wildcats program that has only mustered four winning seasons during his time as head coach of the 'Cats division rivals.
NMU has also missed the GLIAC tournament for six consecutive years and while the Bulldogs were averaging 18 wins per season for the last three years, the Wildcats were averaging just over 18 losses.
New NMU head men's basketball coach Bill Sall. (Ferris State photo)
"The position reminds me of when I took over Ferris State with an awful lot of tradition after a few down seasons," Sall said in a release issued by NMU on Saturday afternoon. "There's some talent left, but we need to understand that there's a long way to go and it's going to take a lot of work.
"Northern got the right guy for the job, but it's going to be baby steps at first. The next month and a half is going to be huge. We need to find the hidden gems that have gotten passed over and we need to hit the ground running to find some guys that can help us out next year."
Sall will have to start by recruiting current Wildcats who have indicated they will be transferring out of the program.
Since former head coach Doug Lewis Jr. was relieved of his duties on March 13 after three losing seasons, three starters in sophomore point guard Quinten Calloway, freshman guard Stephan Pelkofer and junior Matthew Craggs have said they are leaving NMU.
Craggs plans to play for St. Cloud State and Pelkofer is heading to Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
"This is going to be a process, just like it always is," Sall said on May 2. "I'm not so worried about the quick fix, but making sure you make the right moves so that you start to build tradition and build the program back to what it should be. That's not going to happen overnight, I can guarantee you that."
Sall said during his interview in Marquette on May 2 he's ready for the challenge of rebuilding what he said would be a fourth program in Northern, which he thinks of more as perennial contender rather than a GLIAC bottom dweller.
NMU's best finish in an NCAA tournament - the Elite Eight - came in 1993 while the last trip to the Div. II dance was 2000.
"I've been a part, as an assistant and head coach, of three rebuilding projects," Sall said on May 2, referencing his first job as an assistant at NCAA Div. III Calvin College in Grand Rapids, third job as an assistant at Hillsdale and now former gig in Big Rapids.
"Every one the wins and losses were not very good. It doesn't happen overnight. We're not going to talk about national championships right now. We're talking about just getting to the point where we can field a team that fans want to see play and are excited to be a part of.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that over time, Northern Michigan could be what it was here in year's past."
Sall, a native of downstate Zeeland and graduate of Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, was the last of four finalists to interview in Marquette for the vacant NMU job between April 29 and May 2. He followed six-year Hillsdale assistant coach Dan Evans - who accepted the head coaching job at Ohio Dominican of the GLIAC South last week - 15-year Winona State (Minn.) assistant and associate head coach Tom Brown and eight-year Valley City State (N.D.) head coach Jeff Kaminsky.
"Bill has significant experience and is a proven winner at this level," said NMU athletic director Forrest Karr. "He has accomplished many things on the court while also graduating student-athletes at a high rate.
"Bill received strong recommendations from people that I respect. Everyone that I've spoken with says he is an outstanding coach and the kind of coach that any parent would want their son to play for. It's clear that Bill is in coaching for all the right reasons."
NMU will hold an introductory press conference on Monday at 2 p.m. in the Wildcat Room of the Berry Events Center.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens.