News and Notes

Darner firing fallout: What we know so far

Here are some links from around the internet regarding Green Bay’s decision to move on from head coach Linc Darner and what we know so far:


“Reassignment clause” may be Green Bay’s way out of paying full buyout


One of the major questions surrounding the decision to fire Darner revolved around how the school could afford to buyout the remaining amount on the coach’s contract.

Thanks to a stipulation in his deal that included an automatic one year extension for finishing in the top four of the Horizon League regular season, Darner was signed for the next six years through the 2025/2026 season. With a base salary of $230,000 that would mean the school could potentially owe him nearly $1.4 million, an impossible amount for a school with the smallest athletic budget in the conference.

But as Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press-Gazette notes, Darner’s contract included a reassignment clause. “One way UWGB could have saved money was by offering Darner another job at the school rather than fire him,” Venci wrote. “…and if he declined the offer, the school likely did not have to honor the entire contract.”

“A similar scenario played out when former UWGB coach Mike Heideman was fired in March 2002. Heideman had a buyout provision in his contract for $191,356. Had he refused a reassignment, or a suitable position was unable to be found, it left open the possibility the two sides would be forced to negotiate a settlement. Heideman was named an assistant coach at Valparaiso later that year.

Shortly after, UWGB and Heideman reached an agreement that paid him his regular annual salary of $95,678 through July 2003 even though he had found another job.”

So it appears that Green Bay will have to pay Darner a buyout but it will likely not be the entire amount, though the exact number or how the school will pay for it have not been publicly made available yet.

As of Tuesday Darner’s name had been removed from the team’s official website but the names of assistant coaches Randall Herbst, Richard Davis, Ben Swank, and Bubby Johnson remained.


No truth to rumors of dropping out of Division I


One of the wilder Twitter rumors that spun out of the bizarre timing of the decision to part ways with Darner in mid-May was that UW-Green Bay was going to be dropping out of Division I and possibly down to Division II or Division III due to budgetary issues.

New UW-Green Bay chancellor Michael Alexander put those rumors to bed in the school’s statement announcing the decision to relieve Darner of his duties, saying “we are a Division I University and remain committed to continuing the legacy of our outstanding Division I athletics program in the future.”


Recruits in a holding pattern


It’s a fluid situation but a pair of Green Bay’s 2020 recruits seem to be committed to the program for next season while the status of others is up in the air.

Incoming freshman guards Jacob Jones and Ryan Claflin told Brandon Kinnard of NBC 26 in Green Bay that they still plan on attending UW-Green Bay this year, though obviously that could change.

“I have to see what unfolds,” Claflin told the station. “But as of right now I’m still planning to play at Green Bay.”

“I guess I’ll just have to see,” Jones said. “Basketball is a game of adjustments. So if I have to adjust to a different system then I will.”

JUCO All-American guard Leon Ayers also seems committed to program at this point as well but doesn’t seem to be in a rush to make a decision on his commitment, telling the Press Gazette “I’m just going to sit tight and let all of this clear out and stuff. Then I’m going to see what happens after that. I’m not going to just make a decision based off the heat of the moment.”

“As of now, I’m still going to be coming down to Green Bay, but it’s just like, I just really have to see now.”

The Phoenix prized 2020 recruit, 6’8” forward Terrance Thompson, said he is taking a wait an see approach after just committing to the program and coaching staff last month. “I talked to the athletic director like 30 minutes ago, and he told me a few things that he didn’t want me to tell the media yet,” Thompson said in an interview with WBAY. “He said the head coaching job is going to be filled within the next few weeks, so I’m just going to wait to see who they hire and I am going to make my decision off that.”


Hemphill the first to go?


With any coaching change there is going to be roster turnover. It appears that the first player to announce that he’s on the way out is senior Shanquan Hemphill.

The 6’6” forward sent out a cryptic tweet on Tuesday and seemed to confirm that he is leaving by retweeting a post that says “Green Bay is going to miss you!” but there has yet to be an official statement.

Hemphill took a redshirt year after he missed all but one game this past season due to a nagging knee issue that required surgery. He averaged 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 38 games as a junior in 2018/2019, his first with the Phoenix after transferring in from the junior college ranks.

He was on track to graduate this spring according to a Press Gazette article from December meaning he could leave the program as a graduate transfer and be eligible to play immediately at another school next season for his final year of eligibility.

Update: Another potential starter for next season, 6’2″ senior guard Josh Jefferson, is also entering the transfer portal.


Gary Grzesk believed to be “interested” in Green Bay job


Will the third time be the charm for St. Norbert College head coach Gary Grzesk? The 47 year old former Phoenix guard has twice been a finalist for the Phoenix head coaching job – first back in 2010 when the school hired Brian Wardle and again in 2015 when Darner was hired.

Despite not getting the job either time he is still interested in the role this time around according to Green Bay’s ABC affiliate WBAY-TV. “Grzesk did not return a message on Monday, a source close to him said they believe he is interested in the job if Green Bay is serious about him taking the over the position,” the station reported.

Grzesk, originally from Wauwatosa, played at Green Bay from 1992-1996 appearing in 120 games for the Phoenix and made three NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 1994 first round upset of California. After his playing career he was an assistant coach at Youngstown State from 1996-2002 before spending one season as an assistant at Green Bay in 2002/2003.

Since then he has had a pair of head coaching stints, first with Lakeland College in Sheboygan where he went 51-31 in 3 seasons before taking over the reins at St. Norbert in 2006 where he has turned the Green Knights into a perennial top 25 Division III program. Grzesk is 274-86 (.761) in 14 seasons at St. Norbert, including a 23-5 campaign this past season, and has won 9 conference titles and made the NCAA Tournament 7 times.




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