Juckem leaves local roots for St. Louis

Neal Hogden, Writer

After six seasons and a 2018 national championship berth, former UW Oshkosh head basketball coach Pat Juckem has moved on to become the head coach at Washington University in St. Louis, according to Washington University’s Director of Athletics.

The UWO basketball team went 25-8 and finished as runner-up in Division-III, as well as tied for the single-season record for most wins in program history during the 2017-18 season under Juckem.

Juckem eclipsed 200 wins in his career this past season during the semifinal game of the D-III national tournament and was also awarded the Jack Bennett Man of the Year Award by CollegeInsider.com in 2018.

According to a Washington University press release, Juckem had nothing but praise for Washington University and its officials that offered him the opportunity to lead their basketball program.

“I would like to thank Director of Athletics Anthony J. Azama, Vice Chancellor Lori White and Provost Holden Thorp for the opportunity to lead the men’s basketball program at Washington University,” Juckem said. “I am energized by the opportunity to work with the student athletes at WashU and build upon the championship tradition the program has become known for. I am looking forward to representing a world-class institution that cares deeply about the complete student athlete experience.”

Juckem had a record of 95-73 while at UWO and brought the team to three straight top-three Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association finishes for the first time in school history since 1966-68.

The announcement was made following the retirement of WashU’s longtime head basketball coach Mark Edwards. Edwards called it quits after 37 seasons at the school.

The WashU basketball program is part of the University Athletic Association and has won six UAA championships over the last nine seasons.

According to a press release by Washington University’s sports information department, Azama, Washington University’s athletic director said Juckem will be a solid addition to their University’s proud basketball tradition.

“Pat embodies the principles that are the core of Washington University Athletics: developing champions on and off the court,” Azama said. “His passion and enthusiasm for student athletes’ success and development is contagious. We look forward to welcoming him and his family to the Bears Athletics family.”

Assistant coach Matthew Lewis has been with Juckem at UWO six years and has seen firsthand the impact he has had on the program as a whole.

Lewis said coach Juckem has left UWO basketball in a better place than he found it.

“When Pat took over six years ago, we were not in a good place; the program wasn’t,” Lewis said. “When I joined him that year, we were coming off 0-16 in the league. I didn’t know Pat very well. From day one, Pat was more than a coach; he was a friend, a mentor and I got very fortunate that I was attached to him. He’s done much more than just coach our basketball team, which I think has been one of the big reasons we’ve been successful on the floor.”

Lewis previously worked as an assistant coach at Rhodes College in Tennessee and as the director of basketball operations for Division I Tulane University in Louisiana.

Before coming to UWO, Juckem served as the head coach at Coe College in Iowa, compiling a record of 105-79 in seven years at the school.

Lewis said the players were initially shocked to hear the news, but he knows they will be fine going forward.

“It was a tough day for them yesterday hearing from coach,” Lewis said. “He just told them what the situation was and he shared some moments with them but it was a tough room. It’s going to take them some time to process, but the collective in that room is a pretty special and unique group.”

Graduating senior and four-year player for Juckem Charlie Noone said Juckem has been a role model for him in his time here at UWO.

“Coach Juckem has not only meant a lot to me as a player and person but to everyone who was associated with Titan basketball during his time,” Noone said. “His commitment to what it meant to be a Titan was obvious and he truly cared about every one of his players. He was a great leader and coach and someone we all trusted.”

Junior guard Ben Boots said Juckem has meant the world to him as a player and mentor.

“Coach has meant so much to me over the past few years, and I’ll always be thankful for his commitment to me as a player and as a person,” Boots said. “I have the utmost respect for Coach and everything he has done for myself and this University.”

Boots said the team is a close-knit group, and that helps when trying to avoid a distraction like this.

“We are a special program in the way that each member of our team views their teammates like brothers,” Boots said. “During times like this when adversity hits, our family grows closer together. I’m extremely excited for the future of this program and the opportunities we have to leave a legacy behind.”

Junior guard Brett Wittchow said the team’s plans for next season do not change despite the significant change.

“Our approach for the offseason does not change a single bit with Coach Juckem leaving,” Wittchow said. “I think every single person on this team knows how good we can be and what it’s going to take to get there. We’re going to continue to take care of our business on the court, weight room and classroom and the rest will figure itself out. This situation has brought our team even closer than we were before, which is scary but exciting.”

Noone said the team will be loaded next year and will be just fine with a new head coach.

“The team coming back next year has everything it takes to make another run,” Noone said. “They have excellent leadership in Ben Boots and Brett Wittchow as well as a ton of talent. Transitioning to a new coach will be a challenge but not something the team cannot handle. I cannot wait to see what they are able to accomplish next year and to continue to watch the program grow.”