Wilber hired as DWU head men's coach
Matt Wilber loves that there are high expectations set for the Dakota Wesleyan University basketball team.
Thursday morning, Wilber accepted the head coaching position for the DWU men. It is his first head coaching position at any level. One of his first goals is to get the team back to the national tournament after missing out each of the past two years.
"I love the fact that people in Mitchell expect wins," said the Miller native. "That's what we're going to work for."
Wilber is the 19th head coach in DWU men's basketball history. He takes over for Shane Murphy, who coached the team for three years before resigning at the end of May to take a job out of the coaching profession.
DWU's new coach had stops as an assistant at South Dakota State University, Augustana and the University of Sioux Falls. Most recently, he was the co-owner and director of Tibbetts Instructional Basketball School (TIBBS) with Nate Tibbetts, who was hired in May as an assistant NBA coach for the Portland Trailblazers.
Wilber ran the school, which worked with 800 to 1,000 players each year and was recently purchased by Sanford Health to be the focal basketball development program in the Sanford Pentagon.
DWU Athletic Director Curt Hart said Wilber got a strong endorsement from SDSU head coach Scott Nagy. Wilber was an assistant for Nagy during the Jackrabbits' transition from NCAA Division II to Division I from 2004 to 2006.
"His coaching experience at three of the top colleges in the state, combined with his work with TIBBS and the connections he has made there, translate into very positive connections recruiting-wise for Dakota Wesleyan," Hart said. "I think he will hit the ground running and will make a smooth transition into the college coaching world."
Wilber was one of four finalists for the job that included three others with strong ties to Mitchell. Hart confirmed Sioux Falls O'Gorman High School boys' basketball coach Derek Robey and Northern State University assistant men's coach Matt Sevareid -- both Mitchell natives -- were in the final four. The other finalist was former DWU assistant and University of South Dakota standout Josh Mueller.
"I've talked to my wife (Lindsay) about it, and I could see myself over there for a long time," said Wilber, who added he's excited his kids will grow up to play for the Mitchell Kernels. "I don't like the coaching carousel you see where guys are jumping around. I want to find a spot where we can settle in and raise my boys."
Wilber and his wife have four children: identical twins Ben and A.J. (7), Nathan (5) and Tyson (4 months).
"I'm going to work every day to prove this was the right decision on (Curt Hart's) part," he added. "And, frankly, I know with the community, I'm going to do everything I can to win everybody over."
DWU forward and team captain Jalen Voss was a part of the hiring committee that met with all four finalists earlier this week. After meeting with the committee, Wilber discussed his coaching, playing and recruiting philosophies with all of the players.
Voss and the team's other captain, Luke Bamberg, said the players collectively decided Wilber was the best choice. Voss, who will be a junior this upcoming season, emphasized all four of the candidates would have been strong choices.
"Honestly without a coach, I think as a team we became closer," Voss said. "I wouldn't say it was good for us, but it showed who the leaders were on the team. I think that will help us a lot now that we have a coach. Eventually when Coach Wilber gets here, we'll talk to him and see what he wants from us."
Wilber, who said one of his top strengths is recruiting, started his coaching career at Augustana, which is also his alma mater. He was there as a student-assistant from 2002 to 2003. He played for the Vikings from 1997 to 2002 and was a two-year starter. He joined the team as a walk-on and earned a scholarship his final two seasons. He was also a four-year starter for Augustana's baseball team.
Wilber worked with Murphy for one season at the University of Sioux Falls in the 2003-04 season as his second assistant coaching position. Before Murphy was hired in 2010, Wilber said he did not apply for the position when it opened.
"I knew coach Murphy was going after it, and I was excited for him," Wilber said. "Now I'm just happy to be able to follow him."
He inherits a team that went 14-17 overall last year and 9-11 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, finishing in eighth place.
"I think we have a very good chance to win right away," Wilber said. "As far as goals, our number one goal is to get better and do what we can to win that day. If we're looking to win every possession and every repetition in what we're doing, we have a chance to be successful. I want to see us at the top of the GPAC. Those are my goals, and I'd like to be in Branson next year. That's definitely on the radar."