Team preview: Western Michigan
Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
Give Steve Hawkins and Robert McCullum credit for a job well done in turning Western Michigan basketball fortunes around.
In his first season as head coach, Hawkins guided the 2003-04 Broncos to a 26-5 mark, winning the MAC West Division and tournament and capturing the school's first NCAA bid since 1998. It was McCullum who took charge of the program in 2000, with Hawkins as his top assistant, and led the improvement from seven wins in 2001, to 17 in 2002, and then 20 in 2003.
McCullum, a longtime assistant to Lon Kruger before taking the Western post, accepted the South Florida job after three seasons in Kalamazoo. Hawkins inherited great personnel and pushed all the right buttons in leading the Broncos to one of the finest seasons in their history.
A turning point in the Western Michigan program came during Aug. 12-24, 2002, when McCullum and Hawkins and put together a European Tour in which the Broncos won four-of-six games in France and Switzerland. That trip brought the team closer together and set the stage for back-to-back 20-victory seasons.
Hawkins, who served nine years as head coach at NCAA Division II Quincy (Ill.) before joining McCullum, saw his team plow through the MAC Tournament last March with three double-digit victories. It marked Western's first league tournament championship in the 25-year history of the event. Many thought Hawkins, now under contract through 2009-10, deserved to be MAC Coach of the Year; however, Buffalo's Reggie Witherspoon claimed the honor after a turnaround season.