New Nicolet boys basketball coach and former Wauwatosa East All-State star Al Hanson won't be as demonstrative on the sidelines as his former mentor, the legendary Red Raiders coach George Haas.
But he does hope to bring those kind of winning ways with him, and he will lean on Haas when needed.
'I've spoken to him several times the last couple of weeks,' Hanson said. 'He's been with me every step of the way. I learned a lot from him. I won't be like him on the sideline, but I do have a couple of impersonations.'
Hanson, 30, is going to step into the Nicolet job with a lot of winning tradition and attitude, extending not just back to his days when he was an all-state guard for Haas' powerhouse East teams in the early 2000s but also extending to Bruce Pearl's legendary UW-Milwaukee men's team that made a marvelous run to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2005. Former Nicolet star Joah Tucker was a star on that UWM team.
'I've had some great experiences,' Hanson said. 'I've been on the pedestal where a lot of these guys (at Nicolet) are trying to get to. I'll bring my experience and my intensity. I pride myself on being one of the most competitive guys around, and I want to instill that in my players.
'We'll be competitive, we'll be feisty. We'll play with a fast-pace, but we're going to be smart and also be ready to pull the ball out when we need to. We're going to be tough to guard.'
Hanson spent the last two seasons working at UW-Milwaukee, where he was director of basketball operations, and before that, he was an assistant coach for two years to former Dominican boys coach Derek Berger, helping the Green Knights on their current record run of five straight WIAA state basketball titles.
Hanson graduated from UWM with a degree in economics. He then went on to receive his master's degree in sports management from Cardinal Stritch University.
He is replacing 21-year veteran Paul Hepp, who stepped down this season. Hepp's Knights won six North Shore Conference titles, including five in a row from 2000-05. In recent years, the Knights have hit some hard times, but Hepp's final year was a competitive one as a senior-dominated team finished a competitive 12-12.
Hanson was selected out of a field of over 60 candidates. Nicolet Athletic Director Kirk Krychowiak is very pleased with the selection.
'We have a strong leader committed to strengthening the Nicolet boys basketball program,' Krychowiak said. 'We believe coach Hanson's dedication to the program and past experience will really help the team grow. These students deserve the best leadership we can give them.'
Coaching high school players is something Hanson has been looking forward to doing for a long time. Leadership came to him naturally as he was a team captain at both Tosa East and UWM.
'It's always been a dream,' he said, 'especially coming to a program with as much tradition and prestige as Nicolet. This is a great community and a great school. Very similar to my alma mater (Tosa East). It's a great school academically with great diversity.
'It's clear to me that that the community cares, the administration cares. It really is a caring culture around here.'
Hanson will be part of what is a very young coaching fraternity in the North Shore Conference, which has no one with more than four years of experience. He is looking to lift the Knights back to their former level of prominence, have some of his winning attitude rub off on his players.
'Going to the Sweet 16 (at UWM) was part of a culture that we created there,' Hanson said. 'I hope that is something Nicolet can use. Because I want them to believe that anything is possible as long as they believe in themselves.'
Many of Hanson's former teammates and coaches had nothing but good things to say about him, according to a press release from Nicolet.
'Al is a high school legend from Tosa East. He was a terrific player and coach at UWM, and he will enhance and add to the incredible diversity at Nicolet High School,' said Pearl, current head basketball coach at Auburn University and Hanson's coach when he played at UWM. 'He has unbelievable character, and I think he will be a great, great high school coach,'
Former UWM coach Rob Jeter added, 'Al is sharp, smart, with a great personality and work ethic. He is a coaching star in the making.'