When it comes to hiring new head coaches for his premier programs, Bowling Green athletics director Chris Kingston doesn't mess around. The search for a new football coach took barely more than one week, and now, the hiring process for a new men's basketball coach took only a few days longer.
The Bowling Green Falcons have announced that Chris Jans, formerly the Associate Head Coach of the Wichita State Shockers, has been hired as the 16th men's basketball head coach in school history. He replaces Louis Orr, who spent seven years at the helm of the Falcons and compiled a record of 101-120 while at BGSU. Bowling Green announced that Orr's contract would not be renewed on March 11.
Jans spent seven years at Wichita State and helped oversee the transformation of a program into one that became the envy of the entire mid-major community.
He arrived in Wichita in 2007, along with head coach Gregg Marshall, but the Shockers lost 20 games in their first season. The team then began steady improvement. In Jans' second season, WSU finished .500 and earned a bid to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), where they advanced to the second round. The turnaround continued during the 2009-10 season, as the Shockers won 25 games. They finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference, advanced to the MVC tournament championship game, and played in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
The Shockers began their current run of fantastic success during the 2010-11 season. Once again, they finished second in the MVC but were upset in the conference semifinals. However, they again earned a bid to the NIT, where they captured their first-ever NIT championship. They beat top-seed Virginia Tech on the road in the second round, then won the title game against another top seed, Alabama, by nine points. WSU finished the season with 29 wins.
Jans was promoted to Associate Head Coach for the 2011-12 season, and the move paid off handsomely. The team began the season 27-4 and earned the regular season MVC title. They received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, their first appearance in six years, and there were given the 5th seed in the South Regional. As #5 seeds often do, the Shockers were upset in the first round by #12 seed Virginia Commonwealth.
Wichita State had another spectacular season in 2012-13, but by March, things did not look so rosy. They lost their final two regular season games to fall to second in the MVC and then dropped the league's tournament championship to Creighton. However, they were awarded the #9 seed in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament. WSU opened the tournament by beating Pittsburgh by 18, then followed that with an upset of #1 West seed Gonzaga. In the Sweet 16, the Shockers defeated fellow Cinderella candidate La Salle before earning their second-ever trip to the Final Four with a 70-66 win over Ohio State. They dropped the national semifinal to eventual national champion Louisville by four points.
Finally, everything came together in a perfect storm this season. The Shockers became the first team in 23 years to advance to the NCAA Tournament with an unblemished record, as they started 34-0. Although WSU had to survive an overtime game at Missouri State, few of the wins were close. They were awarded the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regonal and routed Cal Poly by 27 points in the second round. Their dream season came to an end on Sunday when they fell 78-76 to #8 seed Kentucky.
Jans was an assistant under Porter Moser for three seasons at Illinois State before taking the job with Marshall in Wichita. He also coached as an assistant at the University of Idaho during the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons.
BGSU's new leader has previous experience as a head coach on his resume. He took his first job at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1996. He took a team that had lost 20 games during the previous season and led them to a 25-10 record, the conference and regional championship, and the school's first-ever berth in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. For all of that, he was named Region XI Coach of the Year. He followed that season with a 31-6 record during the 1997-98 season, and his team won the NJCAA Division II championship while he earned national coach of the year honors.
Jans was also head coach at Independence Community College (Kansas) in 1998-99 (22-10), at Howard College (Texas) in 2001-02 (20-10) and 2002-03 (29-4), and at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in 2003-04 (32-5). His six-season head coaching career includes a composite record of 159-45, and he won at least 20 games in each of those six years.
The newest Falcon is a native of Fairbank, Iowa and attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa from 1987 to 1991. He started in three of his four seasons at Loras and was a captain as a senior. He also broke two NCAA Division III records in relation to shooting 3-pointers.
This would appear to be a fantastic hire for Bowling Green. Jans possesses experience on multiple levels of collegiate basketball's hierarchy and clearly knows how to run a program and win. He is arguably the top mid-major assistant (if not the top assistant anywhere in Division I), and it's a huge steal for a program (and conference) that has struggled in recent years.
Bowling Green is a team that could be primed to turn around in a hurry. They return several key pieces from their 2013-14 team, including the school's all-time leading shot blocker, Richaun Holmes. Starters Jehvon Clarke, Anthony Henderson and Spencer Parker should also return. If Jans can supplement the roster with some quality junior college transfers, it's entirely possible that the Falcons could take an immediate leap into the upper half of the league. Our speculation would be that Jans would likely have held out for a better job if he didn't really believe that BGSU could contend quickly.
Can BGSU become the "new" Wichita State? Perhaps, but that shouldn't be the goal right now. The sincere hope among fans will be that Jans can end Bowling Green's 46-year absence from the NCAA Tournament. This hire ought to reignite passion among the fan base, and a more-packed Stroh Center will help push the Falcons in the right direction.
Forty-six years doesn't just seem like a lifetime ago -- it is a lifetime ago for most BGSU fans. It remains to be seen if Jans can end that drought, but if initial impressions mean anything, the Falcon faithful ought to be very excited.