MILWAUKEE — College is a place for students to learn about themselves and prepare to get a job. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was that place for a college basketball coach as well.
In April 2016, LaVall Jordan was all smiles when he was hired as the basketball coach at UWM. In June 2017, he was smiling again when he was hired for the same job at Butler.
“This opportunity came up and it’s such a unique opportunity, alma mater, and back home for my wife. She’s from Indianapolis, so I’d definitely describe it as extenuating circumstances. For us to leave Milwaukee, it would have had to have been for this,” Ball said.
And to have not burned any bridges, it helps to be a guy like Jordan. He walked into a very difficult situation with the UWM Panthers after the departure of his predecessor, Rob Jeter, but consistently took the high road.
“There’s nothing like doing what you dreamed of, and that was a dream of mine to be a Division I head coach and that was my first opportunity. It was great for my development, for our family, for my wife to learn to be a head coach’s wife — it’s different than being an assistant coach’s wife, so those roles, we’ll be forever grateful,” Ball said.
Jordan wasn’t an immediate hit in wins and losses. The Panthers were only 8-23 in his first regular season, not the kind of record that warrants a step up in the profession, no matter how many connections you might have, but UWM became the first No. 10 seed to win a game in the Horizon League Tournament and then won two more, narrowly missing a Cinderella NCAA Tournament shot. Jordan says the run helped him.
“I believe so, just showing that you could run a program, that you could get kids to buy in. Like you said, they’re not just doing favors for Butler guys. You have to show that you could do the job. No different than when I played here. If you’re going go sub in, you’ve got to be able to do the job,” Ball said.
Butler has tremendous college basketball history and Jordan himself is part of that history. He said he’s enjoying the present and eagerly eyeing the future. You don’t see him very often without a smile on his face.
“I think there’s a grounded-ness in terms of faith and what we believe in as a family, how I was raised and to always look at the positive in life and regardless of circumstances, find the joy in what you’re doing. We get to wear tennis shoes to work every day. You’re a head coach,” Ball said.
Jordan will soon lead Butler to the NCAA Tournament in his first season with the Bulldogs. He’s been making the right moves by coming to Milwaukee and ultimately returning to Indianapolis.