Indiana Wesleyan University recently hired former men’s basketball assistant Ethan Whaley as the new women’s head basketball coach. The Sojourn got a chance to sit down with Whaley to get to know him.
Q: How did you get involved in coaching? Tell me a little bit about your experience as a player and a coach?
A: I grew up in Indiana, played high school basketball, I was a point guard. … I tore my ACL five times in high school. So my recruiting never picked up. … I graduated giving up the dream of playing but I knew that I really wanted to get into coaching so I actually started out … at Yorktown High School. I was a JV coach over there and then … wanted to figure out how to tie in the spiritual component to basketball. I had some connections to the staff here at Indiana Wesleyan on the men’s side and I ended up coming. I was a student manager for a year as I transferred and then my last two years … my title changed to the director of operations. I did everything from the laundry, to booking hotels, to food, to ordering gear. … My goal was to free up Coach Tonagel and Coach Clark from having to worry about anything other than basketball and discipleship. … After I graduated I was fortunate enough Coach Tonagel offered me a job on staff.
Q: Do you have a specific moment that kind of sticks out as your favorite basketball moment?
A: This past (year), it would have been the sweet 16 game, there was less than a minute left and the game was tied. And Ben Carlson was in the huddle, and before he left I said ‘Hey you’ve worked too hard. This is your moment. You are going to make a huge play.’ Turns out with about three seconds left that he shot and he got fouled. He makes two big free throws to win the game. … that moment was special to me. … I was just so proud of him, and for him to play that well and to have that confidence to make that play late, it just gives me goose bumps still thinking about it.
Q: So of all the players that you’ve played against or coached against in your day, who do you think is the best player you’ve faced?
A: One was Matt Schauss, he was a 6’4, 6’5 just a linebacker playing point guard. His senior year … he was averaging 30 a game, 10 plus rebounds, eight or nine assists. He’s 6’5 so you cant put your point guard on him, but if you put your power forward on him … he’s just going to blow by him. … The other guy would be Clay Yeo who also was on that same team. … He was another guy that was 6’5, really explosive. … Bethel did a really good job of finding guys that create mismatches and putting them in the right position. Those are two of the best players I have seen in our league in awhile.
Q: Do you have a particular story that is a funny or memorable story from your college experience here that stands out?
A: Well I’m a pretty boring guy. … I was always in bed by 10 o’clock. But I would say the greatest moment for me … my wife (and I) came in the same year. … And it took me two years … when we finally met. I had seen her the two years prior and I had been trying to run into her and connect and just couldn’t. She was impossible. So the greatest moment for me was when I finally was able to. I saw her in line at McConn and I just snuck up right behind her and started to make conversation and I’m sure I sounded like an idiot, but I finally got to meet her and so obviously I had to work a little bit.
Q: What are you most looking forward to with this new coaching job?
A: I love our team first of all. I’m just looking forward to just continuing to build relationships with these girls and grow with them. … I’ve got 11 girls plus three coming in that I just absolutely love. So I’m excited about so many things but the thing that I’m most excited about is the people I get to come to work with every single day are what makes this place so special.
Q: So is your team looking pretty good for the future?
A: We are graduating 55% of our points so we are losing a lot of points, but I think we’ve got … the right women who are going to step up. Some that maybe didn’t play as big of a role, they are going to play a larger role this year. I think (there are) a lot of unknown’s but again I am confident because of the mentality that we have and the talent that we have is there. We’ve just got to be able to develop … an attacking and a fearless mindset, and then tie that in with a selfless mindset where we are working together as a unit.