Set to enter his 10th season as head coach and his 12th overall season with the Broncos, Steve Hawkins continues to mold the Western Michigan program into one that annually challenges for conference championships and postseason tournament berths. The Broncos have made four of Western Michigan’s seven postseason appearances since Hawkins’ arrival in Kalamazoo, and have rattled off nine straight top-three MAC West finishes, the best mark in school history. In fact, over Hawkins' nine years as head coach, Western Michigan is one of only two schools in the conference to exhibit that kind of consistent success.
Hawkins reigns as the second-most tenured head coach currently in the MAC; now entering his 10th season as head coach, Hawkins trails just Buffalo's Reggie Witherspoon (14th season) in terms of coaching at a single institution, and is the most tenured coach in the MAC West division. His stature among his peers is not surprising; after nine seasons at WMU, Hawkins is included amongst the top coaches in MAC history. Hawkins is 89-62 in conference games for a .589 winning percentage, and his 159-132 overall gives him a .546 winning percentage, which is 17th in MAC annals. Hawkins has led the Broncos to back-to-back MAC West championships twice (2004-05 & 2008-09) and again in 2011.
Thanks to the team’s efforts on the court, Bronco fans have been spoiled in recent campaigns with postseason appearances, all-conference players, attendance records and television appearances (74 regional or national broadcasts since 2003-04). The Broncos appeared on television a total of 12 times in the 2011-12 season, including an appearance in ESPN's 5-Hour ENERGY Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2011-12. The Broncos have made regular appearances in ESPN-sponsored tournaments under Hawkins and, thanks to the conference's partnership with SportsTime Ohio, WMU remains a visible, important part of the MAC's television schedule.
WMU had three-straight 20-win seasons and postseason appearances from 2003-05, matching the previous total in both categories since the first season of Bronco basketball in 1913-14. The Broncos added another 20-win season in 2010-11 to give Hawkins’ credit for guiding five of WMU’s eight 20-win seasons (four as head coach, one as an assistant).
The Broncos pounded the Ball State Cardinals in the first round game played at University Arena, and ran away with their second-round game against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Quicken Loans Arena to reach the quarterfinal game against Kent State. Despite trailing midway through the second half, the Broncos did as they had all year and fought their way back, just narrowly missing the opportunity to take on Akron in the semifinals.
The 2008-09 season marked the second MAC West championship in a row and fourth in six years for the Brown & Gold, while junior David Kool became the first Bronco to lead the MAC in scoring since 1987 on his way to becoming ESPN the Magazine Third Team Academic All-America and Second Team All-MAC. Kool’s Academic All-America honor was the third for a Bronco in three seasons, a mark that has happened only two other times in MAC history (1976-78 Ohio, 1991-93 Miami).
The 2007-08 season saw Western Michigan live up to preseason expectations as they claimed the MAC West title for the fourth time in school history and reached 20 wins for the fourth time in six seasons. The Broncos were strong defensively as they led the MAC and ranked 37th in the country (out of 328) in field goal percentage defense (.407) and 84th in the country in scoring defense (65.0 ppg). WMU also ranked 15th in the country and led the MAC in free throw shooting (.753) and the team was 34th in the country and led the MAC in rebound margin (+4.9). For his efforts, Hawkins was named the MAC Coach of the Year by ESPN mid-major reporter Kyle Whelliston at MidMajority.com.
Reitz was also named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America Second Team to become only the seventh player in conference history to be a two-time Academic All-American. Kool was named the Most Valuable Player in the MAC by CollegeInsider.com as he led the league in scoring in conference games with 17.8 points per game.
Western Michigan posted a pair of premier wins during the season as they knocked off NCAA Elite Eight participant Davidson, 83-76, and perennial mid-major power Southern Illinois, 57-41. Davidson was ranked No. 25 in the country when WMU defeated the Wildcats for the Broncos first win against a ranked team since Dec. 19, 1984 (No. 5 DePaul, 65-64). The 2007-08 Broncos also ended a pair of streaks by winning at Detroit, 60-59, for the first time since 1974 and winning at Toledo, 69-55, for the first win there since 1998.
Hawkins also was recognized in 2008 for his sense of style on the sidelines. He advanced to the final 16 of CollegeInsider.com’s Runway to the Fashionable Four. Along the way he defeated Florida coach Billy Donovan and Virginia Commonwealth (now at Alabama) head man Anthony Grant. Hawkins made another style run in 2010 to the Sensational 16, including a win over John Calipari of Kentucky.
The Broncos faced their most ambitious schedule yet during the 2006-07 campaign. Going into conference play, the Broncos had the fourth toughest strength of schedule in the country (CollegeRPI.com/Jan. 4). The Broncos played five teams that made the 2007 NCAA Tournament (Davidson, Miami-Ohio, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Indiana), postseason NIT champion West Virginia and three other NIT participants (Toledo, Marist, San Diego State).
The tough schedule saw Western Michigan make five national television appearances, including a victory over Virginia Tech on Thanksgiving Night at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., that turned out to be the best win by a MAC team all season, as the Hokies finished 34th in the final RPI. Only one other MAC team posted a win against a team ranked in the RPI Top 50.
The Broncos finished the year with three all-conference players, including MAC Freshman of the Year Kool. Reitz was named Second Team All-MAC for a second straight season and Shawntes Gary was named Honorable Mention All-MAC.
Even more impressive, Reitz was named an ESPN the Magazine First Team Academic All-American, the first Bronco in school history to ever earn that honor and only the seventh in MAC history. Reitz and Hershberger were also named Academic All-MAC for a second consecutive season.
Not only were the Broncos successful on the court, but they continued to excel in the classroom. Senior Brian Snider and sophomores Reitz and Hershberger made up three-fifths of the Academic All-MAC team and Reitz became the first ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District IV First Team selection for WMU since 1993.
After a record-setting first year as head coach in 2003-04, the Broncos followed with a 20-win campaign and National Invitation Tournament appearance in 2004-05. WMU became the first program ever to defend its MAC West Division title and featured the winningest senior class in school history.
Along with individual and team success on the court, the Broncos gained national attention throughout the season. Included in the exposure was a national television broadcast (ESPN2) at University Arena, earned by the squad’s quick start.
Voted the top rookie head coach by Basketball Times and Coach of the Year by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, Hawkins has also helped renew interest on campus and in the community. Three of the top five crowds in the last 10 years have packed University Arena since Hawkins took over the reins to cheer the Brown & Gold to victory. Players and coaches are heavily involved in organizations throughout the Kalamazoo area and the new student group, “The Zoo,” has been a focal point for Hawkins during his tenure.
Highly respected in his profession, Hawkins will be a member of the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 voting panel for the sixth straight year and begins his second year as a member of the Regional Advisory Committee for the Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
He has assembled one of the top coaching staffs not only in the conference, but the region as well. Recruiting has continued to improve by leaps and bounds under Hawkins, who as an assistant helped WMU sign the first Michigan Mr. Basketball in school history with 2006 award winner David Kool.
Named Western Michigan’s 13th head coach on May 1, 2003, Hawkins didn’t have to move any further than an office away after accepting the job. He had served the previous three seasons as the program’s top assistant under former head coach Robert McCullum.
A 25-year veteran of the collegiate ranks, Hawkins captured his 200th career victory on Dec. 2, 2006, when WMU defeated previously unbeaten San Diego State, 84-73, at University Arena. He has settled in the Midwest after beginning his career as a student at South Alabama and before arriving in Kalamazoo had already displayed the ability to direct a quality program, both on the court and in the classroom, at the NCAA Division II level.
Hawkins served for nine seasons as head coach of the basketball program at Quincy University in Illinois. The Ventura, Calif., native guided the Hawks to an overall record of 137-111, a total that included three NCAA Division II Tournament selections.
In only his third year at Quincy, Hawkins guided the Hawks to a 19-9 record and the first of back-to-back NCAA berths. The following year (1994-95) Quincy advanced to the Great Lakes Region semifinals and earned a 23-7 record. QU also competed in the event in 1996-97. He was named the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division II Coach of the Year four times.
Hawkins first broke into the collegiate profession at the University of South Alabama, where he worked for three seasons (1985-87) under head coach Mike Hanks as a student assistant. After spending the 1987-88 campaign as a graduate assistant at Quincy, Hawkins spent the next two seasons as the top assistant coach at St. Andrew’s College (NAIA) in Laurinburg, N.C. He then returned to Quincy as an assistant coach for one season (1990-91) before assuming the head coaching duties in 1991-92.
At the age of 19, Hawkins was named the junior varsity coach at Villanova Prep High School (Ojai, Calif.), a position he held for two seasons. He followed that experience with a one-year stint as the junior varsity coach at St. Bonaventure High School (Ventura, Calif.) before moving from the West Coast.
Hawkins earned his bachelor’s degree at South Alabama in 1987 and went on to claim his master’s degree in sports science two years later at the United States Sports Academy.
Hawkins married the former Kelly Wojciechowski on May 15, 2010. They reside in Kalamazoo with Kelly's son Trey and their first child together, Emily, born in April 2011. The couple is expecting their second child together in December 2012.