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Moving back home: Northern Michigan University men’s basketball coach Bill Sall leaves for Calvin College job

Northern Michigan University head coach Bill Sall, left, discusses the game with assistant coach Charles Belt during a game against Davenport played at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Jan. 17. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“(NMU) men’s basketball is a tradition-rich program with a long, proud history of success. Bill (Sall) returned the program to that standard while doing things the right way. — Forrest Karr, athletic director, Northern Michigan University

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GRAND RAPIDS — There will be a big shake-up in the Northern Michigan University men’s basketball program this fall as its leader has decided to move on to a new job.

After NMU head assistant coach Charles Belt left to become the head coach at William Woods University in Missouri in March, and fellow Northern assistant coach Terry Nash joined Belt’s staff earlier this week, the man at the top, head coach Bill Sall, has also left the Wildcats.

Sall was introduced as the new head coach at his alma mater, downstate Calvin College, on Wednesday afternoon. When asked about Sall’s departure, NMU athletic director Forrest Karr praised Sall for the work he did for the basketball program and Marquette itself.

Northern Michigan University head men’s baskeball coach Bill Sall reacts to a play during an exhibition game against Michigan State on Oct. 30 in East Lansing. (AP file photo)

“Northern Michigan men’s basketball is a tradition-rich program with a long, proud history of success,” Karr said. “Bill returned the program to that standard while doing things the right way. Bill and his family also contributed significantly to the community and we will miss them.”

Sall turned around the Wildcats, who were stuck at the bottom of the GLIAC North standings for the better part of a decade.

Since taking over the program in May 2013, NMU gradually climbed the standings in the league while enjoying more success in the classroom.

The team’s overall grade-point average has risen almost a full point from where it was before Sall arrived, according to the Wildcats website, www.nmuwildcats.com.

In the 2017-18 season, it became clear that the Wildcats were a new team. NMU had its first winning record and first GLIAC Tournament appearance since the 2006-07 campaign.

Bill Sall

This past season, the Wildcats achieved new heights as they finished 17-12 overall and 11-9 in the league while winning a GLIAC Tournament game over Sall’s previous team and defending NCAA Division II national champion Ferris State. Not only that, but Northern swept both games from Michigan Tech for the first time since 2005-06.

Seniors Naba Echols and Isaiah Johnson made the All-GLIAC First Team for the second straight year, with Johnson winning the conference scoring title and Echols finishing second.

Johnson was also named to the Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-Midwest Region team. Juniors Myles Howard and Sam Taylor also earned All-GLIAC honors as they were named to the All-Defensive Team for the second year in a row.

In regard to the coaching search, Karr said that the “process has started” and he already has some coaches in mind.

“I was told of Bill’s decision (Tuesday) and I am working alongside human resources staff to organize the optimal search process given this timing,” Karr said on Wednesday.

From left, optometrist Dr. Jon Webb and NMU men's basketball coach Bill Sall talk to Brad Ruperd of Ishpeming before giving Ruperd a basketball signed by the entire University of Michigan University basketball team in 2015. NMU played U of M a few days earlier in Ann Arbor for an exhibition game. (Journal file photo)

He added that he talked to the men’s basketball players Tuesday to answer their questions.

“This talented group of returning student-athletes has a strong connection,” Karr said. “Most team members will be in Marquette this summer, which will help to ensure that we have great communication through the transition process.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

Northern Michigan University coach Bill Sall gives instructions during the first half of an exhibition game against Michigan State on Nov. 4, 2015, in East Lansing. Michigan State won 94-53. (AP file photo)