Western chooses Rob Jeter to lead men’s basketball

Bradley Piros, Sports editor

MACOMB, Ill. – After departing with long-time Western Illinois University men’s basketball coach Billy Wright, it took a little over a month for the university to find a replacement. Announced on Monday (March 30), Rob Jeter came to terms with the position and will look to lead the Leathernecks back to The Summit League Tournament next season.

Jeter has been coaching college basketball for about 25 years, starting out as an assistant coach in 1994 for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He had that job until 1998 when he transferred to Marquette University where he only spent one season. Jeter moved on to another assistant spot at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for two years and then traveled down-state to Madison to be assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. After four years there, he returned to UWM, this time taking his first head coaching job. He led the Panthers for 11 years before heading out west to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas for another assistant job. From there, he went back to the Big 10, this time to be an assistant at the University of Minnesota. After two seasons with the Gophers, he will now take his very traveled tenure to Macomb, Ill.

Jeter will serve as the 21st men’s basketball coach in program history and he brings with him a ton of coaching experience. Throughout his 25 years in the business, he’s made seven NCAA Tournament appearances.

Jeter’s last stint with the Gophers was a successful one. Minnesota made it into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed and upset No. 7 Louisville 86-76 but then fell in the second round to their conference rivals Michigan State Spartans 70-50.

At Minnesota, he was in charge of many areas of the program from recruiting to skill development, working mainly with the team’s backcourt and defense.

Under head coach Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin Badgers won two Big 10 Championships and Big 10 Tournament titles, making four straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament as well. His team made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2003 and Elite Eight in 2005.

As head coach at UWM, Jeter was named three-time coach of the year, once by the Horizon League (2011) and twice by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (2006 and 2011). In 2006 he led the Panthers to a first-round win against the University of Oklahoma after claiming a regular season title and winning the conference tournament along the way. After 11 years as head coach at UWM, he finished with a positive 185-170 record.

Jeter also played in college, captaining at UW-Platteville in 1991 where he led the team to a NCAA Division III title. He was inducted into UW-Platteville’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006 for his time as a player and coach.

After multiple disappointing seasons for the Western Illinois men’s basketball team and a handful of player departures including Kobe Webster and Zion Young, something needed to change, and this is a big step in the right direction by hiring a coach with such a great background.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Rob as our next head men’s basketball coach,” Western Illinois Athletics Director Danielle Surprenant said. “Rob brings so much experience with him. He has seen success as both a head coach and assistant, and his drive and passion for the game are contagious. His recruiting ties, especially in the Midwest, and his vision and direction for the program were exactly what we were looking for. I’m ecstatic to see where he will lead our men basketball program,” Surprenant said via goleathernecks.com.

Wright was in the hot seat in 2018 after a 12-16 campaign in the 2017-18 season, but he still made The Summit League Tournament. He followed that up the next year by going 10-21 but was able to secure his job after a shock upset against the No. 1 seeded South Dakota State
University Jackrabbits in the conference tournament. He showed promise in that tournament but couldn’t pull together any of that magic last season, leading to his departure after coming in last in The Summit.

It was Wright’s time to go, and no one better to replace him and get the ball rolling than Jeter. The university is excited, students should be excited, but no one is more thrilled than Jeter himself to get back to a head coaching position.

“I’d first like to thank Dr. Martin Abraham and Danielle Surprenant for such an incredible opportunity in trusting me to lead the men’s basketball program,” Jeter told WIU Athletics Communications. “My family and I are excited to join the Leatherneck family and the Macomb community. I’m looking forward to serving our student-athletes and Western Illinois University. I’m especially excited to meet our players and their families and connect with our alums and student body. Together, we will accomplish great things! It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work!”