Trojans announce new basketball coach

Wes Flanigan

University officials have turned to a Little Rock native to continue the men’s basketball team’s recent success.

On Thursday, Little Rock Trojans Director of Athletics Chasse Conque announced Associate Head Coach Wes Flanigan had been promoted to the team’s top leadership position.

“As someone who was born and raised in Little Rock, this is a dream come true,” Flanigan said.

In addition to serving as associate head coach on the Trojans’ record-setting 2015-16 team, Flanigan was a Little Rock assistant coach from 2004-08 and also previously served on staffs at Mississippi State, Nebraska and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“We are fortunate to have Wes Flanigan leading our men’s basketball program,” Conque said. “Wes brings a wealth of experience, strong recruiting ties and a tireless work ethic to this position. He has all the necessary tools to build on the momentum of Little Rock basketball, and is determined to build Trojan basketball into a championship-caliber program year in and year out.”

Flanigan thanked Conque and Chancellor Joel Anderson for the opportunity and also expressed gratitude for the love and support of his family.

 

New Head Coach Wes Flanigan is joined by the Trojans men's basketball team.
New Head Coach Wes Flanigan is joined by the Trojans men’s basketball team. Photo by Nelson Chenault.

“But none of this happens without the student-athletes on our team,” Flanigan said. “We asked each of them to sacrifice, and they bought in, worked hard, were unselfish, and through that we have established a culture. The next step for us is determining how far we can go as a team. For all the success we had last season, together we all can help Little Rock take the next step.”

Related: “Through thick and thin, Al and Wes Flanigan stay strong together” (January KATV story)

With Flanigan serving as associate head coach, Little Rock established new program records for wins (30), Sun Belt wins (17) and road wins (12) last season. The Trojans won their first-ever outright Sun Belt Conference Championship in the regular season before winning the league’s postseason tournament for the second time.

Twelfth-seeded Little Rock knocked off No. 5 seed Purdue – which ended the regular season ranked No. 12 and No. 10 in the AP Top 25 and USA TODAY Coaches Poll – in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Little Rock’s win over Purdue was the program’s second NCAA Tournament win, and its first in three decades.

The Trojans became the first team in Sun Belt Conference history to win 30 games in a season.

“Thanks to the Little Rock Trojans, the world knows about our university and our city,” Chancellor Joel Anderson said.

“Everyone knows we had an outstanding basketball team this year. The good news is that with Coach Wes Flanigan, our basketball team is not going to miss a beat as we move to next season.”

The previous coach, Chris Beard, stepped down after the season to take the head coaching position at UNLV.

The Trojans won 18 or more games twice during Flanigan’s first run in Little Rock. In the 2007-08 season, the Trojans won 20 games while Flanigan served as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.

Flanigan joined UAB as an assistant coach in 2008-09. Over two seasons in Birmingham, the Blazers won 47 games and made two NIT appearances. In 2009-10, the Blazers went 25-9 to match a program record for victories before reaching the quarterfinals of the NIT.

New Trojans Coach Wes Flanigan poses for pictures
New Trojans Coach Wes Flanigan poses for pictures. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III

Hire draws praise from fellow coaches

“He’s a relentless worker – that’s the way he played and that’s the way he coaches,” said Mike Davis, former UAB head coach and current head coach at Texas Southern. “He coached with me at UAB, and he gave great effort and had a great understanding and feel for the game of basketball. He was a point guard when he played, and his basketball IQ has carried over into his coaching.”

Flanigan was an assistant coach at Nebraska for two seasons (2010-12) before serving on Rick Ray’s staff at Mississippi State from 2012-15.

“Wes Flanigan is the most genuine person that I have had the pleasure to work with in our profession,” Ray said. “Wes has a sincere interest in the welfare of student-athletes. He has a tremendous rapport with players, high school and AAU coaches, and is well-respected in all circles. Wes will be an excellent representative for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock both on and off the court.”

Flanigan joined the Trojans in 2004 after five seasons as an assistant coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

During his time at Northwest, Flanigan worked with both the men’s and women’s teams and helped lead the men’s squad to a record of 119-39.

The Northwest men’s program also won three Region XXIII championships and earned three trips to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship tournament during Flanigan’s tenure. The Rangers also captured two MACJC North Division titles and the state championship in 2001.

Flanigan was named the 1992-93 Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Arkansas while playing for Charles Ripley and his father, Al, at Little Rock Parkview High School.

“I’m the happiest man in Little Rock,” Ripley, current coach at Arkansas Baptist College, said. “He played for me and was a great player. His dad was my assistant coach, just like another head coach. The main things are that Wes’ integrity, work ethic, relationships with young people and his ability to evaluate and recruit talent all earn high marks.”

Flanigan went on to earn four letters at Auburn (1993-97), where he was All-SEC as a junior and team co-captain for three seasons. He finished his college career averaging 10.1 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game.

He ranks second on Auburn’s career assists list (573) and is 22nd on the program’s all-time scoring list (1,228).

“I think Little Rock has gotten a gem,” Cliff Ellis, Flanigan’s head coach at Auburn and current head coach at Coastal Carolina, said. “This guy knows the game and understands the game. It’s been bred into him by his family. He understands the state of Arkansas and is constantly studying the game. He’s got it all – he understands the game, is a great recruiter and understands all the parts of the job that come with it.”

Flanigan graduated from Auburn in 1997 with a degree in health promotion and was the recipient of the Cliff Hare Award, presented annually to the university’s top student-athlete.

He and his wife, Katrina, have three sons: Michael Lewis, Allen and Collin.

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