ABOUT COACH WINGREEN
I remember meeting Andrew for the first time in our campus duplex. I was in my second year on staff at Northland International University, and we were having our campus kids over for some food and fellowship to kick off the 2006 school year. I was late getting home, and met Winnie in our “man cave” where we always had sports on. He was a freshman of few words, and I remember thinking, out of our seven or eight providentially assigned students, he would be the one that I was least likely to connect with. Boy was I wrong.
Andrew grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin, a town of 10,000 in the southeast corner of the state. Diagnosed with a heart ailment at the age of four, as a freshman in high school he would finally be required to have open heart surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The procedure was more involved than expected, and Andrew returned home with not only a new artificial valve, but a pacemaker as well. This essentially ended his high school athletic career before it ever began. And it left Andrew bitter.
As a freshman in college at NIU, Andrew’s physical condition limited him to being part of the golf team. While he was a talented golfer and loved the game, basketball occupied his thoughts and dreams. During his free time on campus and while traveling with the golf team, he continued reading and studying about coaching. This hobby that began after the disappointment of the end of his basketball playing career was now his only connection with the game he loved. After a number of discussions with friends and mentors, Andrew agreed to serve as a Student Assistant Coach with the men’s basketball team at NIU under Head Coach Pete Wehry. It wasn’t just Andrew’s interest in the game that sold Wehry, it was his relentless passion to inspect, learn, and understand the game inside and out that made it an easy decision.
However, because of some recurring health concerns, Andrew sat out second semester of his sophomore year. But that ended up being a blessing in disguise. You see, while he had thrown himself into his new passion of coaching, he had never really come to grips with accepting God’s path that his playing days were over. But during that season of inactivity, Andrew saw things through the lens of God’s plan, and was at rest for the first time since his health issues surfaced. When he returned to NIU for his junior year, he did so with freedom and acceptance in his heart that this was God’s desire for his life.
Over the next couple of years it was incredible to watch Andrew go “all-in” with the goal of becoming the best coach he could be. He literally travelled all over the country in the summers, looking to improve his skill and knowledge of the game. From Minnesota to Duke, Kansas, to Marquette, Wisconsin to Furman, and on and on and on, he was working to put himself in a position to help players be the best they could be on the basketball court, while growing into a young man himself that was concerned with life off of the court.
BRIDE AND BASKETBALL
Andrew married Julie in December of 2010, definitely the smartest move of his life. I remember meeting her for the first time after I had known Andrew for a few years, and coming away thinking “yeah, that’s exactly the type of bride to meet Andrew’s needs, but will also challenge him to think right.” They have been a fantastic team ever since.
He graduated from NIU in 2011, and began pursuing coaching opportunities around the country. Brief stops in Florida and Illinois ultimately led to his first long term opportunity in 2012 as an Assistant Coach for a first-year program at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. To say this was going to be a stretch for Andrew was an understatement. In fact, the “old” Andrew wouldn’t have stuck out the growing pains of a new program, searching for an identity, the new culture, and the needed patience for success, but his maturity took over and his fingerprints are now all over the improving Bruins program.
When it comes to basketball, two things will stand out when you talk to Andrew. First, the importance of everyone involved in the program doing things the right way with maximum effort. He doesn’t tolerate student-athletes at this level giving less than their best or settling for mediocrity. And after what was taken away from him in high school, can you blame him?
But secondly and most importantly, the reality that basketball isn’t permanent, but the lessons learned through the game and being part of the team can be. It’s not about creating and developing better basketball players; it’s about creating and developing better men to be better husbands, fathers, businessmen, and leaders in the community.
After all, that’s what I’ve had the privilege of seeing in Andrew over the past decade.