‘Unique timing’ leads to Agler taking job as Wittenberg AD

1980 Wittenberg grad returns to alma mater during challenging time

Timing is everything. Those three words explain how Brian Agler exited the coaching ranks to take an administrative role for the first time in his career as the new athletic director at his alma mater, Wittenberg University.

Wittenberg announced the hiring of Agler, 62, on Wednesday, and his first official day is Monday.

Wittenberg had been searching for a new AD since late September when Gary Williams resigned after six years. At that point, Agler was still the head coach of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, but he and the Wings agreed to part ways Oct. 14.

“I started some conversation with Wittenberg even when I was still with Dallas, so there was an overlap there,” Agler said. “Timing plays so much of an impact on almost everything you do. You don’t think about it until something happens, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, and you think, ‘Man, that’s bad timing or that’s really good timing.’ In this situation, it was really unique timing — the job was open and what I was going through in my career and those kinds of things. But through several months of conversation, it just fell into place.”

Agler, a 1980 Wittenberg graduate, will commute to Wittenberg from Worthington for now but will consider moving to Springfield. Agler and his wife Robin have always made Ohio home. Their kids, Bryce and Taylor, went to school in the Olentangy school district on the north side of Columbus. Brian is from Prospect, Ohio, north of Columbus, and his mom still lives there.

“We decided because of just how topsy turvy the coaching profession is, especially at the pro level, to not try to move to locations,” Agler said. “You know good and well they’re temporary positions. We’ve just tried to maintain a homestead here in Ohio. That was sort of our philosophy, and it’s worked out well. We had to make some sacrifices. I’m gone for six months out of the year. But it kept the family grounded.”

Agler started his coaching career as an assistant at Muhlenberg College in 1981. Wittenberg graduate Steve Moore, who would go on to become one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history with a long career at Wooster, gave Agler that job when Agler was 23. It was Moore’s first head coaching job. Moore was an assistant at Wittenberg under Larry Hunter during Agler’s college days.

Agler then moved to the women’s side as the head coach at Northeast Oklahoma A&M Junior College from 1984-88. He had a 125-42 record in five seasons and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2014.

Agler then spent five seasons at Missouri-Kansas City and three at Kansas State. In 1996, he took his first job in professional basketball with the Columbus Quest, of the American Basketball League. After winning two championships with the Quest, Agler moved to the WNBA in 1998, and that’s where he remained until this past fall.

Now Agler returns to Wittenberg at a unique time. The coronavirus pandemic has prevented Wittenberg from competing at the NCAA Division III level since last March.

“Right now there’s a push to have some winter sports play,” Agler said, “and there’s a push to try to get spring sports in just from the standpoint that they didn’t have a chance to compete a year ago. That would be two seasons in a row. That’s tough on student athletes. They’ve put a lot of time in. I don’t know if there’s anything set in stone yet. Right now I’m an outsider looking in, but I’m sure I’ll get caught up pretty soon.”

The WNBA played a 22-game season in a bubble-like setting in Bradenton, Fla., from July through September, so Agler knows how challenging it can be to play during a pandemic.

“I think that the protocol now for a lot of universities is test multiple times a week,” Agler said. “At the Division III level, probably once or twice a week. It’s a strain for everybody. It’s not been an easy venture. You feel for the student athletes who have lost out on opportunities to play. There’s only a short window for the majority of student athletes, and that’s the four years they go to college.”

The possibility of the fall sports playing in the spring is also still up in the air. Agler said some D-III schools could choose to compete while others do not.

When things do return to normal, Agler will head an athletics department full of championship-caliber programs.

“I’m excited to work with these people,” Agler said. “I know the majority of them. They’re great individuals, excellent coaches of strong programs. We’d like to try to build up some of the other programs that I feel like can be contenders if we can. It takes time to do that.”

Wittenberg also has a new tool to help the coaches and athletes: the Steemer. The indoor facility had only been open for a few months when the pandemic shut the sports world down.

“We don’t really know the impact it’s going to have,” Agler said. “We hope it has a huge impact on recruiting. It’s state of the art.”

About the Author