After parting ways with its strength and conditioning coach in late April, Wisconsin men's basketball program announced the hiring of Chicago Bulls head strength and conditioning coach Erik Helland on Friday.
Helland has served on the Bulls' strength and conditioning staff since 1988, and he's been the head strength coach since 2001. Shortly after losing to Ole Miss in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, Wisconsin announced Scott Hettenbach was out as strength and conditioning coach. Hettenbach spent 18 years overseeing the conditioning for the men's basketball program, the most successful tenure in the school's history. In 2007, he was promoted to Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning, overseeing the performance training regimens for 22 different UW athletic programs.
In addition to his tenure in the NBA, Helland has more than two decades of experience as a certified National Strength and Conditioning specialist and level I USA Weightlifting coach.
"We are extremely excited that Erik will be working on a day-to-day basis with the Wisconsin basketball program," head coach Bo Ryan said in a statement. "He is renowned in the field of strength and conditioning and specifically basketball training. Erik has the experience and background to maximize athletes and understands the physicality and quickness needed for our game. He has worked with some of the best basketball players in the history of the game and we believe his addition is beyond a home run for us."
Helland, an Edgerton, Wis., native, graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1987 with a degree in physical education with an emphasis on athletic training and coaching. After coaching stands there and in numerous other jobs, including working with athletes from the NFL and European basketball leagues, Helland joined the Bulls for the franchise's unparalleled reign of dominance. Chicago won six NBA championships -- those two three-peats -- and a league-record 72 games in 1995-96 while Helland was on board. He worked with Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Robert Parish, and is more recently credited with the development of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
"I get excited to work with great people, and that is what this opportunity represents to me first and foremost," Helland said. "I think that the core values and principles that Coach Ryan has built this program on are ones that we share and make it a great fit me. For me, it is right people, at the right place, at the right time.
"From a philosophical perspective I view the players as individuals, bound together by a common goal. We will strive to create a positive, educational environment where the players' perception of who they are as athletes and people, and who they can be will be challenged daily."
UW's release on the hire includes a few notable quotes from those who've worked with Helland, none more notable than current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
"Erik has been an integral part of our organization for a long time," Thibodeau said. "I hate to lose him but I understand why this is such a unique and special opportunity for him and his family. He is far more than just a great strength and conditioning coach. He embodies what winning is all about. He is a terrific leader, teacher and communicator. He will help each individual player develop and reach their maximum potential. He will be a perfect fit for Wisconsin Basketball."