By Howie Magner
It’s the morning of his introduction as UWM’s new men’s basketball head coach, and Pat Baldwin is telling a story.
There was a time when he was done with basketball, another good college player who’d played professionally for a couple of years, then left the sport behind for a suit and tie in the business world. The new career was going fine enough, but his mother knew his heart wasn’t in it. So one day, Dora Baldwin set him straight.
“She told me,” Baldwin says, “‘You should do something you love, not something you like.’”
With those simple words – as well as support and encouragement from his wife, Shawn – Baldwin’s head joined his heart. He got back in shape and played pro ball in Europe for two years. That led to his college basketball coaching career in the United States, which eventually led to a June phone call from UWM Athletics Director Amanda Braun.
Baldwin was at his Chicago- area home with Shawn and their four children when Braun asked if he wanted the UWM job. There was no hiding his enthusiasm. “I was jumping up and down,” Baldwin says. “It was just pure excitement.”
He was coming off his fourth season as an assistant coach at Northwestern University, and as part of coach Chris Collins’ staff, he helped the Wildcats reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. The accomplishment was doubly special for Baldwin, a Northwestern graduate who was the 1994 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
Difficult though it was to leave a place that meant so much to him, Baldwin embraces the chance to run his own program in Milwaukee.
“Milwaukee, this city is a foundation built around hardworking people. That’s who I am,” he announced at his introductory news conference. “I work extremely hard, and Milwaukee is me.”
Shawn Baldwin has witnessed that since they started dating during her days as a Northwestern volleyball player. “He has a quiet confidence about him,” she says. “He wants to win more than anybody else on the court. He’s so passionate about whatever he’s doing.”
He knows the tradition laid by those who came before him, including LaVall Jordan, who departed UWM in June for a rare opportunity: leading the basketball program at his alma mater, Butler University. Baldwin saw Jordan and UWM make national news at the 2017 Horizon League Tournament, becoming the first No. 10 seed in league history to not only win one game there, but also reach the tourney finals.
He’s ready to build on that, and he knows, as his mother did so many years ago, what it will take to succeed.
“I want our players to really show that passion,” he says, “and that love that they have for this game.”